The Suriname Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai highlighted conservation projects in the South American nation with a visit from delegates from the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) and an exhibition of sustainable forest products produced by indigenous communities.
ACT is a field-based conservation organisation that partners with indigenous and local communities to protect the Amazon rainforest, provide sustainable income-generating projects and preserve traditional culture and knowledge.
Ben D'Leon, ACT's Communications and Marketing Coordinator, said: "We keep people and sustainability at the centre of our projects, and advocate three pillars: namely, sustainable land management, where we recruit and train community members to protect themselves; strengthen their capacity for self-governance and self-determination; and help them develop sustainable alternative sources of income from the rainforest.
"If we don't protect indigenous communities, their knowledge and culture will disappear for good, which will be a loss to humanity".
A major challenge for ACT is accessing remote areas and gaining the trust to work within communities, which is based on respect for local elders and their way of life, D'Leon said: "Although we have been in contact with some communities for more than 20 years, we have to constantly remind ourselves that we will never fully understand the context of their lives, so we learn from and about them every day".
Economic empowerment and sustainable development are crucial to the preservation of indigenous peoples, he said, and showcasing products such as wellness and detox teas, natural organic honey, Amazonian rainforest chilli and topical medicinal balms on the Expo 2020 Dubai global platform provides a way for these communities to live and thrive.
Text, photos and video: Expo Dubai 2020