Spotlight on Brazil: speaking up to protect our common home
1 August 2016
This summer, all eyes are on Brazil as it hosts the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Whilst the Olympic flame burns in Rio de Janeiro, our everyday heroes across Brazil are blazing torches for community and environmental rights.
CAFOD has worked with partners in Brazil for 46 years. Over that time, Brazil had been through a period of economic growth but is now facing its worst economic and political crisis in decades. 25.8 million people in Brazil still live in poverty, and eight million people live in extreme poverty.
Davi Kopenawa, a Yanomami indigenous leader and President of our partner Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY) has been fighting for the rights of his people for the past 25 years.
Davi says: “We indigenous communities are saying look at the sky - it's changing. The sun is changing. The rain is changing”. You can hear more from Davi in the film above.
Guardians of the lungs of our planet
Indigenous people in Brazil are some of the most vulnerable and threatened in the country. The majority live in the Amazon basin and have a deep-rooted spiritual connection with nature.
Many indigenous people oppose the exploitation and commercialisation of natural resources and act as guardians of the lungs of our planet – the Amazon rainforest.
“We want people in the cities 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 and illness” says Davi.
Empowering indigenous communities
We have been supporting indigenous partners in Brazil for over 30 years, empowering indigenous communities to demand their rights to land, education, and health, as enshrined in Brazil’s constitution. We work with HAY to promote the protection of Yanomami and Ye’kuana indigenous rights.
“Hutukara’s role is to ensure that the land stays alive for our future and generations to come” says Davi. “The Church has an important role to play. They cannot let our home be destroyed, they cannot let our people be destroyed”.
Our partners’ training, lobbying and advocacy have contributed to building a strong, united, and politically engaged indigenous movement in Brazil.
But the environment the Yanomami indigenous people are living in is under threat from small-scale illegal gold mining and the impacts of climate change.
In 2016, 2,030 Yanomami and Ye’kuana indigenous people in the Amazon were affected by the worst droughts and fires in 20 years, due to El Niño, depriving communities of food, water and forcing them to migrate from their homes. We were able to respond through our partners, distributing food parcels, agricultural tools, and water filters to 14 of the worst affected indigenous communities.
“In our Yanomami land we see changes in the weather” explains Davi.
In 2014 Davi came to the UK to raise awareness of the threats their communities face, and to launch CAFOD’s One Climate, One World Campaign.
“A lot of people were shouting to lift the soul of the river, the sun, the moon and the stars and to lift us” said Davi, after attending the climate march in London.
Be inspired by Davi and our other everyday heroes in Brazil and join us for a week of action on climate change this October.