The Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture, a movement formed by 200+ representatives from agribusiness, civil society, financial sector and the academia, believes that Brazil can be a forest, agricultural, and biodiversity power while conserving and expanding the country’s huge natural asset. But this model only makes sense if protection of indigenous people is guaranteed.
The contribution of indigenous territories to the integrity of the Amazon biome has been proven in several studies. In addition to protecting the environment, which also benefits agricultural production, their inhabitants represent an enormous wealth and socio-cultural diversity. For this reason, whenever the defense of the territories or the ways of life of Brazilian indigenous peoples and their traditional knowledge are threatened, Brazil is also at risk.
Historically vulnerable to diseases and hostages to a poor health services structure, especially in the North, the country’s 800,000+ indigenous people face a critical scenario amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data from IPAM (the Amazon Environmental Research Institute), the mortality rate among indigenous people is more than double that of non-indigenous people. Given this threat, it is essential to reduce circulation between cities and indigenous communities.
For this reason, the Brazilian Coalition reinforces the urgency of implementing the Emergency Plan to Combat COVID-19 in Indigenous Territories, in order to ensure access to the preventive actions and services needed by these communities. In addition, the movement views with concern the Presidency’s vetoes to basic guarantees that the plan’s text brought. It also concerns the Government’s actions to medicate these populations with medicine whose scientific evidence has been questioned by the medical profession and the World Health Organization. Therefore, the effective participation of indigenous peoples in performing the plan is a basic principle of respect and effectiveness.
When it comes to indigenous communities, the COVID-19 crisis has been exacerbated by the constant invasion of their lands, which not only increases crime rates in these territories, but also carries the virus to these populations. It is therefore urgent for the Executive Branch to comply with the decision of the Federal Appellate Court of the 1st Circuit, which determined the immediate withdrawal of all prospectors from the Ianomami Indigenous Land – estimated 20 thousand invaders – as well as the presence of public servants from Funai (National Indian Foundation), Ibama (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources), and the military during the pandemic to curb illegality in these areas.
Ensuring the protection of indigenous peoples and communities during and after the pandemic is to ensure that Brazil promotes and respects human rights, the environment and agriculture, which depends on the environmental services of forests. This commitment benefits the country’s image, the position of Brazilian products in international markets and the people who live in and protect the forest. That is why the interest in the safety and well-being of the original peoples is of all Brazilians and a duty of the State and, thus, requires immediate Government measures.