In this video, our Yanomami and Ye'kuana partners in the Amazon talk about how life in their communities is affected by the changing environment and how we can stand with them to protect our common home.
Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, rich in diversity and natural resources. However, Brazil is also one of the most unequal nations in the world. Brazil’s six richest men currently own the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the population, totalling around 100 million people.
Although poverty levels fell during a period of economic growth, highly unequal distribution of income, land and natural resources have contributed to rising poverty rates again. Fifty million Brazilians are now living in poverty – representing 25% of the population, and between 2016 to 2017, extreme poverty increased by 11% to fifteen million people.
Over the last three years, Brazil’s worst economic and political crisis in decades has hit the poorest and most excluded the hardest. Between 2016 to 2018, the government has dismantled the legislative framework that protects the human rights of the poorest and most marginalised in favour of austerity measures and economic exploitation of the environment. Cuts in public spending on health, education, housing and other public services, reform of labour rights and public pensions have almost completely reversed the economic and social improvements gained between 2002 to 2014.
As Brazil faces divisive presidential and congressional elections at the end of October 2018, the results could potentially lead to yet further social and environmental setbacks, especially for the poorest sectors of society.
Tackling the root causes of poverty and inequality
CAFOD's partners are working hard to protect the rights gained over decades for poor and marginalised people in Brazil. Influencing policy makers is key to addressing the causes of poverty and exclusion. Highly unequal distribution of land, natural resources and income are the root causes of poverty, violence and environmental degradation in Brazil.
Over several decades, as people have found it harder to live off the land, they have migrated to urban centres in search of new opportunities. Urban poverty is characterised by over-crowded shantytowns, insecurity of tenure, low wages and poor public services and sanitation, as well as high levels of violence and discrimination, particularly affecting women, young people and afro-descendants.
The livelihoods and homes of rural and indigenous communities are vulnerable to the expansion of large-scale agribusiness, mining and timber interests, as well as mega construction projects, and this has led to violence against communities who defend their rights to land.
According to Global Witness, over the past 10 years Brazil has been the most dangerous country in the world for land and environmental defenders. 2017 was the deadliest year on record, with 57 murders – over 25% of these murders were of indigenous people.
Many indigenous people oppose exploitation and commercialisation of natural resources, due to a deep-rooted spiritual connection with nature, and many act as guardians of the lungs of our planet – the Amazon rainforest. For this, they are often perceived as a barrier to economic progress.
Indigenous people are among the most threatened in the country; they are murdered, criminalised, threatened, evicted from their land, and their rights to health, education and to maintain their different cultural identities are systematically violated.
CAFOD's work in Brazil
CAFOD has been working in Brazil for over 50 years and works with Brazilian partner organisations to help some of the poorest and most vulnerable groups. Together we are:
- Supporting indigenous people to improve their living conditions, defend their rights to land, health, education, and protect their cultural identities.
- Helping homeless families in São Paulo and rural landless families and those impacted by mining in the north and north-east of Brazil to have a secure place to live and to guarantee their livelihoods, including access to sustainable energy.
- Lobbying for greater access to basic social welfare for vulnerable people.
We indigenous communities are saying look at the sky - it's changing/ The sun is changing. The rain is changing. The men in the cities, we want them to listen and believe us, to look to the future and the past, to see what is happening and to see the pollution, destruction, poverty, illness.
My message is this: think from the heart and the head. Change your thinking. Think of the earth. It is life. The forest is life. Water is life."
Davi Kopenawa Yanomami