Rainforest Foundation Fund
|Method||Grant-making, Lobbying, research|
|Key people||Sting, Trudie Styler, Franca Sciuto, Li Lu|
|Revenue||$ 1,234,981 (2006)|
The fund supports the field-based projects of its three sister organizations: Rainforest Foundation UK, whose work focuses in Africa; Rainforest Foundation US, whose work focuses in Central and South America; and Rainforest Foundation Norway, whose work focuses in Southeast Asia; though all three organizations have projects worldwide.
The fund works by granting money via these three organizations, and other NGOs, to programs and projects on the ground that support the attempts of indigenous rainforest peoples to assert and defend their rights, to define and promote sustainable development in their communities, and to challenge the activities and practices of governments or other entities which damage their environment and lands. The programs and projects are developed in partnership with local communities and representative indigenous NGOs.
The Rainforest Foundation Fund was first founded in 1989 as the Rainforest Foundation International, by Jean-Pierre Dutilleux, Sting and his wife Trudie Styler after an indigenous leader, Raoni, of the Kayapo people of Brazil made a personal request to them to help his community protect their lands and culture. Since then, the Rainforest Foundation Fund, working together with its sister organizations, has funded projects that have protected a total of 28 million acres of forest in 20 different rainforest countries around the globe.
The mission of the Rainforest Foundation Fund is: “to protect and support indigenous peoples and traditional forest populations in their efforts to protect their environment and fulfill their right to a secure, healthy and ecologically sound environment.” The Fund believes that environmental degradation necessarily violates human rights to life, health and culture.
The fund’s philanthropy is successful in protecting forests by defending indigenous rights. Multiple studies support the link between indigenous people's having control over their lands and the protection of the forests in those areas. For example, recent studies of the Brazilian Amazon show that deforestation rates were up to 20 times lower in traditional indigenous lands than other areas, and in Ecuador over one million acres of indigenous reserve show 0% deforestation, while the rest of Ecuador has the highest deforestation rates on the continent.
The international community widely accepts that indigenous peoples are holders of a specific set of rights and are also the victims of historically unique forms of discrimination, and it enshrined this idea in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007.
The Rainforest Fund claims that its work is motivated by its recognition of a substantial disconnect between such declarations made by the governments of the world in an international forum, and the actions that those governments undertake in their own countries.
They mention as an illustration the controversy surrounding the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil: “While at the United Nations discussions are underway on the crucial issue of climate change, and governments are finally realizing that they have to change their pattern of development, in the Brazilian Amazon plans are well advanced to build environmentally destructive mega-dams along the Xingu River, the last of the great Amazon rivers in a good state of conservation.” .
The Rainforest Foundation Fund usually covers only about 80% of a project’s total budget, leaving its grantee responsible for finding the remaining 20%, to avoid over-dependency on just one funding source. The fund grants money on a three year basis, but will extend funding up to five years in certain circumstances. Grant-recipient’s projects are evaluated annually.
The Rainforest Foundation Fund works with an extremely small staff, with only a chairperson (Franca Sciuto) and a part-time financial director/treasurer (Li Lu). The chairperson serves as a volunteer, and handles all project screening, interim assessments and post-project evaluations. Final decisions on projects and fund disbursement are made by the Rainforest Foundation Fund board.
Rather than administrating large projects itself, the Fund believes that the primary beneficiaries, the indigenous peoples, should also be the primary administrators of the projects. The sister organizations in the US, UK and Norway work directly with indigenous organizations to ensure they are equipped with the administrative structures, technology and trained leadership needed to carry out their projects.
The Rainforest Fund supports projects that defend indigenous people’s rights to their lands and to live in a healthy environment.
The Fund assists rainforest indigenous communities by helping them achieve official demarcation of their territories and then ensuring they are able to effectively defend their communities from violations of their rights including illegal logging, mining, other land invasions, and social disenfranchisement/denial of their rights as citizens.
Many of their projects work to uphold the right of indigenous peoples to grant or to withhold their free, prior and informed consent to projects that will have an impact on their land, resources and livelihoods, and to ensure that indigenous communities are given full information and have a voice in project negotiations and the policy design process.
It also makes grants to programs that assist communities in designing sustainable development strategies, and in strengthening their representative organizations.
Their grants support public awareness programs, technological training, community development, organizational capacity building, sustainable resource management, legal defense, and local, national, and international policy and advocacy.
2011 Supported Projects:
- --Working across the three countries of the Congo Basin, this project focuses on the development of REDD policies designed to mitigate climate change. It works to ensure indigenous peoples have a voice in those policies, share in benefits, and have their land rights respected. The project also involves participatory mapping, advocacy surrounding national parks and community forestry, and advocacy for the full implementation of the ILO Convention 169.
