How We Work

The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) has pioneered a successful conservation model in the Amazon rainforest – biocultural conservation, an approach to conservation that views biodiversity and native cultures as an interrelated system. This holistic approach consists of several diverse methods.

Ethnographic Mapping

Ethnographic maps covering 36 million acres across the Suriname-Brazil border region.
In the northeast Amazon (Suriname-Brazil border region), ACT and its indigenous partners have created ethnographic maps covering 36 million acres (an area larger than New York State) and defining territorial boundaries, resources, and sites of spiritual significance. In Suriname, the maps cover two-thirds of the nation's area.

Strengthening Indigenous Culture

Shamans and Apprentices: Keeping traditional knowledge alive in the Amazon.
For five tribes of the Colombian Amazon, ACT provides support for 96 traditional healers and their apprentices, allowing them to focus on the restoration of ancestral medicinal practices in their communities. In southern Suriname, ACT's flagship "Shamans and Apprentices" program provides stipends and structured educational environments for younger tribal members to learn the ancestral medicinal practices of elder shamans.

Integrated Healthcare

Traditional medicine clinics in Suriname.
In the rainforests of southern Suriname, ACT has a longstanding program – carried out by tribal shamans and their apprentices in partnership with the principal primary care provider to the region – seeking the promotion of effective traditional medicine and its integration into the national healthcare model. To this end, ACT has constructed traditional clinics in four villages to be operated by the traditional healers. In 2003, this effort was selected among a handful of global initiatives for UNESCO/NUFFIC's Best Practices Using Indigenous Knowledge. As a result of this work, the World Bank awarded a Development Marketplace grant to ACT's integrated medicine project, the first such award made for a Suriname-based initiative.

Sustainable Development

Supporting food security within indigenous communities.
Because indigenous groups are unable to conduct much if any conservation work if their livelihood needs are not met, ACT works with its partners to develop both sustainable traditional agriculture and income generation programs. For ACT's indigenous partners, the "sustainable" part of "sustainable development" typically is second nature, but they often need help in identifying market needs and training in product development.
In cases where the object is not to generate income but merely to provide for their own sustenance, they may need resources to implement self-generated, small-scale farming projects that are based on traditional ecological methods. Where applicable, traditional methods are stressed in ACT's sustainable development programs in order to promote indigenous community identity and cohesion, which are strengthened by a recognition of the expertise and self-sufficiency inherent in ancestral ways.

Indigenous Land Protection

Launching of the first indigenous park guard training course in the northeast Amazon.
ACT has instituted the first indigenous park guard training course in the northeast Amazon, a program that has the support and collaboration of the International Ranger Federation. ACT also has instituted a parallel course for government and NGO staff of northern Brazil; the combined trainees' efforts are greatly increasing the available manpower for on-the-ground protection in the northeast Amazon. Through 2009, over 120 indigenous guards and over 150 non-indigenous guards had been trained through this program.

Indigenous Land Management

Comprehensive, long-term sustainable management plans for the Suruí people.
In the western Brazilian Amazon, ACT helped the Suruí people develop a comprehensive sustainable management plan for some of the most threatened forests in the Amazon.

Women's Programs

Supporting and empowering women healers.
In Colombia, ACT supported the creation and continues to sponsor the operations of the first network of women shamans in the entire northwest Amazon. ACT built a dedicated center for their use that can accommodate 90 individuals for overnight stays.