Tribes in the Amazon are Teaming Up to Save the Rainforest

Faced with threats from the oil industry, loggers and now wildfires, four tribes have come together on projects to defend their sacred territory and improve living conditions.

30.08.2019 | by Christy Romer
Photo Alianza Ceibo
Photo Alianza Ceibo

The Amazon Rainforest’s 1 million indigenous people are divided into roughly 400 tribes, each of which has its own territory, culture and language. Distinct communities usually live distinct lives.

But the modern age demands a new way of working. Faced with an unprecedented existential threat — the result of pollution, general habitat destruction, and raging fires — four large communities have decided to come together to save the rainforest.

These are the A’i Kofan, Siona, Siekopai and Waorani peoples, located in the North West of the Amazon, between Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.

And collectively, they’re known as Alianza Ceibo.

“We couldn’t wait for a response from the state anymore, or from the businesses responsible,” the Alliance website reads.

“We saw that we all had similar problems and experiences, and although we’re different, we realised that there are many things that unite us.”

Recognising that water sources making their children sick had been contaminated in the same way by the same oil companies, the tribes came together in 2011 to create new systems for capturing rainwater.

With support from charities Saving an Angel and the Rainforest Fund, the ‘ClearWater’ project has made clean water systems for more than 1,000 families in 78 communities.

“Now that we have clean water, we’re strong, our resistance has grown, and our health is improving. We’ve now achieved a lot together and we know that we have the strength to make real change against threats that face our villages,” the website reads.


Amazon collaboration

The tribes decided to continue this collaboration on a wide variety of different projects, supporting populations to defend their territory and ensure their continued cultural survival.

Other projects include:

  • Territorial mapping. The Alliance states that maps of the Amazon made by outsiders “have always served the interests of Governments, military and companies that want to draw resources from our land.”So the communities have been ‘georeferencing’ their ancestral territory and compiling video and audio recordings of old and current communities. They trained young people in the use of cameras and GPS, and toured the territory with great sages to document local knowledge.The resulting maps are focused on cultural and historical riches — hunting paths, medicinal plants, animals dens, ancient villages and sacred places.
  • Environmental monitoring. This was a direct response to the fact that “millions of gallons” of crude oil and salt water have been dumped into rivers, streams and lagoons, due to “spills and poor extraction processes.”The tribes have teamed up with university scientists to measure the levels of pollution in water and fish. The monitoring programmes also share knowledge about the presence of invaders and evaluate levels of biodiversity.


  • Guarding ancestral knowledge. Knowledge held by elder women about the jungle, crafts and traditional medicine is passed on to the younger generations


  • Implementing Solar power. Oil companies often offer electricity as a benefit in return for the exploitation of their territories, which the Alliance says leads to “unhealthy dependency relationships”.Working alongside the Love for Life Foundation in Germany, the partnership has therefore been working on the installation of renewable energy systems.

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