SCIDEV.NET CONFERENCE SERVICE PRODUCTION
This blog article has been produced for Eye on Earth Summit 2011 by SciDev.Net Conference Service, which maintains all editorial independence.
In Abu Dhabi — this rich country in the Middle East — Chief Almir Surui stands out from the crowd. With his feathery hat he looks out of place, but his modern laptop and the natural way he moves among people in suits and ties or kandoras and ghutras tells another story.
Chief Almir looks older than his 36 years, maybe because he had to grow up fast: since he was 17 he has been the leader of 1,350 other Amazonian Surui people.
Back in the 1980s, Almir and his people struggled with bows and arrows for their Amazonian territory, in the southwest of Brazil, close to the Bolivian border. Now they’re doing it with mobile phones and Google apps.
Despite his reservation getting electricity just five years ago, Almir has adapted quickly. Recently, he has found himself visiting countries like Japan, the United States, England and Denmark, as well as Abu Dhabi, where he gave a speech on December 13, at the Eye on Earth Summit.
“I am here because I believe the experience of my people can contribute in some way to building a new model of development that respects the culture of local communities and helps to rethink the economy,” he told SciDev.Net.
At the conference, he talked to business leaders, NGOs and governmental representatives about the Surui people, the significance of forest protection for them and the environmental importance of conserving indigenous reservations.
“We have to take advantage of events like this to think about real solutions for sustainable development. We can’t just discuss, we also have to do something,” he told the audience. This echoed the words of other speakers, including former US president Bill Clinton.
Almir also talked about his tribe’s current project to preserve and conserve the Surui forest territory through the sale of carbon credits.
“I believe that we have to create our future and not wait for it to come to us. That is why we protect our forest for future generations while we also take advantage of it today,” he said in his speech.
“The Surui people are managing the environment in our own way and we want other people around the world to know what we are doing, to contribute with public policies and to help making our planet sustainable.”