People of the rainforests

More than fifty million people live in the rainforests of the world and most of them do not hurt the forest they live in. They eat the fruits that grow on the forest trees, but they do not cut them down. They kill some animals to eat, but they do not destroy the species.

When we cut down the rainforests, we destroy these forest people, too. In 1900, there were one million forest people in the Amazon forest. In 1980, there were only 200,000.

The Yanomami live along the rivers of the rainforest in the north of Brazil. They have lived in the rainforest for about 10,000 years and they use more than 2,000 different plants for food and for medicine. But in 1988, someone found gold in their forest, and suddenly 45,000 people came to the forest and began looking for gold. They cut down the forest to make roads. They made more than a hundred airports. The Yanomami people lost land and food. Many died because new diseases came to the forest with the strangers.

The Yanomami people tried to save their forest, because it was their home. But the people who wanted gold were stronger.

Many forest people try to save their forests. Chico Mendes was famous in Brazil because he wanted to keep the forest for his people. ‘I want the Amazon forest to help all of us — forest people, Brazil, and all the Earth,’ he said. A few months later, in December 1988, people who wanted to cut down the forest killed Chico Mendes.

In Borneo, people were cutting down the forest of the Penan people to sell the wood. The Penan people tried to save their rainforest. They made blockades across the roads into the forest. In 1987, they closed fifteen roads for eight months. No one cut down any trees during that time.

In Panama, the Kuna people saved their forest. They made a forest park, which tourists pay to visit.

The Gavioes people of Brazil use the forest, but they protect it as well. They find and sell the Brazil nuts, which grow on the forest trees.


next page