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3 October 2013 | WASHINGTON, D.C. | The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded a $13 million grant to Forest Trends and its Forest-Based Livelihoods Consortium to strengthen the role of indigenous and historically marginalized forest communities in combatting climate change. The program, known as “Accelerating Inclusion and Mitigating Emissions” (AIME), seeks to improve livelihoods and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) in Latin America.

“The Forest-Based Livelihoods Consortium brings together a team of small, nimble innovators committed to aligning public and private REDD+ initiatives with the needs of forest communities,” said Michael Jenkins, President and CEO of Forest Trends, convener of the consortium. Other Consortium members include the international arm of IPAM (Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia), Environmental Defense Fund, EcoDecision, Pronatura Sur, PRISMA (Programa Salvadoreño de Investigación sobre Desarrollo y Medio Ambiente), and two indigenous organizations, COICA (Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin) and the Metareila Association of the Surui people.

While unmanaged logging and conversion of forest lands to agriculture can bring economic benefits in the short and medium terms, they also cause greenhouse gas emissions. They have also sometimes led to deterioration of social cohesion, quality of life, and long-term economic opportunities for traditionally marginalized communities. Forest carbon projects and REDD+ programs, on the other hand, can allow indigenous and traditional communities to maintain their forests and gain access new revenue streams that are consistent with their long-term plans.

The Consortium will build capacity of traditional communities to engage equitably and productively with REDD+ activities. The AIME program will also help key jurisdictions in Brazil, Central America, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru to expand processes and policy frameworks to be more inclusive of the rights and views of local communities.

The announcement by USAID and Forest Trends follows a historic achievement by the Paiter-Surui, an Amazonian people based in Rondônia, Brazil, who became the first indigenous people to generate REDD+ credits from avoided deforestation in their territory. The Brazilian cosmetics giant Natura Cosméticos made the first purchase of carbon offsets from the Surui, representing 120,000 tons of avoided CO2 emissions, in September. As part of the Forest- Based Livelihoods Consortium, the Surui’s Metareilá Association will work with Brazilian states and other indigenous peoples to align their economic development and environmental conservation goals.

“REDD+ is a bridge between the indigenous world and the non-indigenous world” says Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui, who spearheaded the Surui forest carbon effort. “It creates a vehicle through which the capitalist system can recognize the value of standing forests, and indigenous people can be rewarded for preserving them.”

BACKGROUND INFORMATION Tropical deforestation and forest degradation account for 10-15% of worldwide carbon emissions. Approximately 31% of forests in developing countries are owned or designated for use by indigenous peoples and communities.1 About 25% of the Amazon region is controlled by indigenous peoples, and 98% of their forests remain standing, avoiding the release of billions of tons of climate change emissions, as well as conserving biodiversity and maintaining other vital ecosystem services. Until recently, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon had been declining. Indigenous and traditional communities figured prominently in this historical achievement, defending their territorial boundaries from aggressive logging, as well as cattle and soy incursions. However, deforestation rates surged more than 400% in the past 12 months. REDD+ is …Reducing Deforestation from ….Support for REDD+ currently flows through voluntary and compliance carbon markets and public donor finance. Global sales of forest carbon offsets – including both REDD+ and Afforestation/Reforestation credits – increased to $237 million in 2011, helping to protect 4.2 million forested hectares. Additionally, more than six billion dollars have been committed through official development assistance to combat deforestation (including REDD+), but actual disbursements to date are much lower than expected.

1 RRI. 2012. What Rights? A comparative analysis of developing countries’ national legislation on community and Indigenous Peoples’ forest tenure rights. Washington DC: Rights and Resources Initiative.