Suruí controversial Forest Carbon Project, Rondônia, Brasil

Carbon offsets mitigation project generates bitter internal conflicts among the Paiter Suruí indigenous populations of Rondônia.


The indigenous people of the Suruí were officially contacted by Brazilian non-indigenous in the year of 1969. The construction of part of Federal Highway BR-364 connecting Cuiabá (north of Mato Grosso) to Porto Velho (capital of Rondônia) was responsable for this encounter. In the following decades, thousands of kilometres of lands were opened (deforested) by the arriving settlers in one of the most massive migrations of the 20th century in the global west (BROWDER et al, 1998). In 1975, over one million ha of land were designated for early settlers by the Brazilian Federal government. In its peak in 1984-1986, 160.000 settlers arrived yearly in what is now known as the state of Rondônia, thus, pressuring local traditional and indigenous populations who inhabitted the region.  A  247,000 ha territory named Terra Indígena Sete de Setembro – situated between the municipalities of Cacoal (east Rondônia), Espigao d´Oeste and Rondolândia (both in the neighbouring Mato Grosso) is reserved for the Paiter Surui by Decree 88867 of 17 October 1983. By then, the land was already occupied by farmers and loggers, who were evicted from the newly-demarcated land. Economic activities from both inside the territory as well as its borders are logging, farming and mining. The hardships endured by the Suruí after contact with non-indigenous were many, such as: disease epidemics, loss of traditional livelihood, the lack of financial resources and access to basic services, and conflicts with its neighbours. Invasions from loggers outside of the territory in search of timber, from farmers looking for arable land and also from mining “garimpeiros”, have put pressure onto the Suruí communities and conflicts have been a constant in the last decades. It is important to reinforce though, that the revenues from timber extraction were historically not equally divided amongst the Suruí and have always meant a conflictive issue inside the community. In the early 2000´s, the scarcity of timber inside Sete de Setembro forced the Suruí to search for new means of economic activities, other than logging. Whereas farming and cattle have played significant role. It is under this narrative, that the Projeto de Carbono Suruí (Carbon Project of the Suruí) was developed: as an economic alternative that could both provide the financial means to provide better líving conditions to its people whilst keeping the forest standing.

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Basic Data
NameSuruí controversial Forest Carbon Project, Rondônia, Brasil
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesEcosystem Services
Carbon offsets
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Suruí Forest Carbon Project (PCFS) is a 30 year long REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) enterprise initially organized by members of the indigenous people of the Paiter Suruí from Northeast Rondônia, Brazil. In 2009, a memorandum of understanding was signed by other added project members such as:

- Kanindé Association for Ethno-Environmental Protection

- Equipe de Conservacao da Amazônia

- Forest Trends

- Instituto de Conservacao e Desenvolvimento da Amazônia

- Fundo Brasileiro para Biodiversidade (FUNBIO)

- Instituto Florestal Yabner Gabgir do povo Paiter Suruí

As announced by its organizers, it is expected to halt 7.258.352 tCO2 of carbon emissions from the 247,000 hectares area that correspond to the Indigenous Territory Sete de Setembro (land of the Suruí) and stop the deforestation of around 13.575 hectares of tropical forested land. Activity from farmers and loggers bordering the territory make pressure onto land use, causing further deforestation. Historically, the Suruí also make economic use of logging and small holder production in its territory. Thus, in the last decades the depletion of forest resources has caused further conflicts between the Suruí and loggers to emerge. Since the scarcity of timber has pushed the loggers activities into the indigenous territory. Loggers invasions are constant and historic, as well as violent. Hence, the Carbon Project emerges as an alternative to generate revenue for the 1400 members of the 26 Suruí communities within the territory – moving away from logging and further deforestation for small holder agriculture production. The Carbon Project represents “the search for financial mechanisms that can guarantee forest conservation, improve living standards and rescue traditional livelihood”. The project is based upon four pillars: (i) deforestation vigilance and environment; (ii) food security and sustainable production; (iii) institutional empowerment and (iv) development and implementation of a financial mechanism through the creation of the Suruí Fund. Although its elaboration started off in 2007 in the hands of Almir Suruí, one of the local leaderships, only in 2013 did the company Natura acquire R$ 1.2 million (+/- US$ 350.000) worth of carbon credits from the REDD scheme provided by PCFS.
Project Area (in hectares)247,000
Level of Investment (in USD)1,200,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population1400
Start Date01/12/2014
Company Names or State EnterprisesAssociaçao Metareilá from Brazil - Responsible for the design and implementatin of the carbon project
Natura Cosméticos from Brazil - Responsible for the acquisition of R$1,2 mm worth oif carbon credits from the Suruí Forest Carbon Project
Kanindé Associacao de Defesa Etnoambiental from Brazil - Consultancy for the Paiter Suruí in the development of the project
Forest Trends from United States of America - Advised in the development of the project
IDESAM - Instituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável da Amazônia from Brazil - Rersponsible for the technical coordination of forest carbon related aspects
Relevant government actorsFundaçao Nacional do Índio - FUNAI

Distrito Sanitário Especial Indígena - DSEI/Vilhena

Government of the State of Rondônia

Ministério Público of Rondônia

Ministério Público Federal
International and Financial InstitutionsVerified Carbon Standard (VCS) from United States of America - Verified the project
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersConselho Indigenista Missionário CIMI :

World Rainforest Movement :

Conselho Pastoral da Terra :

REDD monitor
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
Paiter Suruí indigenous group
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Other Environmental impacts
OtherInternal dispute among the Paiter Surui on land use (because of REDD project) and between them and outside settlers.
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
Project cancelled
Development of AlternativesMembers of the Paiter Sururí who are against the Suruí Forest Carbon Project have formalized their complaints within FUNAI (National Foundation for the Indigenous) and the Public Ministry asking for a complete halt of the project. They have also reached out to the media in order to make their voices heard. Environmental Justice organizations such as CIMI have given support in defense of this claim. Negotiations within the Suruí community, mediated by FUNAI and the Public Ministry, are perhaps an alternative for ending the internal conflict. But also, and most importantly, to visualize other alternatives for the Suruí community to provide for their societal needs.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.So far the project is ongoing and members of the Paiter Suruí people are still to be offered other alternatives for their socio-economic subsistance and development. With the continuation of the Project, increments in space for agriculture and cattle are not allowed, making it harder for the subsistance of members of the Suruí community.
Sources and Materials

ENREDD - Brazilian National Strategy for REDD
[click to view]


Report on REDD by WRM
[click to view]

The company Natura reports on acquisition of carbon sequestration from the PCFS
[click to view]

Members of the Paiter Suruí community supportive of the project responds to the claims against the project in a official announcement.
[click to view]


News regarding the Suruí´s claims against the project
[click to view]

News on the Suruí´s claims against the project. The Paiter-Suruí REDD project in Brazil is often held up as a successful indigenous-led REDD project. In December 2014, REDD-Monitor published an English translation of an interview by CIMI (the Indigenous Missionary Council) with Henrique Suruí in which he gives a completely different opinion of the project.
[click to view]

A history of the contact between the Funai and the Surui
[click to view]

Media Links

Television report on the Project
[click to view]

Google video on the Suruí Forest Carbon Project - PCFS
[click to view]

Other Documents

Henrique Suruí Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.
[click to view]

Invitation for the inauguration of the Suruí Forest Carbon Project Invitation for the inauguration of the Suruí Forest Carbon Project

Source: Associacao Metareilá
[click to view]

Meta Information
Last update23/07/2017