Protecting the rainforest and its wildlife through sustainable livelihoods

Current initiative

Published August 2019


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 , Brazil Nut Tree Bertholletia excelsa , Jaguar Panthera onca

Products in trade

Nuts, jaguar teeth, meat from agoutis

Overview of the problem

The agouti is illegally hunted in the Alalapadu area. 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 bring economic development.

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 hunting agoutis in certain areas, a ban on wildlife trade for pets and a ban on gold mining activities. 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. The oil produced from the nuts is sold to a nearby cosmetics producer and 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 Brazil nut facility. People from the village now have a sustainable income, meaning they are less dependent on outsiders. There has been a considerable drop in habitat loss because the village doesn’t allow gold mining or commercial timber concessions.

What works and why

The chief of the village has been very involved and has pushed for sustainable development, streamlining project implementation. The movie nights created a sense of trust and engagement which led to the villagers being much more open and willing to work with CI.

Meetings were prepared 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. 

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 (