The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) was created in 1995 with the conviction that if international rainforest conservation efforts are to succeed, the active and meaningful participation of indigenous people is essential.
With the guidance of tribal elders, shamans, traditional authorities, and leading western conservationists, ACT has developed a uniquely successful and cost-effective approach that we term biocultural conservation. This ACT methodology incorporates the protection of biodiversity, strengthening of traditional health systems, and cultural preservation into a unified system. ACT always implements this methodology with the indigenous communities we are privileged to have as our partners. ACT also works closely with local governments in order to ensure that our efforts are adopted and validated by local authorities.
Major accomplishments of the Amazon Conservation Team include the elaboration of cultural maps covering over 40 million acres defining territorial boundaries, resources, and spiritual sites in the northeast Amazon and Brazil’s Xingu Indigenous Park, and the creation of the Alto Fragua Indi Wasi National Park, a unique 168,000-acre conservation area in Colombia designed to be co-managed by the local indigenous communities and the national environmental agency.
ACT’s dedicated program focusing on the Promotion and Integration of Traditional Medicine, carried out by elderly shamans and apprentices, was selected among a handful of global initiatives for UNESCO’s Best Practices Using Indigenous Knowledge. In 2002, ACT received the United Nations Environment Programme Global 500 Award in recognition of our conservation achievements.
The conservation of biodiversity is the primary focus of all environmental organizations working in the tropics. It is ACT’s strong belief that the people who best know, use, and protect biodiversity are the indigenous people who live in these magnificent forests. Our projects are designed to address some of the major threats faced by our local colleagues: loss of indigenous biological wisdom, lack of healthcare, lack of economic opportunity, lack of territorial rights that would protect the rainforest from exploitation, and lack of legal representation. In the Amazon, where indigenous peoples are living a relatively traditional lifestyle, there are, typically, large tracts of rainforest, and, where there are large expanses of rainforest, there are often indigenous cultures. Indeed, a concise synopsis of the work of the Amazon Conservation Team might be: “ACT helps the keepers of the forest keep the forest.”