The Amazon rainforest stretches across 5.5 million square kilometers/2.1 million square miles – an area far larger than the EU and more than half of the US. All figures describing some aspect of the Amazon tell us about the region’s unique status on the planet:
- The enormous Amazon river, with all its tributaries, contains 20 percent of the world’s flowing freshwater.
- Though the Amazon covers only four percent of the earth’s surface, it contains a third of all known terrestrial plant, animal and insect species.
- The forest produces more than 50 percent of all the rain that falls in the Amazon region, and it probably affects rainfall patterns far outside South America.
- The Amazon rainforest contains 10 percent of all biomass on Earth. It means that when deforestation takes place the vast amounts of carbon that the forest stores is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, a green house gas that contributes significantly to global warming.
How we're fighting to save the Amazon rainforest
Getting recognition of indigenous peoples’ right to their traditional lands has proven extremely effective in protecting the rainforest. Forests remain standing where their traditional populations secure the legal right to manage them.
For that reason, rights are at the heart of Rainforest Foundation Norway’s approach to preserving the Amazon rainforest. We work closely with our local partners on the political level in the various Amazon countries to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are recognized, strengthened and upheld through law.
Our work in the region has one primary goal:
- The protection of the Amazon, with its current ecosystem intact.
To reach this goal, we have set an intermediate one:
- The protection of large, contiguous areas of rainforest in selected parts of the Amazon.
We work closely with a number of actors in the protection of seven large, contiguous rainforest areas:
- Territorial corridor northeastern Peru and southern Peru
- Territorial corridor for indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation in northwestern Peru
- Territorial corridor for indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation in southwestern Peru and western Brazil
- Integrated management of the Xingu basin in Brazil
- Integrated management of the Rio Negro basin in Brazil and Colombia
- Integrated management of the Yanomami territory in Brazil
- Management of contiguous territories and protected areas in northeastern Brazil
As Brazil, Peru, and Colombia hold half of the remaining tropical rainforests of the world, we have a particular focus on these three countries in our work.
In these areas, we are working exert influence on the authorities to establish new indigenous territories. Where territories have already been established, we provide assistance to the indigenous and other local communities to ensure the sustainable management of the territories; improved living standards; perpetuation of their territorial protections and ensuring that their rights are respected.
In order to achieve this, we work to set up and improve on existing participatory processes that strengthen the political and legal frameworks for rainforest protection and the rights of indigenous and other forest-dependent communities in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.
In order to address the main drivers behind the massive deforestation and human rights violations in the Amazon, we focus on selected commercial actors to help them change their policies and activities with regards to the Amazon and commodities stemming from it.
A lush green home
The Amazon rainforest may be home to some 30 million people. Some 1.6 million of these inhabitants are indigenous, and they belong to more than 400 different indigenous groups. Some are isolated tribes who choose to avoid contact with the outside world.
Over thousands of years, the indigenous population of the Amazon has managed, protected and enriched the rainforest while being a fully integrated part of it. Today, indigenous peoples have established their own organizations in all nine countries of the Amazon region. The indigenous movements play an important role in the battle over this unique forest.
Deforestation and destruction
It has taken nature millions of years to create the Amazon rainforest, yet humans have destroyed large parts of it in only a few generations. Man began eating into the forest when South America's modern states emerged. Since the 1950s, the Amazon rainforest has lost 18 percent of its original forest cover, and up to 50 percent of the forest has been partially destroyed. This is mainly due to:
- A need for more space to practice agriculture and cattle ranching
- Oil and gas production
- Mining and logging
- A variety of infrastructure projects
The consequences of such devastation have been dire. The Amazon rainforest is a fragile ecosystem that is totally dependent on its massive size to survive. We do not know how long humans can continue damaging this rainforest before we reach the dreaded tipping point beyond which the damage will be so severe that the ecosystem breaks down and dies back by itself.
What we do know is that deforestation and forest degradation weaken the capacity of the remaining forest to produce rain. As a result, up to 65 percent of the Amazon is in danger of turning into savannah in the course of the next 50 years. We also know that if all approved and planned industrial and infrastructure projects are realized, half of the Amazon rainforest will disappear.