Video and story on the life of Amazonian activist Chico Mendes


Media are invited to use a video and text of a story, “Martyr of the Amazon: The legacy of Chico Mendes,” a look back at the activist’s life and the outsize influence his work continues to have for the betterment of the Amazon rainforests of his homeland and the people who live in them.

It’s impossible to talk about forests in the Brazilian state of Acre without mentioning the state’s home-grown hero: rubber tapper, union leader and Amazon defender Chico Mendes. His murder — 25 years ago on 22 December — made headlines around the world, and although the violence against activists in the Amazon hasn’t abated, Mendes’ death had a huge impact on the Amazon conservation movement, galvanizing his supporters to fight for a new kind of environmentally sustainable development in Acre.

“The rubber tapper movement that Chico Mendes led was a catalyst of profound change in Brazil,” says senior CIFOR scientist Peter Cronkleton. “As a result, the forest peoples throughout Brazil gained the opportunity for recognition of their property rights over forest resources.”

Mendes’ legacy has been carried on in Brazil’s wild west, where the government of Acre is trying to prove that it is possible to safeguard the Amazon while improving the lives of rural people. Acre, one of Brazil’s most remote jurisdictions — its capital is nearly 4,000 km by road from Rio de Janeiro — is nearly 90 percent covered by rainforest, and the state’s governments have decided there are huge advantages for their people in keeping it that way.

This feature is part of a larger special report recently published by CIFOR, “Lessons from the Amazon.” The Amazon rainforest is home to some of the world’s richest biodiversity — and to more than 30 million people who rely on the forest for their livelihoods. Protecting the Amazon will require managing delicate tradeoffs between conservation and development, and new findings by CIFOR are shedding light on how best to balance the needs of this magnificent forest and of the people who live in it. The special report is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese at

The multimedia package was produced by writer, photographer and video journalist Kate Evans and photographers Marco Simola and Tomas Munita for the Center for International Forestry Research. All stories were produced with Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial-Share Alike License. Media are welcome to use all content as long as it is attributed correctly to CIFOR.


The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) advances human wellbeing, environmental conservation and equity by conducting research to inform policies and practices that affect forests in developing counties. CIFOR helps ensure that decision-making that affects forests is based on solid science and principles of good governance, and reflects the perspectives of developing countries and forest-dependent people. CIFOR is one of 15 members of the CGIAR Consortium.
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