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Home to more than 400 Indigenous tribes and 10% of the world's species, the Amazon's tribal lands are struggling to survive due to deforestation. 

Deforestation of Indigenous lands in Brazil reached an all-time high this year, according to a study conducted by ISA, a non-profit organization that aims to defend the rights of Indigenous communities.

Data and satellite imagery from Brazil’s space research institute INPE showed that deforestation on reservations has exceeded 42,600 hectares, a drastic increase compared to previous years. 

While deforestation on Indigenous lands had been following a downward trend since 2008, it started surging again in 2017. According to the study, 20% of the 424 reservations polled lost half of their forest cover and 10% of their forests altogether. Another 5% of reservations no longer have any trees left.

The study also reveals that illegal loggers and land grabbers are the primary culprits responsible for deforestation on protected lands. 

While Indigenous lands are protected by law, and as a result only make up 4% of the overall forest lost to deforestation in Brazil, the increase is still significant. 

“Indigenous lands are a strong barrier to deforestation. Where there are tribes, there are trees,” said ISA researcher Antonio Oviedo. However, this year’s rate of deforestation has gone well over the recent trend as a result of outside pressure placed on tribal lands, Oviedo added.

Invasions of reservations have been on the rise. As a result, violence with Indigenous communities has ensued and forest fires have been purposefully set to make room for cattle pastures. Activists and environmentalists blame Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has called for the economic development of the Amazon region over its preservation.

“President Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental agenda has scrapped Brazil’s ability to fight deforestation, favors those who practice environmental crimes, and encourages violence against forest peoples,” Greenpeace’s Amazon Campaigner, Cristiane Mazetti said in a press release. 

“Even in the face of an alarming scenario for the Amazon, with increased fires, deforestation, invasions of protected areas, and violence against Indigenous Peoples, the government hasn’t presented any consistent policy to protect the forest and its peoples; on the contrary, the government is taking the side of environmental crime.”


Defend the Planet

Deforestation of Brazil's Indigenous Lands Reaches 11-Year High

By Erica Sánchez  and  Catherine Caruso