Preserving and regenerating ecosystems is critical to solving the climate crisis.

Indigenous Peoples defend a precious natural resource- empowering them protects us all


Posted By:

Dawn Stevenson

Senior International Programmes Officer

Aerial view of dug up crop fields backed by a lush rainforest

Originally posted on the

Deep within the lush, green rainforest of the Peruvian Amazon, several members of the local Indigenous community, together with khaki-clad state park rangers, are on a surveillance patrol of the land, after receiving an alert that illegal miners may be moving into the area.  

They set off a drone, which flies high overhead as they walk, capturing the wider picture of the surrounding forest. After several hours, the patrol team arrive at an area where trees have recently been cut, and a trench dug into the earth. The shock of red-orange dirt is an open wound against the dark greens of the surrounding forest.  

After a moment’s silence, one man begins snapping photos of the scene on his phone, while others enter information into a geo-monitoring device. They will continue to observe this area closely over the next few months, ready to instantly alert the park authorities if the miners return.  

The work of this team is one small step towards reaching an ambitious global goal agreed just a few months ago – to conserve nearly a third of nature by 2030. Achieving it will be impossible with greater support for Indigenous people, in the Amazon and elsewhere. 

The patrol are members of the ECA-RCA, which brings together 10 indigenous groups and the Peruvian state to co-manage 402,335 hectares of primary rainforest in the Amarakaeri Reserve. Their collaborative model of conservation has been so effective that over 98% of the forest is successfully being conserved, despite facing constant threats from illegal gold mining, logging, and deforestation for settlement and agriculture. This achievement has been recognised by the IUCN Green List which certifies the highest conservation standards worldwide. 

As well as protecting their ancestral territory, ECA-RCA are increasing families’ incomes in communities living within the Reserve through sustainable businesses such as Brazil nut and cacao production through agroforestry, sustainable tourism, fish farming and poultry breeding. Profits are directly paid to families in the Reserve, enabling them to continue preserving and living off the forest without negatively impacting their territory. 

12,000 miles away in Indonesian Borneo, Karim is paddling his small, blue-painted wooden boat down a wide river lined by lush, ancient rainforest. In the serene first light of day, he tosses out his fishing nets, and waits patiently.  

Karim once cut down trees to make a living.  But he sold his chainsaw to Indonesian forest charity ASRI in return for a zero-interest loan to help him turn from logging and find a new, sustainable work as a fisherman.  

In a shed a few miles from the river sit hundreds of chainsaws which once belonged to loggers from forest communities, who had few other ways of making a living.  

ASRI have spent 15 years working to protect and restore the ancient rainforest in the Gulung Palung and Bukit Baka Bukit Raya national parks in Borneo. These are some of the most richly biodiverse places on earth and home to the iconic orangutan, yet also at serious risk of total destruction from fires, industrial oil palm and timber plantations 

ASRI supports new businesses with finance, marketing help and business plan training – popular activities include beekeeping, raising chickens and opening juice stalls. ASRI has even built a new healthcare clinic where families can pay for treatment with goods such as seedlings and manure. 

The result? Over the last 15 years, ASRI has seen a 90% reduction in illegal logging, and a 67% reduction in infant mortality levels in the communities they work in. Their innovative model is now being replicated in West Papua, Madagascar and Brazil.  This achievement caused ASRI to win the 2022 Ashden Award for Natural Climate Solutions. 


A young women kneels and works in a field of rainforest plants
Reformed loggers for ASRI and Ashden International Awards, Sukanda, West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Preserving and regenerating ecosystems is critical to solving the climate crisis. An agreement reached at Biodiversity COP15 in December 2022 commits governments to conserving nearly a third of Earth for nature by 2030 while respecting indigenous and traditional territories in the expansion of new protected areas. 

Indigenous peoples represent only 4% of the global population, yet they are guardians of more than 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Strong Indigenous land rights have been recognised as an important climate solution. Yet in many parts of the world, Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs) do not have tenure of the forest land they live on, despite the fact that when they do, they are better able to conserve it. Support for sustainable livelihoods is also crucial to ensuring Indigenous Peoples can fulfil the role of guardians and protectors. 

Still, locally-led solutions do not receive more than a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars the international powers are pouring into solving climate change. It’s vital that funding is channeled directly to indigenous – led conservation and regeneration in Peru, Indonesia and beyond.  

Ashden is seeking entries for the 2023 Ashden Award for Natural Climate Solutions – work led by Indigenous peoples and local communities to protect forests or restore land and strengthening their incomes, wellbeing and food security. Entry is free, and closes on 8 March.

Find out more and apply. 

Read More

This site uses cookies to provide you with the best user experience. By using the Ashden website, you accept our use of cookies.

Stay up to date

Be the first to know about our latest projects and news