reNature and Tewá 225 launch an unprecedented study on the Paíter Suruí indigenous population from Rondônia

With the support of Cooperativa Suruí De Desenvolvimento e Produção Agroforestal Sustentável, the survey applied the methodology of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, unprecedented in Brazil and for the first time adapted for indigenous peoples.

Study highlights:

  • Record increase in deforestation in the Sete de Setembro Indigenous Land in 2021. The total accumulated deforested area reached around 8,724 hectares, equal to 3.5% of the total demarcated area;
  • Agricultural production is the main means of generating income, with emphasis on coffee (94%) and bananas (92%);
  • Despite the low use of agricultural or chemical inputs in production processes, the Suruí have a low average of regenerative production (below 40%), meaning they are still dependent on monoculture practices;
  • Change in the territory’s governance model, with direct voting for General Chief;
  • Entrepreneurship characteristics of the Paíter Suruí people are reflected in their regeneration, reforestation, and income generation projects from environmental preservation.

São Paulo, October 20, 2023 - reNature–a consultancy that supports agricultural producers and companies in the transition to regenerative agriculture–and Tewá 225–a positive impact company that brings solutions to the socio-environmental challenges of companies, organizations, and governments–carried out an unprecedented study in Brazil on the Sete de Setembro Indigenous Land, belonging to the Paíter Suruí people.

The objective of the study is to present a socio-environmental and economic diagnosis of the territory, considering the transformations that have occurred in the face of the complex challenges in recent years like the Covid-19 pandemic, the constant increase of deforestation due to mining and the leasing of land to non-indigenous producers, and opportunities for implementing a development program based on regenerative entrepreneurship which is based on the autonomy and sovereignty of the Paiter Suruí (which in their Tupi-mondé language means "real people" or "true people").

The survey was conducted by reNature, with technical execution by Tewá 225 and support from COOPSUR through the Regenerative Regional Entrepreneurship Program, which was designed and implemented by reNature in Brazil.

“The objective of the Regenerative Regional Entrepreneurship Program is to strengthen the agribusiness ecosystem that boosts local entrepreneurship and value addition through strengthening the social fabric and sovereignty of traditional populations, attracting investments and financing opportunities for regenerative production systems that respect and rescue traditional ways of life,” explains Fabiana Munhoz, senior project consultant at reNature.

One of the report's highlights is the application of the FAO TAPE methodology in the study of indigenous peoples. It is the first time this methodology has been applied in Brazil.

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Overview of the Suruís

With more than a decade without data on the Paíter Suruí indigenous population, covering economic, social, and environmental aspects, the study collected primary and secondary data, interviews with focus groups, field visits with an ethnographic perspective, application of the FPIC process, in addition to interviews and questionnaires with representatives of more than ten villages, including leaders, fifty producers, women, young people and the general chiefdom itself.

The Paíter Suruí people are made up of clans, villages, and a general chief with a population of approximately 1,900 people currently, according to the territory's leaders. A much lower number than the more than five thousand indigenous people living in the territory before contact with non-indigenous people in 1969.

According to the research, the Paíter people today live a challenging reality concerning their traditions and original governance structures. According to the study, these transformations are related to the rapprochement of traditional culture with capitalist and Christian culture, such as the increased influence of the neo-Pentecostal Baptist and Assembly of God churches in the territory, which resulted in a decrease in pajelança, the various manifestations of indigenous shamanism.

One of the new features shown by the research is the change in the territory's governance models. In 2022, the election of the General Chief via direct vote was instituted for the first time.

“The Major Chief was chosen from among the clan heads. After contact with non-indigenous people, with the opening of several villages around the edge of the land, new chiefs emerged, who were naturally heads of large families. Today, departing a little from tradition, some declare themselves chief because they want to be recognized as such. But, even so, the transmission of chiefdom continues in a hereditary way”, says Uraan, General Deputy Chief of the Paiter Suruí people.

