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Suruí controversial Forest Carbon Project, Rondônia, Brasil


Description

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.

The project started being envisioned in 2007 by Almir Suruí, one of the leaderships of the Suruí. It was designed in association with indigenous institution Kanindé. At that point in time, it is said that the majority of the 26 villages that compose the Suruí community were in accordance with the project. Although many had not a complete idea of what it meant and how it worked (CIMI, 2015). As such, the Project moved on with the assistance from other institutions such as Kanindé Association for Ethno-Environmental ProtectionEquipe de Conservacao da Amazônia Forest Trends. It was deemed to be the first carbon project to be developed by an indigenous community. It was only in 2013 that the first sale of carbon credits was made – for the Brazilian based company Natura, a developer and producer of cosmetics – with the monetary value of R$ 1,2 million (+/- US$ 400.000).

The conflictuous implications of Projeto de Carbono Suruí starts at this point. A division within the Suruí communities leaders occured. When, upon receiving resources from the carbon credit sales from the project, it is said by a few leaders of the Suruí community that there has been no transparency of the use of the money, families have not been granted better living conditions and the economic activities who were once possible are now being limited by the project (MOVIMENTO MUNDIAL POR LOS BOSQUES TROPICALES, 2015). They claim that the Associacao Metareilá (an association that encompasses all the communities of the Suruí people) was clearly divided after the funds from the project were not equally distributed amongst them and that groups that started questioning the projected eventually suffered repraisals. The insertion of the project granted further pressures to be made upon the Suruí people. For example, inspections from the Federal Police gained force inside the territory, not only to combat illegal loggers from outside, but also to suppress subsistance land use by members of the Suruí as well as hunting. Claims have been made that under these conditions, many families have lacked the resources to provide for their own basic needs. Notwithstanding, the social fabric of the community suffers from further divisions and the growing distance from the sense of unity they once had.

As such, part of the Suruí community has gathered around some of its leaders to ask for the interruption of the project. Mobilization started in 2014. In december of the same year, this current of the Suruí formally asked the Public Attorney of the State of Rondônia to intervene and bring the project to a halt. They also assembled their claim and made their arguments heard by FUNAI  (National Foundation for the Indigenous) and the Federal Public Ministery in Brasília. Several NGOs and institutions such as CIMI (Missionary Indigenous Council) have been supportive of this initiative of members of the Suruí people in their claims against the Project.

On the other hand, leaderships from the Suruí who have had the upperhand in taking the Project on from the beggining deny the above claims. In announcements, they have claimed that the Carbon Project is an alternative for its peoples and go further by claiming that the Carbon Project “guarantees the life of the next generations, the forest standing, fauna conservation, sustainable development and the sovereignty of the indigenous people” (PAITER, 2015). Their strategy, thus to disqualify and criminalize the members of the Suruí who have filed claims against the Project. They argue that these members are linked to the “theft of timber” from inside the territory and are “contributing to the destruction of the forest for the own benefit” (PAITER, 2015). This group of the Suruí people also are aligned both discursively and interest wise to both national and international organizations supportive of the Project, to the Government of the State of Rondônia (interested in the marketing of the project) and NGO´s favoring REDD+ experiments. These hold preeminance in the media and offer a dominant narrative around the project that legitimates the instrument of REDD as a positive impact onto communities.

The conflict hereby described is set between unequal forces. Where in one hand, members that support the Project are backed by international NGO´s, great Brazilian corporation such as Natura and also mainstream media. As such, resistence has been set by part of the Suruí community along with Federal and State intitutions, NGO´s and other institutions. Getting their word out has been successful to call attention to their cause and to reinforce pressure on project members/organizers. As such, stakeholders involved must bring about solutions that offer better living conditions to the Suruí people. It is mostly in the hands of FUNAI and the Public Federal Ministry to further investigate the claims and, in participatory manner, offer alternatives that can encompass the collectiveness and unity of the Suruí people. 

Basic Data

NameSuruí controversial Forest Carbon Project, Rondônia, Brasil
CountryBrazil
ProvinceRondônia
SiteCacoal
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
REDD/CDM
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 : www.cimi.org.br

World Rainforest Movement : www.wrm.org.uy

Conselho Pastoral da Terra : ww.cptnacional.org

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

Impacts

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

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Negotiated alternative solution
Repression
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

Legislations

ENREDD - Brazilian National Strategy for REDD
http://redd.mma.gov.br/pt/estrategia-nacional-para-redd

References

Report on REDD by WRM
http://wrm.org.uy/pt/files/2015/04/REDD-Uma_Colecao_de_conflitos_controdicoes_e_mentiras.pdf

The company Natura reports on acquisition of carbon sequestration from the PCFS
http://www.natura.com.br/e/programa-carbono-neutro

Members of the Paiter Suruí community supportive of the project responds to the claims against the project in a official announcement.
http://www.paiter.org/nota-publica-parlamento-paiter-surui/

Links

News regarding the Suruí´s claims against the project
http://cimi.org.br/site/pt-br/?system=news&conteudo_id=7991&action=read

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.
http://www.redd-monitor.org/2015/01/13/leaders-of-the-paiter-surui-ask-that-the-carbon-project-with-natura-be-terminated/

A history of the contact between the Funai and the Surui
https://pib.socioambiental.org/en/povo/surui-paiter/846

Media Links

Television report on the Project
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBCW8hK1ZKw

Google video on the Suruí Forest Carbon Project - PCFS
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXsJtQuX138

Other Documents

Henrique Suruí Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/descontrução_011.jpg

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

Source: Associacao Metareilá
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/surui_natura_1378767240.jpg

Meta Information

ContributorF.
Last update23/07/2017

Images

 

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Invitation for the inauguration of the Suruí Forest Carbon Project

Invitation for the inauguration of the Suruí Forest Carbon Project Source: Associacao Metareilá

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.

Henrique Suruí

Interview by Porantim (from CIMI) with Henrique Suruí explaining the claims of members of the Suruí against the project.