Rainforests are very rich in natural resources, but they are also very fragile. For this reason, indigenous people have become instinctive conservationists. For them, conservation is literally a way of life.

Rainforest Tribes - The Future

In the case of the Yanomami, there is at least some cause for optimism. They now live on reserves approved by governments and seem to be maintaining their traditions.  

Clearly there is a need for better health care and for more sympathetic policing of their lands by the military. They are perhaps the most famous of all rainforest tribes, and are therefore protected to some extent by public opinion. There would be world-wide outcry if Yanomami lands were threatened by development or mining again.

But how many other tribes are struggling for survival in the rainforests of the world? How many people have heard of the Kaiapo, the Yekuana, the Iban, the Mehinacu or the Xikru? How much popular support could be rallied in their defence?  

The massive Belo Monte hydroelectric power scheme which is planned for the Xingu River of Brazil was initially blocked by a judge's decision after protests by Kaiapo Indians and the delivery of a petition containing no less than 600,000 signatures of people who opposed the scheme.  However construction of the dam is now well underway, with the Xingu River already blocked.  When completed, the project is likely to flood at least 500 square kilometres of rainforest and displace some 50,000 people living in the forests.  Brazil has plans in the pipeline for some 60 large dams and many more smaller ones in the Amazon and has stated that it plans to exploit 70% of this potential in the future. An article in The Guardianon 15 April 2015 reports that four Amazonian tribes the building of hydroelectric dams in their territory by the Brazilian government. They have said, “The government builds dams without completing environmental studies, without seeking to understand the consequences of the destruction of nature in our lives. It authorizes the operation of dams without giving a response to indigenous people and leaving their lives without fish, without water, without hunting as they try to hide their negative impacts on our lives, our rivers and our territories,”

Rainforest tribes throughout the world are in need of protection. This protection should be granted as soon as possible by the governments of their nation states, but is bound to take time. Most rainforest tribes live in poor countries. The forests are rich in natural resources and can make huge sums of money for a few years, thus making the countries involved richer. But after those few years all that remains is desert. Most former rain forest which has been exploited for other purposes will either take many years to recover, or will never recover at all. 

The only way to stop the destruction of the rainforests, of the animals and plants, and of the tribes which live in them is through greater public awareness of the problems we are creating for ourselves. By this I mean a world-wide realization of the importance of the rainforest and its inhabitants, and of the need for proper protection against its permanent destruction. 

There is now increasing global concern about climate change and about how destruction of the rainforest is likely to accelerate it.  This is leading to the world's governments taking a stronger interest in protecting rainforested areas for the future.  With financial assistance from the developed countries of the world, there is the potential for many areas of rainforest - and the people who live in them - to be saved for the future.  

The way of life of the forest peoples is as fragile as the forests they live in.  Most prefer to be left alone to continue living as they always have done, in harmony with their surroundings.  Their way of life could teach us a great deal.

Read More: Further Information

Related Resources