Our Work


The Rainforest Foundation US works in partnership with indigenous groups and local grassroots organizations in Central and South America to secure rights to their lands, influence laws and policies to protect their resources, and build strong community leadership. We provide project-related grants and direct technical assistance to our partners. Click on the video for a 3 minute overview of rainforest issues and the Rainforest Foundation’s work over the past 20 years.



2011 Priorities

Securing land rights for indigenous peoples

Securing rights to their lands is a top priority for indigenous peoples across the world as it gives communities the control and security they need to protect their forests. However, indigenous groups often face significant legal, procedural and technical hurdles to obtaining legal recognition of their land rights, such as accurate marking of boundaries, professional maps and formal title documentation. The Rainforest Foundation is assisting its partners overcome these challenges by providing technical support to map territorial boundaries, document land claims, and assist with complex administrative and legal procedures. On regional and national levels, the Rainforest Foundation is supporting indigenous organizations and networks to negotiate with the relevant authorities to gain formal recognition.

Ensuring Indigenous Peoples’ participation in climate change initiatives

The international community has increasingly come to understand that protection of the rainforest is a key to mitigating climate change. Indigenous lands in the tropics, by and large, retain relatively intact forest ecosystems despite outside pressure, thanks to traditional management of resources. These areas are therefore prime candidates for programs aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). REDD can represent a great opportunity for indigenous peoples. Depending on how these initiatives are carried out, however, they also risk establishing perverse incentives and top-down models for forest protection, leading to land conflicts and unfair distribution of benefits. Consultations with indigenous peoples have largely been inadequate so far, and communities have demanded further information, and that their rights be respected. In response, RF-US is working with indigenous organizations in Guyana and Panama – two countries where REDD initiatives are growing quickly – to provide information on REDD and indigenous peoples rights, and to push for indigenous involvement in decision-making around these projects.

2011 Initiatives

Belize: Mayan Rights to Land & Resources in Belize We are helping Maya Communities secure their lands in Southern Belize Brazil: Defending Raposa Serra do Sol, Brazil We are providing continued legal and advocacy support for indigenous communities in Raposa Serra do Sol, northern Brazil. Guyana: Rights and REDD in Guyana We are helping train and prepare indigenous leaders to advocate for their rights in climate change initiatives. Panama: Indigenous Climate Change Strategy in Panama We are helping communities build a national-level indigenous strategy on climate change based on traditional knowledge and worldview. Panama: Protecting 470,000 Acres in Panama We are helping the Wounaan people of Panama secure their rights to 470,000 acres of their ancestral lands. Peru: Kandozi and Shapra People’s Right to Health in Peru We are helping the critically endangered Kandozi and Shapra people in accessing adequate medical care.

Other Important Initiatives

Brazil: Impacts of the Belo Monte Dam In 2010 this project provided communities that would be impacted by Belo Monte Dam with information on the dam’s impacts and the mechanisms available to assert their rights, and promote their active participation in the decisions that affect them.