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Interview of Robert Dardanne, AFV’s president on the 2023 world tour

Robert Dardanne

Credit photo : Mathieu Supprin

What are the most pressing challenges facing the Amazon and the indigenous peoples living there today ?

After 4 disastrous years for the indigenous community and the Amazon rainforest, awareness and action are urgently needed. The Amazon is the world's largest tropical forest, home to unique biodiversity. These areas face multiple threats such as forest fires, illegal mining and forest exploitation, etc.

The indigenous peoples living in these areas are also under threat. Most of these communities urgently need specific support to survive. Since 1989, the AFV has made this its main mission, particularly for the people of Xingu.

Why did you choose these specific destinations for the tour ?

This is the ninth tour organised by the AFV at the request of the XINGU chiefs. Together, we drew up a programme of possible visits over a maximum period of 3 weeks. It was important for us to be able to meet the European heads of state and the mayors of the major cities visited during our trips, in order once again to alert public opinion and forge new partnerships with public institutions, companies and personalities committed to protecting the Amazon in the face of global warming.

Over the years, we have forged strong links with politicians and institutions in several European countries, including France, Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg.

Lisbon was a first for us this year. We were lucky enough to be received by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. It was important for the delegation to visit Portugal, a country steeped in history.

Germany was also a very important destination. Germany has been one of the main donors for the protection of the Amazon for many years.

France is another major country whose various presidents, and in particular President Macron, have directly helped the Xingu territory for many years. Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg are also regular donors. We have been able to count on their support for many years.

Élysée Mai 2023

Credit photo : Mathieu Supprin

What were your objectives before the start of the tour ? What are the key messages you wanted to deliver ?

It was important for us to introduce the new generation of Amazonian leaders, Tapi and Watatakalu, who are working alongside Raoni to defend the Amazon rainforest and the communities that live there.

The delegation received an exceptional welcome throughout the tour. This new generation was able to forge links with political representatives and attend more than twenty events across Europe.

At the start of the tour, the Indians wanted to highlight President Lula's message at his inauguration last January, "Objective Zero Deforestation by 2030", which Chief Raoni attended. This message was the slogan at the start of our campaign.

Have your objectives been achieved ? What reactions do you think you got from the public who followed you on this tour ?

The tour was a success. The delegation was able to reach over 1,000 entrepreneurs and business leaders directly. Over 1,000 more were reached when we took part in the closing ceremony of the Change Now international event.

Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in awareness on the part of companies and institutions, which means that future meetings will need to be organised in Europe to strengthen their commitments. The AFV will endeavour to organise them.

How does the association intend to monitor the use of the funds raised during the tour to support projects to preserve the Amazon rainforest and indigenous peoples ?

Funds have been raised thanks to the mobilisation and support of our institutional and political partners. These funds will enable the Raoni and Aritana institutes to carry out concrete actions that they choose in their territories, such as :

  • Developing the Aritana institute and rolling out its activities over the next 5 years

  • Helping Chief Raoni to obtain the extension of the indigenous territory of Xingu to the territory of Kapot Nhinore.

  • Developing forest protection and reforestation initiatives, as well as initiatives to develop agro-forestry activities for the benefit of local people.

  • Financing more effective border protection for the territory, by installing new boundary markers on the borders of the Xingu reserves and equipping more indigenous surveillance posts as well as personal protective equipment for members of the indigenous fire brigades.

  • Help the indigenous surveillance teams and the federal authorities (IBAMA) to improve surveillance of the Xingu territory through logistical support and training.

  • Developing the community health programme with FIOCRUZ, a partner of the Pasteur and Robert Koch Institutes (Germany), and establishing a cultural heritage centre within the Aritana Institute.

What could you say were the most memorable moments of the tour, and why ?

That's a very good question! I was impressed and moved by the quality of the speeches made by the Tapi and Watatakalu chiefs, as well as their charisma during their various speeches, which complemented the vigorous speech by Chief Raoni.

The events organised around Watatakalu Yawalapiti, the only woman to accompany the delegation, were another highlight. She received a very warm welcome. She brought together and mobilised many women here in Europe.

Watatakalu is a true icon for indigenous women, breaking down gender stereotypes and paving the way for the empowerment of women in indigenous communities.

Her leadership and powerful voice are a source of inspiration for future generations.

The meeting with Emmanuel Macron just before the delegation left for Brazil was also symbolically very powerful and important for Chief Raoni and the whole delegation.

Women For The Amazon Paris

Credit photo : Mathieu Supprin

What were the main challenges facing the association on this tour ?

Organising a European tour is always a challenge. There are logistical aspects, human aspects, last-minute appointments to manage...

We travelled to over 6 countries and 8 cities, organising around twenty events, with over 30 volunteers across Europe.

There's bound to be some stress and fatigue for the delegation and the organising team... Unfortunately, current events in Brazil were a stark reminder during our tour that the fight is still far from won. The vote on bill PL 490, carried by the Brazilian parliament at the beginning of June, calls into question the rights of indigenous peoples. This was a major blow for the delegation. Barely back on Brazilian soil, they headed straight back to Brasilia on 7 June to demonstrate against the bill. Their fight goes on... and the association helped them with these steps.

How can we support the association’s projects after this tour ?

Throughout the year, anyone can support the association financially by making regular donations that will enable action plans to be drawn up over several years via our website.

For example, thanks to the support of the government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, we have been able to set up the SAF XINGU 19 programme, which aims to reforest degraded land in association with multi-service nitrogen-fixing trees that will improve the carbon storage capacity of the Xingu region.

Credit photo : AFV

To continue our actions and projects in favour of the preservation of the Amazon and indigenous peoples, we need you:

Follow us on social medias for updates about the AFV actions.


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