The Paiter Suruí people also experience visibility at a national and international level, thanks to some key figures, such as Chief General Almir Suruí and his daughter Txai Suruí. According to the study, this visibility has proven important at a time when climate agendas are increasingly demanding recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples as protectors of forests.

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Environmental and social aspects

According to the study, there was a significant increase in deforestation in the Sete de Setembro TI in 2021, resulting in a total accumulated deforestation of around 8,724 hectares, or 3.5% of the total demarcated area. The data collected converge with the growth in the deforestation rate in regions of the Brazilian Legal Amazon in recent years. According to INPE, in Rondônia alone, between 2020 and 2021, the increase in deforestation was 32.1%. The publication points out that this growth in indigenous territory and the state, especially in 2021, may be related to Joint Normative Instruction No. 11, published by the Jair Bolsonaro government, which made the environmental licensing of projects or activities within indigenous lands more flexible.

The research identified agricultural production as the main means of generating income for the Suruí, with emphasis on coffee (produced by 94% of producers), bananas (92%), cocoa (78%), and Brazil nuts (74%).

Through the data analyzed by the TAPE methodology, it was observed that indigenous people do not use so many agricultural or chemical inputs in the production processes. Still, traditional practices are slowly replaced by production using non-indigenous methods. According to the study, the Suruí have a low average of regenerative production (below 40%). They are mostly producing like non-indigenous using monoculture practices and external inputs. This leads to a loss of cooperation and synergy between villages and diverse original forms of production, which have always been integrated with the forest.

According to the publication, the monocultural practice would be an “inheritance” of the settlers and initially encouraged by FUNAI. Still, there are intentions to resume traditional Suruí practices of integrated and diversified cultivation., which is in line with the principles of Agroecology and Regenerative Economy.

“Especially now, facing the climate crisis, the Brazilian Legal Amazon has been the focus of countless governments looking for ways to compensate for the environmental damage caused to the planet. It is very important to encourage these public bodies, the private sector, and the third sector with projects that work on agriculture and livestock based on environmental regeneration in the Sete de Setembro TI. This contributes to the generation of a diversified income for the indigenous population with low environmental impact”, points out Luciana Sonck, master in territorial planning, a specialist in governance and founding partner, CEO of Tewá 225, and executive coordinator of the study.

In social aspects, the study points to around twenty schools with primary and secondary education in the TI, which differs from the recent INEP number (2022), which is only eight schools. However, the study in these units does not differentiate for indigenous culture when it should.

The study shows how the lack of financial education intensifies the pressures suffered by the people from mining companies, loggers, and non-indigenous ranchers. The indigenous people who produce and sell the harvest legally do not know how to save and invest their money, increasing their situation of economic vulnerability. Once in debt, these indigenous producers become targets for explorers searching for land or resources in the territory.

The research also highlights the lack of access of the Paíter Suruí people to basic sanitation services, which the government must offer. According to field reports, today, the Sete de Setembro TI does not have garbage collection, with the option of burning being prioritized by the villages. Water is collected through wells and/or springs, with little supervision regarding its quality for human consumption. Due to illegal mining activities, the gradual contamination of waters in the IT has become another point of attention.

The report indicates that the Paiter Suruí people are not guaranteed all the basic social rights of the Brazilian state, and the existing offer is not considered satisfactory by the indigenous people.

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Suruí Entrepreneurship

The Paíter Suruí people have a strong entrepreneurial streak, confirmed in the study by Tewá 225 and reNature. According to the publication, entrepreneurship in the Sete de Setembro Indigenous Land mostly has some aspects related to the environmental agenda, such as the restoration and adequate management of forest areas, protection of biodiversity, or the maintenance of ecosystem services. Among these, projects of regeneration, reforestation, and income generation from environmental preservation stand out.

Furthermore, the organization of the Paíter Suruí people around the generation of income through the integration of agricultural production, crafts, and tourism has gained strength in recent years in the territory. More than twenty associations were identified in the territory: four cooperatives for production and consumption, three cultural centers, and two institutes.

