Tembe 3 kids

Rainforest Fund

A Letter from ECAM


December 21, 2015 by Vasco van Roosmalen

ECAM’s letter discusses the kind of work Rainforest Fund supports, and we are so grateful to have such dedicated, passionate and impactful partners.

Dear Members of the Board of Rainforest Fund,

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you and everyone on the board of the
Rainforest Fund, its chair Dr. Franca Sciuto and its staff for their commitment to
strengthening indigenous communities and their rights around the world.

Despite the numerous studies and reports that have come out over the last few
years demonstrating and proving the effectiveness of communities in protecting
their forests and natural resources above any other conservation model, there
are very few funders who focus on strengthening these communities in the way
that Rainforest Fund does, following their progress closely through regular
contacts and even field visits.

Most models of giving exclude indigenous communities preferring to work with
partners who speak the same language and are from the same culture. The
impact of the work supported by Rainforest Fund is second to none because it
engages directly with these communities in the places where the battles are
being fought.

Over 20% of the Brazilian Amazon are indigenous reserves, which are among the
best-protected areas in the region. Areas like the Xingu, the Tembe and Surui are
the last remaining forested areas in their regions providing crucial refuge for
wildlife and plants from total devastation.

Indigenous communities have also been experts in leveraging the impact of their
support. The Surui tribe was the first indigenous community to be able to
transform philanthropic support in receiving private payments for maintaining
their forests. This was only possible through the support they received from
Rainforest Fund.

Following their example, the Tembe with RF support in two years have achieved
what it took the Surui 7 years to pioneer in terms of developing their own plan
for their future and are now beginning the process for eventually being able to
get compensation for protecting their forests.

Other communities such as the Wai Wai and the Maroons that live in the Karib
corridor on the northern Amazon region of Brazil protect an area half the size of
France which is still mostly untouched by deforestation. They are working to
develop the structures to receive biodiversity compensation payments. Without
basic support to help strengthen their communities, the very type of support
RF provides, none of these mechanisms would be possible.

Another example of impact is the recent expansion of Google Earth Outreach’s
free support of indigenous communities to help them get their message out by
putting their cultural information on Google Earth. In this way they can tell their
stories of resistance and survival to the rest of the world. Many of the indigenous
communities supported by RF participate in this initiative including
communities from the Xingu, the Surui, Tembe and Wai Wai.

Rainforest Fund support has changed the lives of these communities. The Surui
were known as the “Logging Indians” and for all intents and purposes abandoned
by the government and NGO partners. The Tembe only two years ago had a
reputation of being impossible to work with; another hopeless case of an
indigenous group destined to disappear in the face of loggers and illegal settlers.
Today the Surui are an example to the entire world in how to turn things around.
The Tembe have united and have been able to completely change their trajectory
and regaining control over their future.

Impact like this takes time, commitment, strong relationships and willingness to
listen and work closely with these communities. All of these qualities are united
within Rainforest Fund, its board chair Dr. Franca Sciuto, other board members,
staff and partners. We can only be extremely grateful to the members of
Rainforest Fund for your willingness to stay with a proven strategy of
strengthening indigenous communities around the world.

Our very best wishes to everyone at the Rainforest Fund for wonderful 2016!

Sincerely yours,
Vasco M. van Roosmalen, M.Sc., Executive Director, ECAM