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Brazil’s Suruí Establish First Indigenous Carbon Fund

Posted by Lindy on December 10, 2010

When Brazil’s 1300-strong Suruí people embarked on a 50-year sustainable development plan, they did so without quick logging cash.  Instead, they will be protecting 240,000 hectares of Amazon rainforest in hopes of earning eight million carbon credits, and they’ve set up a unique carbon fund to administer the income and coordinate future development.
By 2006, that world beyond had engulfed them – a fact their young chief, Almir Narayamoga Suruí, saw all too clearly the first time he logged onto Google Earth.  “Like everyone back then, I was curious to see my home from the sky,” he says.  “But when I found the Suruí territory, it looked so lonely – like a little patch of green in a sea of brown and yellow.”
He believes, however, that in another half-century that little patch – their La Sete de Setembro in the state of Rondônia – will be more lush and green than at any time in recent memory, and his people will be healthier and better-educated than ever before, thanks to new schools and hospitals built with carbon cash earned by saving their forest and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).
To achieve that vision, he and his people created the Suruí Fund, which the tribe’s marketing brochure describes as “a financial mechanism aimed at implementing the Management Plan of the Indigenous through principles of good governance and transparency, where representative indigenous advisers have a strong role”

The Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (Funbio) structured the mechanism and will also administer it.  Funbio also oversees the Atlantic Forest Fund for the state of Rio de Janiero, as well as scores of other mechanisms for delivering environmental finance.

“Indigenous peoples have an outstanding track record in terms of forest stewardship, as has been demonstrated time and again by studies of conservation and deforestation rates, but they generally have less experience with managing the sorts of finance and investments that carbon market transactions entail,” says Jacob Olander, who is providing technical support .It is designed to help local groups around the world develop expertise in payments for ecosystem services (PES), which are schemes designed to reward good land stewardship by recognizing the economic value of nature’s services.

Over the first three years, Funbio will advise the Suruí on how to funnel carbon income into environmental projects – such as carbon-friendly agriculture and rainforest preservation.  Over time, as carbon opportunities wane, they will shift to other businesses and investments that can generate a sustainable economy. All decisions, however, will be made by a representative body that the tribe set up to administer environmental resources.

Funbio got the ball rolling with early legal assistance and PES training, then helped tribal leaders identify and vet local partners. It’s now helping find buyers for newly-trademarked “Suruí Carbon”. “An outstanding lesson of the Suruí is their ability to forge partnerships and adopt new tools and strategies where needed,” says Olander.  “They know what they’re good at and what they’re not good at, and they know how to harness outside expertise – whether that be creating an endowment fund, using Google and satellite technology, or harnessing carbon markets – in ways that keep them in control of the project and their forests.”

“Amazon Conservation Team”, or ACT Brasil,  has a long-standing relationship supporting the Suruí, complementing Funbio´s carbon market expertise. They makie sure the tribe understands what it’s getting into and are a communications link to investors.

Both these organisations are paying for the initial fund to pay for the rigorous measurements and documentation needed to qualify for certification under the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standards (CCB).

“Everyone is watching this,” says Mauricio de Almeida Voivodic, Coordinator for Natural Forests with Brazil’s Program for Forest Certification (IMAFLORA). “The  Suruí and Funbio are at the front of everything that’s happening with REDD in Brazil, and other tribes see this as a template that they can use to save their own forests and earn income.”

In the first three years, the fund will channel money into environmental services, such as forest protection and climate-safe agriculture.  It will gradually shift to other livelihood activities and organizational strengthening. Beyond the first three years, the scheme becomes more flexible, with annual reviews by Suruí governors and advisers.

To read the brochure produced by the Surui, follow the link

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