Among non-indigenous organizations operating in the territory, there was an approximation of government entities between 2012 and 2023, especially focusing on training for rural production and technical assistance, such as SENAR, PF, PMC, EMATER, and SEBRAE.

Off the commercial partners, the coffee company Três Corações stands out, which is currently the only established buyer of the coffee produced by the Paiters. The selling price of the coffee follows what is practiced in the local market in Rondônia, with the possibility of paying a premium price of up to 100%, depending on the quality of the coffee supplied. However, producers reinforced the importance of establishing other commercial partners.

“The importance of this unprecedented study is that it contributes to understanding the impacts of more than a decade of social, political, and environmental transformations and how they reflected on the Paiter Suruí people and allows us to point out paths for the development of a regenerative local economy that generates income for the population while valuing their traditional way of life”, comments Fabiana Munhoz, senior project consultant at reNature.

Based on the information generated by the study, reNature will co-create, in partnership with COOPSUR, indigenous organizations and non-indigenous partners operating in the territory, regenerative business plans, aiming to leverage agricultural production and add value to the territory. To this end, technical mentoring will be carried out on regenerative agriculture practices and the implementation of demonstration areas with indigenous producers, which will allow knowledge to be disseminated and demonstrate the efficiency of applying such practices.

The strength of the Paiter Suruí in coming together and promoting significant partnerships, as well as their entrepreneurial characteristic, is seen in this study as a basis for the integration of projects that can generate income for the community and, with this, achieve the objectives desired by young people, women, and producers who were interviewed during this research.

The foundations for sustainable development in Sete de Setembro TI include awareness and the need to protect local biodiversity. As a result, through regenerative business plans, Suruí producers can, in addition to including new cultivation techniques and agroecological practices based on ancestral knowledge, act as influencers and multipliers of knowledge to encourage new producers to adopt the same practices, strengthening regenerative agriculture in the Brazilian Amazon. To read the full study, access the link.

End of Press release


COOPSUR (Cooperativa Suruí De Desenvolvimento e Produção Agroforestal Sustentável)

EMATER (Autontic Entity for Technical Assistance and Rural Extension) 

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)

FPIC process (consent, free, prior, and informed)

FUNAI (National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples)

INPE (National Institute for Space Research)

PF (Federal Police)

PMC (Cacoal City Hall)

RREP (Regenerative Regional Entrepreneurship Program)

SEBRAE (Brazilian Support Service for Micro and Small Businesses

SENAR (Serviço Nacional de Aprendizagem Rural)

TAPE (Agroecology Performance Assessment Instrument)

TI (Terra Indígena/Indigenous Territory)

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About reNature

reNature supports agricultural producers and companies in transitioning to regenerative agriculture, from project design and implementation to scale-up. Actions in the field are driven by support to access financing and buyers, aiming to develop tools that allow impact verification, resulting in the payment of premiums for quality and socio-environmental results achieved. In this way, reNature improves the economic resilience, soil health, biodiversity, and food security of agricultural communities. Currently, the projects developed by the company are contributing to the regeneration of more than 1.8 million hectares of land, impacting 148,000 producers in this transition.

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About Tewá 225

Tewá 225 is a company with a positive social impact that brings solutions to the socio-environmental challenges of companies, organizations and governments. Since 2013, it has employed its own methodology of listening and social participation in the construction of studies and solutions with a gender bias, territorial listening and knowledge management, having worked with more than 50 companies and organizations, such as UNESCO, UN Women, Unicef, Tereos, Fundação Tide Setubal and Instituto Votorantim, in more than 50 cities in all regions of the country. The consultancy is made up 100% of women, certified by Red e Mulher Empreendedora, member of the Parceiros Pela Amazônia (PPA) network and signatory of the “Race to zero” agreement (commitments to reduce carbon emissions or neutralize their emissions), by which is also part of the SME Climate Hub network.

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