Efforts to save the Amazon offer a triple win: Improving human, environmental, and economic health and wellbeing

GCF Communications

4 June 2020

Joint measures that tackle climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic must place the livelihoods of people front and centre. This is especially true for the custodians of natural ecosystems, which are vital in winning the fight against climate change and ensuring a green recovery in developing countries. In Ecuador, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and its partners  are supporting the government’s climate ambitions and, in the process, improving incomes, food security and resilience.

The climate benefits of well-functioning ecosystems are well known, ranging from providing stable water supplies to supporting ground vegetation that prevents flooding and landslides while storing carbon in the ground. Protecting ecosystems is also important to inhibit the release of new diseases, such as COVID-19.

The recent emergence of this devastating virus underlines the need to preserve biomes like the Amazon—critical to combat climate change as it is the world's largest terrestrial carbon reservoir. Zoonotic diseases, where pathogens cross from animals or insects to humans, are usually the result of human encroachments into the natural environment. Ecosystem restoration can help maintain climate ambition while safeguarding vulnerable livelihoods.

While the Amazon’s indigenous people are regularly portrayed as rainforest guardians, they also need to earn a living. That is why indigenous farmer and community leader Hugo Vicente Cucuzchi Ushpa cut down Amazon trees to plant cash crops and raise cattle when he moved to Ecuador’s El Pangui district eight years ago.

The imperative to earn income through farming has been a major contributor to the destruction of 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest during the past 50 years. In Ecuador, the expansion of frontier lands for agriculture is the main cause of deforestation. Cultivation of coffee, cocoa and oil palm, along with cattle grazing, together account for 80 percent of deforestation in the country.

“When I first arrived here, it was a truly beautiful place,” said Ushpa, a member of the Shuar indigenous group. “There were forests, there were woods. But I liked to cut back a little to grow cacao, cassava, banana. While I had to cut down some of the forest, I also felt sorry for what I had to clear.”

As a responsible father, Ushpa wanted to generate a reasonable income so that his sole child, a four-year-old boy, could receive a good education to follow Ushpa’s dream for him to become an engineer. Thanks to a GCF-financed project carried out with the Ecuadorian Government and UNDP's Climate & Forests Programme, Ushpa has not altered his aspirations, but he has changed the way he treats the land. 

Read the full article from GCF Communications here.