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Protecting the rainforest and its wildlife through sustainable livelihoods

Current initiative



Tuhkanoot. Credit: CI Suriname

In November 2017, Conservation International (CI) Suriname and an indigenous village called Alalapadu in southern Suriname signed a conservation agreement for the protection, conservation and sustainable use of the forest. The villagers are involved in monitoring illegal activities in the forest, and a project to generate income from Brazil nut trees has improved livelihoods. 


A coalition of conservation organisations including Conservation International Suriname, the Worldwide Fund for Nature Guianas and the Amazon Conservation Team


Alalapadu, south Suriname

The poaching and wildlife trade problem

Species affected Agouti Dasyprocta leporina , Jaguar Panthera onca , Brazil Nut Tree Bertholletia excelsa

Products in trade

Nuts, jaguar teeth, meat from agoutis

Overview of the problem

The agouti is hunted in the Alalapadu area. The agouti is the most important seed disperser of the Brazil nut tree. The agouti is one of the animals that destroys the crops (Casava) of the people in Alalapadu.

There have also been reports of illegal trade and poaching of jaguars.

The anti-IWT initiative

A conservation agreement between CI Suriname and Alalapadu, an indigenous village in southern Suriname was signed in November 2017 for the protection, conservation and sustainable use of the forest in order to improve the livelihoods and chances for the people in Alalapadu by supporting the community with the setup of an enterprise based on Brazil nuts, which is the most important financial income source in Alalapadu.

The Brazil nut tree is one of the key species protected by the agreement. A monitoring team from Alalapadu has been trained in monitoring the tree, as well as the forest in general. The team has also been trained in monitoring conservation actions identified by the village as important. These actions include several restrictions such as a ban on wildlife trade for pets, a ban on gold mining activities and implementation of forest fire management precautions. Each member of the monitoring team receives monthly payments for information and awareness raising movie nights have been held in the village.

The process to determine these actions was carried out in accordance with the traditions of the Trio culture of Alalapadu, with village members involved throughout the design of the agreement. 

To generate income for the village, CI Suriname built a Brazil nut oil processing facility in Alalapadu after requests from the community and in-depth feasibility studies. The oil produced from the nuts is sold to local and international cosmetics producers and is also sold in many drugstores and well known supermarkets in Suriname. In 2021 the sale of roasted nuts started successfully and the income of these sales provides an incentive to the village to protect the trees and the forest in general.

The strategy

Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour

Performance-based payments/incentives for patrolling or guarding
Paid in-kind community scouts
Raising community awareness about wildlife crime penalties and sanctions

Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship

Legal trade

Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife

(Non-wildlife-based) enterprise development/support

Build/and or support sense of community ownership or stewardship

Improving education and awareness

Has the initiative made a difference?

In the first year over 60 people received direct benefits from the Brazil nut enterprise as nut collectors or facility workers. People from the village now have a sustainable income, meaning they are less dependent on outsiders. The people also received (and continue to receive) training in different aspects which they see in their daily lives. A considerable drop in habitat loss was prevented, because the village doesn’t allow gold mining or commercial timber concessions and people now implement forest fire precaution techniques to prevent forest fires when they cut and burn patches of forest to set up their agricultural plots.

What works and why

The chief of the village has been very involved and has pushed for sustainable development, streamlining project implementation. The commitment and the relationship built between CI staff and community created a sense of trust and engagement which led to the villagers being much more open and willing to work with CI. Movie nights where information about other parts of the country and the world is shared are a useful tool to enrich the peoples’ knowledge about the world.

Meetings were prepared beforehand with the translators and held with the involvement of the village to ensure the right messages were being discussed. This resulted in a better understanding of the project and more input from the village. To help build trust, CI Suriname also carried out house visits so that all villagers knew their input was important to the design of the conservation agreement. 

Factors for success

Supportive, multi-stakeholder partnerships with a shared vision

Sufficient time investment in building relationships and trust between the initiative and local communities

Devolved decision-making power so local communities have a voice in creating or co-creating solutions (as part of the initiative)

Effective and trusted community leaders

What doesn’t work and why

Language barriers have been a challenge throughout, as Trio, the language spoken in Alalapadu, is very different to western languages and words often can’t be directly translated. 

The excessive use of kasiri (alcoholic drink produced from cassava in the community) brings many social and health problems and limits the productivity of the people in the community

Factors that limited or hindered success

Lack of supportive national policy/legislation for devolved governance of natural resources

Lack of supportive national policy/legislation on sustainable use of natural resources

Lack of coordinated and coherent sectoral policies/legislation (For example, land use planning, agricultural etc...)

Lack of long-term donor support that is flexible, adaptive and/or based on realistic time goals

Lack of clearly defined tenure or resource use rights

Organisers, donors and partners

Global Wildlife Conservation, WWF, TWINNING, IFS-IDB, Field Family Foundation, Conservation International through Conservation Stewarts Program, Mac Arthur Foundation, Amazon Conservation Team

For further information contact Els van Lavieren (