Tree resin project helps Indigenous Matsés community to protect the Amazon

©Xapiri/Mike van Krutchen/Tui Anandi/Acaté

A project funded by the Onaway Trust is helping the Indigenous Matsés people to protect the Amazon rainforest by providing them with sustainable income opportunities which prevent the need for deforestation.

The Matsés, or Mayoruna, are an Indigenous people who live along the Javari (Yavarí) river and its tributaries between Brazil and Peru. They live in remote villages deep in the Amazon rainforest which are difficult to access, making trade with the outside world practically and economically challenging.

Although most of the Matsés needs are met by their traditional practices, such as hunting, gathering, fishing, and horticulture, nowadays they rely on a small amount of money to pay for basic household items, medical care, fuel for outrigger canoe motors, and to exchange goods in the city.

Unfortunately, greedy timber extraction companies take advantage of this fact by bribing the Matsés to allow access to their sacred forest in order to log the remaining tree species which haven’t already been eradicated by industry. Not only is this work dangerous and laborious, but the Matsés are often underpaid for the precious timber that they sell.

Acaté Amazon Conservation’s copaiba tree resin project is helping the community to develop an alternative income source which means they will no longer have to resort to working with harmful extractive industries, which destroy their rainforest home and its ecology, in order to make an income.

The copaiba tree produces a golden resin which has many uses in medicine and the manufacture of products such as cosmetics. Acaté have worked alongside the Matsés to create their own drills in order to sustainably extract this resin in a way which doesn’t kill or infect the dense hardwood trees. The organisation has also helped to connect the community with local markets in order to sell this renewable product.

With Onaway’s funding, Acaté and the Matsés community were able to map out all of the copaiba trees in the south of their territory between the Chobayacu tributary and the Upper Yaquerana river and they have also been able to extend their work to Puerto Alegre on the Upper Yaquerana with training and the construction of additional drills.

This inspiring project not only provides the Indigenous community with a sustainable source of income which helps to prevent ecological and environmental destruction but, in preserving their ancestral home, it also protects against the loss of the Native peoples’ cultural traditions, wisdom and practices.

This is in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which seeks to empower the cultural traditions and economic self-sufficiency of Native communities while preserving the health of the natural environment and its biodiversity. In addition, the project serves to highlight the benefits of traditional Matsés medicine, something which Onaway has previous experience in having funded a project in which Acaté worked with the community to produce an encyclopaedia of traditional medicine.

Onaway is proud to have been able to provide support to these incredible projects and to help the Matsés people to achieve self-sufficiency and preserve their home and their culture in such challenging times. Read more about this partnership and the work of Acaté here.