Defence through law

About AmazoniAlerta

AmazoniAlerta is an NGO that works with traditional peoples and communities in Brazil to advance the legal defense of their rights, lands and the Amazon Rainforest.

It is globally recognised that Indigenous peoples, with their historically sustainable cultures, are the best guardians of their forests. Empowering traditional Amazonian communities to legally defend their lands and rights is one of the most effective tactics in mitigating the illegal deforestation of the rainforest. 

A significant number (though not enough) of Indigenous lands in Brazil are ‘Terra Indígena’ (TI) meaning the indigenous people who have traditionally occupied them have exclusive right to their use and occupation, a right enshrined in the Brazilian Constitution.

In Brazil, over the last 30 years, deforestation of Indigenous lands accounts for just 1.6% of total forest loss, in contrast to 68% for private land. 

However many Indigenous territories and communities are being decimated by myriad small-scale land grabs and infractions by illegal loggers, miners, poachers and farmers whose collective and cumulative actions are destroying the rainforest. 

In partnership with traditional communities AmazoniAlerta is implementing a novel and direct legal strategy to defend their lands. We combine:

1. Monitoring of vulnerable territory by our AmazoniAlerta Environmental Agents Team, comprising men and women from traditional communities. They gather evidence of land, rights and environmental violations on regular patrols.

2. Legal action taken by our dedicated team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous lawyers acting on evidence gathered by our Environmental Agents Team. Our legal team directly engages with law enforcement, the judiciary and responsible government agencies to catalyze the stopping and prosecution of illegal activity identified by our agents.

AmazoniAlerta Operations in Araribóia Indigenous Land

Since the spring of 2022 our operations have focused on key areas within the Araribóia Indigenous Land in the state of Maranhão, Brazil, home to the Guajajara People and the Awá People. Their lands are amongst the most invaded and vigorously defended indigenous lands in the Amazon.

The Araribóia Indigenous Land sits on the eastern edge of the Amazon Rainforest biome. The deep green of the territory seen in the satellite image denotes thick forest cover. The areas surrounding the Indigenous lands have clearly been largely deforested for agriculture.

Working together, our inaugural Environmental Agents Team and our Legal Team have a number of early successes.

Evidence gathered by our Environmental Agents and lobbying by our legal team initiated and supported a major law enforcement action against a major illegal logging operation in Araribóia Indigenous Land. It was led by The Federal Police in Maranhão, with support from the National Institute for the Environment (Ibama), National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples (Funai), Civil Police, Military Police and Maranhão Military Fire Brigade (CBMMA). Over 80 government agents destroyed two illegal sawmills, seized chainsaws, other machinery and firearms and arrested over 40 suspects. Prosecutions are ongoing.

Images taken during the recent law enforcement action against an illegal logging operation in Araribóia Indigenous Land that was initiated by evidence gathered and lobbying by local AmazoniAlerta Environmental Agents. Illegal saw mills and machinery was destroyed in the operation and timber seized.

Working in partnership with local Indigenous rights organization COAPMIA, AmazoniAlerta has supported a number of ongoing legal actions to defend local traditional communities. These actions have occurred at the local and state level as well as internationally in support of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Precautionary Measure no 754-20 mandating the Brazilian Government to fulfill its legal obligation to protect Guajajara and peoples living in the Araribóia Indigenous Land.

Supporting Uncontacted peoples

Alongside their territorial monitoring our team of Environmental Agents have chosen to also patrol in areas where uncontacted Awá People are known to live, aiming to contribute to the protection of their territory and the preservation of their uncontacted state. As an organization AmazoniAlerta is committed to supporting the cause of uncontacted peoples wherever possible.

Our work in Araribóia Indigenous Land is funded primarily by the Rainforest Fund and private donors.

Community Support 

AmazoniAlerta also works to support local traditional communities and civic organizations, through workshops and occasional financial and logistical support. A special focus is the support of the rights of Indigenous women and fighting domestic violence against Indigenous women.