REDD is at the centre of a tense discussion in Brazil’s indigenous community. Some indigenous people support REDD, others oppose it. Ecosystem Marketplace has jumped into fray, accusing the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) in the state of Acre of “intentionally sabotaging a program that has enabled [indigenous peoples] to save their forests”.
A recent exchange of public statements and letters highlights the simmering row engendered by REDD in Brazil.
The Xapuri Declaration
In May 2017, a meeting with the theme, “The effects of environmental / climatic policies on traditional populations”, took place in Xapuri, Acre. At the end of the meeting, those present put out the Xapuri Declaration expressing concern about payments for environmental services, REDD, and the ongoing talks by the aviation sector about using REDD credits to offset its ever increasing emissions.
Apurinã, Huni Kui, Jaminawa, Manchineri and Shawadawa indigenous people, forest dwellers, rubber tappers, members of supportive organisations, and teachers from several universities took part in the meeting. CIMI was one of the organisers of the meeting. The Xapuri Declaration states,
We are concerned about ongoing talks about aviation emissions compensation through Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of Tropical Forests, the so-called REDD mechanisms. We refuse to use the term carbon credits, understanding that they are actually pollution credits, which aggravate rather than solve the problem. We reject any form of climate colonialism.
Turning up the heat on CIMI
In July 2017, the Association of the Movement of Indigenous Agroforestry Agents of Acre (AMAAIAC) held its General Assembly in Rio Branco, Acre. That meeting put out an open letter in response to the Xapuri Declaration (the open letter is available in Portuguese here). The open letter states,
We indigenous and agroforestry leaders and agents of the Huni Kui, Jaminawa, Ashaninka, Nukini, Nawa, Yawanawa, Katuquina, Puyanawa, Shanenawa e Shawãdawa peoples, gathered here in Rio Branco … come to inform the public that we will not tolerate the irresponsible actions of a group of people who, opposed to the REDD+ mechanism in Acre, is making declarations using the name of indigenous peoples in order to legitimize their criticisms.
Ecosystem Marketplace posted the open letter under the headline, “Brazilian Indigenous Leaders Turn Up Heat On Catholic Organization”. The open letter asks a series of questions,
We are using this as an opportunity to ask if the national coordinator of CIMI knows what CIMI Acre is doing with indigenous peoples in this discussion of the REDD+ mechanism. And the president of the National Council of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB)? Can it be that he knows that CIMI Acre is behaving irresponsibly, in bad faith and is trying to harm us? Which side is CIMI on?
Two letters in support of CIMI
In his recent article, “Forest Diamonds”, Fabiano Maisonnave follows Ecosystem Marketplace’s lead and blames CIMI for the collapse of the Suruí Forest Carbon Project. Of course, the reality is that CIMI did not send diamond miners into the Suruí’s territory. Nor did CIMI set up the 70 logging concessions and over 300 sawmills within 80 kilometres of the Suruí’s land.
Maisonnave asked CIMI’s executive secretary Cleber Buzatto about the open letter criticising CIMI. Buzatto replied that the signatories to the open letter were directly linked to the REDD programme in Acre.
Buzatto sent Maisonnave a letter signed by six leaders of the Jaminawa indigenous people. The Jaminawa leaders state the open letter criticising CIMI does not represent them. They asked for an explanation of how the money paid by the German development bank KfW for the REDD Early Movers programme in Acre had been used.
On 27 and 28 September 2017, another meeting took place, this time in Feijó, Acre. A letter from this meeting rejects the criticism of CIMI. An English translation of the Feijó letter is posted here in full (it is also available in Portuguese, here).
LETTER OF REJECTION AND REQUEST FOR CLARIFICATION
We, indigenous peoples of four different ethnic groups, Shanenawa, Huni Kui, Ashaninka and Madiha, together with the colonheiros (small-scale peasants), seringueiros (rubber tappers), and riverside dwellers of the high and low River Envira, as well as the River Jurupari communities Santo Antônio, Paumaripé and Valparaíso, the rubber tappers associations MASSIPIRA and Novo Oriente, and people living along federal and state highways, gathered in Feijó on the 27th and 28th September 2017. We renounce the letter of accusation and persecution against the CIMI (Indigenist Missionary Council) published on 31st July on the CPI Acre website under the title “Open Letter in Response to Declarations about SISA, REDD+ and Indigenous Peoples in Acre”.
We declare that we are extremely grateful for the work they carry out in support of indigenous populations and communities, whereas we renounce any action against the indigenous populations’ welfare, taking into account that we are aware of the CIMI’s transparent work in relation to indigenous issues in the River Envira area and the whole of Brazil.
Through all the Brazilian bureaucracy, we, indigenous peoples and other traditional communities demand respect for our originality, humility and wisdom in recognising the true value of Amazonia in and for our lives. For this, it is extremely necessary for everyone to know that we, indigenous peoples, were very happy before the arrival of the Portuguese in our country of origin, Brazil. We are aware that we have many rights, as we have duties, which have to be exercised. However, we know that things have to happen with transparency and honesty.
We, indigenous peoples, demand that legal accounting be carried out of all resources of any kind destined to our indigenous and riverside communities, with the aim of improving the relationship between the state authorities and members of the communities.
We take great care of preserving human life, for we preserve the environment as part of our way of life; we are aware that all we need to survive with our families in harmony is that our lands are demarcated so we can plant and gather our traditional food, and that our governing authorities work with transparency regarding indigenous issues. We realize that lack of honesty has existed since the times when Pedro Alvarez Cabral traded gold for a piece of mirror; ever since those times, authorities haven’t found the true essence of governing with honesty and transparency and in good faith.