About 17 percent of the Amazonian rainforest has been destroyed over the past 50 years, and losses are on the rise. In fact, destruction rose by 21% in 2020 alone. When contemplating these sobering statistics, it’s often wildlife conservation and climate change action that spring to mind.
But what about the indigenous communities who live in and rely on rainforests for food, medicine, shelter and livelihoods? There are millions of them, and empowering them to defend their own ancestral lands is the key to protecting the rainforests of our world – as non-profit NGO, Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK)’s 33 year-strong mission poignantly highlights.
At Ticket Tailor, we’re proud to donate 1p (1.3c) to important causes for every ticket sold through our platform, and RFUK is one of them. In fact, in 2021 we partnered with three climate charities: Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), Ocean Conservation Trust, and Cumbria Wildlife – for healthier oceans, healthier forests, and healthier bogs, to protect our planet and people.
Here, we chat with RFUK to give you an insight into their work, our involvement, and how you – both individuals and businesses – can get involved, too.
Who are Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK)?
For the past 33 years, RFUK has been committed to promoting the establishment of community rights over rainforest lands. The NGO was founded by Sting and Trudie Styler in 1989 after they witnessed the destruction of the Amazon rainforests first-hand, and saw the devastating impact this had on the people that lived there. Ever since, RFUK has striven to tackle the root problems related to deforestation, and to spread the word that empowering forest-dwellers is one of the best ways to protect rainforests.
“We help indigenous and local communities to secure the legal rights to their ancestral lands, and decide how they will be used, by supporting them to map their territory, create land use plans, and monitor the forest and biodiversity that they have traditionally protected for thousands of years,” Jak Wagnon, Head of Communications at RFUK explains.
“We're keen for people to see us as a human rights organisation, rather than a conservation one - and this is really the basis of our advocacy goals, because what most people think about in relation to protecting the rainforest is often wildlife conservation and carbon offsetting. But a lot of the approaches to that work, and the practices and funding which surround it, are based on top-down models which don't involve communities at all. In fact, a shocking amount of cases even involve forcibly evicting communities from their own lands, which is not only awful but fundamentally ineffective for actually protecting the rainforest.”
RFUK’s projects: Technology, empowerment, and human rights
RFUK works on projects across Africa and South America, and is a vocal advocate for indigenous rights and rainforest protection. As well as striving to make sure existing laws are respected, RFUK advocates for new laws where there aren’t appropriate ones in place. But as Jak talked about above, their work is about so much more than acting solely on behalf of indigenous communities. It’s about giving them the tools and rights they need to be able to protect their own lands.
Technology is what makes a lot of this possible. Through the use of simple smartphone apps and mapping tools, RFUK puts the power firmly back into rainforest communities’ hands.
“We developed the bespoke programme ForestLink, which is a forest monitoring technology that allows forest monitoring to be done by the local communities themselves in real time,” Louise Cordery, Fundraising Coordinator at RFUK tells us.
“If they see something illegal happening in their forest, they can report it using a smartphone app. Then that alert will go to our partners who can then verify them through investigative missions to make sure that the information is correct. That evidence can then be used to go to the authorities and hopefully have some action taken.”
The kind of harmful activity Louise talks about can be anything from illegal logging and mining to oil spills – all of which have a devastating impact for forest-dwelling communities, undermining their livelihoods and destroying whole ecosystems. Having access to the ForestLink tool, which can be used without mobile connectivity, means local people can record and send vital evidence of illegalities to the authorities – something that simply wouldn't have been possible before.
Another area where RFUK uses technology to drive positive change is mapping. Through an award-winning interactive community map project called Mapping For Rights, they’ve been able to “highlight the presence of otherwise 'invisible' indigenous peoples and forest communities” across the Congo Basin – no less than 5 million hectares of it. Mapping is the process of officially mapping out forest communities’ lands and resources so that customary tenure systems can be recognised by law. It plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between remote forest communities and central decision-makers.
Speaking about the need to protect, empower, and give voice to the indigenous communities of rainforests, Jak sums up:
“We’re trying to combat this traditional idea of what we call fortress conservation, where you make a protected area with the idea that no people are allowed to be inside of it. The issue with that being that there's virtually no rainforest that doesn't already have people inside of it. So whenever you do that, it's going to mean moving out all the traditional populations that are already there [...] We want to spread the message that rainforest protection is about people; it’s about supporting the indigenous communities that are already there protecting the rainforest.”
Ticket Tailor’s donations: A tech-first business supporting RFUK’s technology-fuelled progress
As a tech-first business, we’re thrilled that RFUK directs Ticket Tailor donations towards the more technological aspects of their organisation. That means that every time people buy tickets through our platform, we’re raising money that helps directly with the RFUK’s mapping and other technology-based initiatives.
Our Director of Operations, Emily Coddington says:
“After agreeing on the climate crisis as our focus for our giving back commitment, we explored a lot of different areas in which we could make an impact. We felt strongly that it was important to not just give back to projects which regenerate, but also projects that empower people to protect their land from environmental threats.
“Knowing that preserving the world’s rainforests is vital for fighting the climate crisis, we were excited to discover the work of RFUK in supporting indigenous populations of rainforest areas to protect local environments. Their approach in being committed to both human rights and the environment is extremely important and we’re thrilled and proud to be supporting their projects.”
How you can support the RFUK
We hope reading about the fantastic work of the RFUK has inspired you to get involved in any way you can. Here’s a list of things you can do to support this amazing organisation:
Businesses can donate a percentage of their sales to the RFUK, like Ticket Tailor!
You can donate old phones 📱
You can donate money 💰
You take part in RFUK’s car scrappage scheme 🚗, where the scrap value of your old car is donated to RFUK when you use the company Car Take Back
You can sign up to RFUK’s newsletter to stay up to date with projects and news
If you’re a teacher or work in a school, you can organise fundraisers and/or teach pupils all about RFUK’s important mission 🧑🏫
You can Run For The Rainforest at the London Marathon! 🏃♀️
Thank you RFUK, for all the amazing work you are doing! 🙏