We are the Quilombola

Who are the people living in the Amazon? This article is part of a series dedicated to the people involved in our supported projects, without whom the rainforests would never be possible to protect in the long run.

This time you can learn more about the Quilombola.

The full article series can be reached from this site.

The word "quilombo" derives from the Bantu people´s word "kilombo", and means a place of rest or camp. In Brazil, the word was adapted to designate the place of refuge for the people that were enslaved and runaway from it. Quilombola is the person who inhabits a quilombo.

Quilombolas, are members of traditional Afro-Brazilian Forest communities based in various part of Brazil, many in the Amazon. There are an estimated 6,000 Quilombola communities in Brazil today and circa16 million people according to Coordenacao Nacional de Articulacao das Comunidades Negras Rurais Quilombolas, CONAQ (in English, the National Coordination for Black Rural Quilombolas).

This girl lives along the Trombetas river, Pará. Picture: Teresa Soop

Within the project run by Ecam with support from Regnskogsföreningen, Quilombola communities have been successful in developing and implementing their environmental and territorial management plans (“life plans”) in collaboration with Ecam and RF (supported by ForumCiv). The collaboration has contributed to strengthen their negotiation skills, ability to collaborate as well as their capacity to plan for long term sustainable use of their territories.

For a long time, the communities have been struggling to obtain titles for their lands. The strengthened community associations have played a key role in the fight to claim and receive official recognition of their territorial rights.

In 2017, the Brazilian land agency finally formally recognized two large Quilombola lands, and in 2018 the state of Pará formally titled two more Quilombola lands in the region, including the largest Quilombola territory titled in Brazil. All these lands are in Karib, the project region.

Quilombola communities have also been able to start up successful ecotourism projects in the reserve Cachoeira Porteira, another tourism initiative in connection with the Faro Reserve, as well as the work associated with the park ranger program carried out in the state of Amapa on the eastern border of the Caribbean.

A key actor in the region and part of the support, is ARQMO – Quilombola Remnants Association of Oriximiná was the first Quilombola association, created 1989. ARQMO is the umbrella association which represents all Quilombola communities and associations ARQMO has its own office space in Oriximina and is one of the prime organizations with which Ecam and the project are working to prepare the expansion of the work to the Quilombola communities.

Just as other local and traditional communities in the Amazon, Quilombolas are faced challenges such as energy poverty, adequate housing health and education; impacts of resource depletion from predatory fishing and illegal logging in their territories and impacts from infrastructure operations including transportation of mining products by large vessels and planned energy lines.

See more on their collaboration with Google Earth here.