Almir Narayamoga Suruí, the charismatic and visionary leader of the Paiter Suruí tribe, has become a major political figure in the fight against deforestation in the Amazon. “Now there are 1,500 of us and we managed to survive. But our priority is to protect the forest and to raise awareness around the need to preserve this green lung of the planet for future generations, “says Almir.
The Indian chief Almir Narayamoga Suruí fights relentlessly against deforestation destroying the Amazon, his “Mother Earth”
In 1992, at age 17, Almir Suruí had to replace his father as the tribe leader with the great responsibility to protect his village. Understanding that unless his tribe managed to keep up with modern times, they might be condemned to disappear, he also became the very first among his people to go to university. In 1969, before the first non-indigenous contact, the Suruis were a community of 5,000 people. In a few years, epidemics and brazilian domination reduced their population to less than 300 individuals. “Seeing my people suffer so much, I looked for a way to restore their human rights,” says Almir.
As he obtained a degree in biology, he started to commit to the fight for his ancestral lands against colonists, deforesters and illegal gangs looking for wood, gold and diamonds. A price tag was quickly put on his head by illegal networks in Brazil. Thanks to the support from several NGOs and then from international institutions, he took refuge in California where he insisted on meeting with leaders of Google. He presented them his project to use Google Earth to demonstrate the rapid deterioration of the Amazonian forest and its consequences for the environment and the entire planet, and especially for the 400,000 Indians of Brazil still living there. After obtaining a 30-minute interview, he ended up talking for over 3 hours and gaining their support, telling them about the life of a lost tribe in the Amazon, explaining how up to 30% their forest would be destroyed by 2050 and finally how, by the end of the century, it would probably completely disappear.
Thanks to the audacity and vision of their leader, the Suruí launched in 2010 an ambitious reforestation project called Pamine – “the rebirth of the forest” in the Paiter Suruí language. They are supported by a Swiss NGO, Aquaverde, to carry out this crucial work.
In 2016, thanks to its partners Clarins and the Caudalie Foundation, PUR Projet has also begun to provide financial and technical support to the Paiter Suruí people, contributing to planting 45,000 trees between 2017 and 2018. These trees help restore degraded lands, develop highly beneficial agroforestry systems for agricultural production and food sovereignty of the people, and finally preserve the Amazon forest, the largest natural reserve of biodiversity in the world.
Almir Naramoyaga Suruí in PUR Projet’s offices in Paris, March 2017
Almir Suruí and Sabrina Gonçalves Krebsbach, Program Manager at PUR Projet, in front of a 250-year-old fig tree in the forest where the Paiter Suruí people live, in April 2017. As a sign of mutual respect in the Suruí traditions, Almir offered to PUR Projet a traditional wooden necklace, which we accepted with gratitude