- --Supporting the Surui indigenous peoples in implementing a strategy for protecting their lands, the Surui Reserve, from illegal logging, thereby protecting the highly biodiverse Amazonian rainforest found on those lands. Also working with them to ensure proper implementation of their community’s participation in a REDD program.
- --Working with the representative NGO of the Kuna people, FPCI, as well as the national indigenous NGO, COONAPIP, to build organizational capacity and ensure that Panama’s indigenous peoples participate in the design of, have their rights respected by, and are appropriate beneficiaries of various national climate change and REDD programs.
- --The Rainforest Fund also recently undertook a special emergency project to provide support for the legal defense of the indigenous leaders facing charges from by the government due to the 2009 incident in Bagua, wherein police attacked the crowd after 55 days of nonviolent demonstrations supporting of indigenous rights, leaving 34 people dead. 109 cases were filed against 362 Peruvian indigenous leaders.
In January 1990 the fund's first campaign came under fire by the French edition of 'Rolling Stone' magazine in an article that mentioned the failings of Dutilleux’s previous work in the rainforest and criticized the organization for holding lavish fundraising banquets.
The 'Rolling Stone' article was used as the basis for a documentary by Granada Television's 'World in Action' program. The show, called 'Sting and the Indians', was re-broadcast in the United States on the A&E cable network hosted by Bill Kurtis.
The primary claim of both was that the project in Brazil was misrepresenting the facts to donors, as some of the Kayapo’s traditional land was already “protected” within the Xingu National Park. In fact, the Xingu Park is actually a large indigenous-controlled area, the first in Brazil, so it is an indigenous territory, not a national "park". Moreover, the Fund's initial project supported demarcation of the Mengkragnoti Area, which is right next to/contiguous with the Xingu Park, and did not demarcate the park itself.
In 2002, 2003, and 2004 the US branch of the organization was given zero stars out of four by Charity Navigator, primarily because only 43-60% of funds during those years were spent on programs on the ground. For example, in 2008 the US Foundation had total revenues of $1.27 Million of which only $404,000 went to 'Project Payments' according to the Foundation's very own 2008 IRS tax filings.
However, since 2008, the Rainforest Foundation US has received four stars out of four, with an efficiency score of 38.93 out of 40.
- Indigenous peoples
- Related charities such as the Prince's Rainforests Project, Save the Amazon Rainforest Organisation and the Rainforest Action Network
- United Nations Environment Programme
- Yayasan Merah Putih
- Environmental problems caused by deforestation
- Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
- Traditional Ecological Knowledge
- Sustainable development
- Indigenous land rights
- Global warming
- Indigenous peoples of the Americas
- Amazon Rainforest
- Deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest
- Deforestation in Brazil
- Conservation movement
- Environmental movement
- The Rainforest Foundation US "About Us"
- Nicholas Anderson . "REDDy or not? The Effects on Indigenous Peoples in Brazil of a Global Mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation" Journal of Sustainable Development. Vol 2, No 3 (2009)
- Rhett Butler. January 25, 2006. "Parks, indian reserves slow Amazon deforestation" Mongabay.
- "Ecuador: Environmental Profile" Mongabay.
- Randy Borman. July 15, 2011. "Indigenous Conservation Strategy Stops Amazon Deforestation" PRWEB.
- Sarah Anne Hughes. "Brazil approves Belo Monte dam, despite fierce opposition, James Cameron Speaks Out" The Washington Post. 01 June 2011.
- "Amazon Watch's 'Stop the Belo Monte Dam' Campaign"
- Karen Hoffmann. "Belo Monte dam marks a troubling new era in Brazil's attitude to its rainforest" The Ecologist. 16 August 2001.
- Reuters. "Brazil approves Belo Monte hydroelectric dam" guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 1 June 2011
- Rainforest Foundation Fund 2006/2008 Report ""
- Rainforest Foundation Fund Website “”
- The Conversation “Dodgy logging: are Papua New Guinea’s forests going the way of Indonesia’s?” 2 November 2011.
- Center for Orang Asli Concerns “”
- NEWSLETTER OF THE INTERNATIONAL RANGER FEDERATION “The Thin Green Line” October–December 2005.
- UNCIEF News “UNICEF National Ambassador Trudie Styler brings clean water project to Ecuador” 15 June 2009.
- “Change Chevron Project Page”
- nativefuture.org “Wounaan Take Land Rights Claims to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights” October 28, 2008.
- Gregor MacLennan. "Bagua Anniversary: One Year After Violent Clashes in Peru, Situation for Indigenous Rights Little Improved" Commondreams.org. June 10, 2010.
- Chris Campion. "Walking on the moon: the untold story of the Police and the rise of new wave rock." John Wiley and Sons, 2009. pp 237- 240 “
- Elaine Dewar. "Cloak of green." James Lorimer & Company, 1995. pp. 421 “”
- Ed Pilkington. May 7, 2008. "Sting charity criticized as he marks 20 years in rainforest activism." The Guardian.