Preserving Brazil’s Biodiversity Through Indigenous-led Land Rights Action and Seed-banking | One Earth
Preserving Brazil’s Biodiversity Through Indigenous-led Land Rights Action and Seed-banking

Image credit: Courtesy of CIR

Preserving Brazil’s Biodiversity Through Indigenous-led Land Rights Action and Seed-banking

Organization Conselho Indigena de Roraima
Category Nature Conservation

There are five main project categories: Energy Transition focuses on renewable energy access and energy efficiency. Nature Conservation includes wildlife habitat protection and ecosystem restoration, as well as Indigenous land rights. Regenerative Agriculture supports farmers, ranchers and community agriculture. Climate Change covers global science efforts, climate adaptation, and social justice work.

Realm Southern America

The Project Marketplace is organized by the major terrestrial realms divided into 14 biogeographical regions – N. America, Subarctic America, C. America, S. America, Afrotropics, Indomalaya, Australasia, Oceania, Antarctica, and the Palearctic realm, which coincides with Eurasia and is divided into Subarctic, Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern regions.

Status ongoing

Seed indicates an early stage project that needs some level of support to develop into a larger funding proposal. Ongoing indicates any project that needs core programmatic funding. Urgent indicates a short-term project initiated in response to a natural disaster or other impending risk.

Funding Level $$$

$$$ indicates a project between $250,000-$1 million.

Timeframe 20 Months
Partner Buckminster Fuller Institute

Recognized by UNDP’s Equator Initiative, the Indigenous Council of Roraima (Conselho Indigena de Roraima, or CIR) has fought for the protection of its land, resulting in the demarcation of 32 Indigenous forests and savannah ecosystems in Brazil’s Roraima State, totaling more than 40,000 square miles. For this reason, it is one of the best-preserved regions of the Brazilian Amazon. The struggle for land peaked in 2009 when the Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous Land was designated by the Supreme Court (STF), after clashes with agricultural interests.

For more than fifty years, the CIR has been active in the fight to defend the rights and autonomy of the Macuxi, Wapichana, Taurepang, Ingarikó, Wai-Wai, Yanomami, Yekuana, Patamona, and Sapará Indigenous peoples, representing a total population of approximately 55,000 people. The Indigenous lands of Roraima are home to hundreds of varieties of traditional seeds, which need to be identified, mapped, rescued, and disseminated. Conservation areas are being developed across forest and grassland ecosystems, allowing Indigenous people to deal more effectively with challenges such as population growth, deforested frontiers, and other pressures from the surrounding area.

Image credit: Courtesy of CIR

CIR’s goals are as follows:

  1. Build 2 seedbanks with adequate structure for storage, rescue, and later multiplication of traditional seeds in the Amazon regions, and catalog the varieties existing in Indigenous lands.
  2. Promote regional and community fairs and promote interchange among the people about traditional seeds.
  3. Strengthen Indigenous agriculture with the participation of elders, youth, children, and women, generating food security through organic production.
  4. Produce written material about the use of traditional seeds to be used in Indigenous schools in the state of Roraima.
  5. Forest and reforest areas that are at risk with the use of regional seeds.

In recent years, the discussion of the conservation and multiplication of traditional seeds has been strengthened, resulting in the organization of 4 traditional seed fairs held by the Indigenous peoples of Roraima between 2012 - 2016. In the current context, many communities have been losing their traditional seeds, and have been offered increased access to Industrialized seeds. Traditional seeds are a product of the co-evolution between nature and the culture of peoples, and they are essential for the physical and cultural reproduction of Indigenous peoples, which is a right guaranteed by the Brazilian Federal Constitution.

Image credit: Courtesy of CIR

This and other CIR initiatives, such as the elaboration of environmental and territorial management plans, also respond to the challenges and principles posed by the National Policy of Environmental and Territorial Management (Decree 7747/12), an achievement of the struggle of the Indigenous peoples of Roraima and throughout Brazil in the last decade. The CIR has established partnerships with institutions such as INPA (National Institute of Amazonian Research), UFRR (Federal University of Roraima), ISA (Instituto Socio Ambiental), and Coordination of Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB).

Communities from 32 Indigenous lands will benefit from sustainable food production and environmental protection through the use of traditional and organic seeds. Indigenous seed management has the principle of maintaining the genetic diversity that is necessary for sustainability and promoting environmental conservation. In just one of the fairs, for example, participants had access to a total of 40 varieties of cassava, 20 of pepper, more than 15 types of corn and beans, and many other varieties such as banana, batatá, yam, rice, and cotton. The CIR continues advocating for its rights and producing content in ways which include engaging with people virtually through its social media.

Image credit: Courtesy of CIR

For many years, the Indigenous peoples of Roraima have suffered great territorial pressures from ranchers and large rice farmers. This has caused great cultural losses, especially through the loss of traditional seeds due to the introduction of new forms of agriculture based on commercial production. Even with these external pressures, Indigenous communities remain the only guardians of traditional seeds which resist time and climate change. For example, the community of Willimon, located in the Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous land, maintains diverse seeds of beans, corn, peppers, and manioc, valuing traditional knowledge about traditional seeds while at the same time reconciling it with new scientific knowledge.

To strengthen Conselho Indigena de Roraima’s actions aimed at the rescue and preservation of these seeds is to contribute to the continued preservation and restoration of forests and fields, and to enable the well-being of both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in the forests and savannahs of the Brazilian Amazon.

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