The cheapest way to save rainforest?

Giving indigenous people legal rights to their land is one of the most cost-effective ways to protect South America’s endangered rainforest.

A recent World Resources Institute report [footnote ftnt_no=”1″] found that deforestation rates in Brazil on land formally owned by indigenous groups were two and a half times lower than in comparable areas.

The report used World Bank data, official statistics, and research from Brazilian universities. Similar figures hold true for forest in Bolivia and Colombia.


Governments across South America are struggling to reach targets for forest protection and carbon emissions as commodities prices fall. Simply giving formal title deeds to people who have lived on the land for generations is a cheap and simple way to protect forest and combat climate change.

The research found that indigenous communities who own the land are more likely to conserve the forest than other land users. This echoes other studies on forest protection and is the basis of Cool Earth’s community-led rainforest protection model. Giving control back to the people that depend on the rainforest’s survival for their survival is simple, cheap, and most importantly, effective.


The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest. It plays a key role in sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, acting as a first-line defence against global warming.

“There is a sound economic argument for meeting climate mitigation targets by securing indigenous land rights.” Peter Veit, WRI

About 13 percent of Brazil’s territory, mostly in the Amazon rainforest, has been demarcated for the country’s indigenous people. But a considerable portion of this territory has not been formally titled, meaning that land ownership isn’t secure for many indigenous communities.


Formally recognizing land costs just $5.50 per hectare. That’s the approximate cost of government officials travelling to remote areas to consult residents and determine who should receive land titles. It’s a small price to pay for protected rainforest and it’s why formal recognition of land is something we aim to get early on in all our partnerships.

And it’s not just the Amazon. The report’s conclusions on the benefits of formal land ownership apply to any other developing country where tropical forest is located.

Nearly a third of the world’s land is held informally by indigenous people and local communities under customary tenure agreements. If more of this land was formally recognised, communities – and the world – would find protecting forests easier and cheaper.

Wabuamri Village community association with Forest Protection Agreement | Cool Earth