About us

The Environmental Defenders(ED) is an ecofeminist and collaborative environmental justice organization that protect biodiversity and defend Indigenous People’s rights. We are active in the Albertine Rift region; (Murchison-Semliki, The Greater Virunga  and Ituri landscapes) bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda

We are dedicated to building resilience for human and environmental security, helping marginalized Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities in the Albertine rift region, make a sustainable living and protect their ways of life, water sources, land, and the local environment.

The problem

Indigenous people are not only the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change but also stewards of important ecosystems and forests biodiversity important to reduce carbon emissions and increase climate resilience. They have important contributions to adaptation and mitigation efforts, e.g. in regards to nature-based solutions where possible. However, In Africa, the lack of recognition of indigenous peoples’ basic rights and lack of meaningful dialogue with the authorities remains a challenge. 

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of the planet’s remaining biodiversity is protected by indigenous people.

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of global carbon is stored above ground in the world’s tropical forests managed by indigenous peoples and local communities

Indigenous people's rights for free, prior & informed consent should be respected and opportunities explored to ensure positive co-benefits for them.
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Despite some progress achieved, especially on the normative level, including, importantly, the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants adopted in 2018, the situation of indigenous peoples remains challenging in a number of countries in Africa.

Several critical trends continue and deteriorate in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Indigenous peoples’ rights and freedoms, such as the freedom of speech, of assembly and of organizing themselves, access to justice, as well as their rights to land, territories, and natural resources are violated.

Indigenous human rights activists and environmental leaders are increasingly harassed, threatened, and even killed.

Indigenous peoples living on lands with the availability of fossil fuels, minerals, and forests and with a high degree of biological diversity often fall prey to commercial and political interests in the lands they manage and the resources they contain. Indigenous human rights defenders, and in particular those defending land rights and the environment, are often subjected to discrimination, persecution, and harassment. Certain groups of indigenous peoples face double layers of challenges including particularly indigenous women and girls, youth, elderly people, and people with disabilities.

Key challenges for indigenous peoples include:

Climate change

The important role of indigenous peoples in the protection and conservation of the environment is well established and should be advanced.

Climate change

The important role of indigenous peoples in the protection and conservation of the environment is well established and should be advanced.

However, despite having contributed the least to climate change, indigenous peoples are among the first to face its effects. They are also increasingly negatively impacted by climate action and green investments in their lands and territories, are increasingly negatively impacted by climate change mitigation initiatives on their customary lands such as the establishment of conservation areas and national parks, renewable energy projects, etc. The loss of land and natural resources contributes to the loss of traditional livelihood practice, valuable indigenous knowledge, and to food insecurity. It also entails risks of hampering mitigations efforts more broadly as indigenous peoples are not only the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change but also stewards of most of the remaining biodiversity, with important contributions to adaptation and mitigation efforts, e.g. in regards to nature-based solutions.

However, despite having contributed the least to climate change, indigenous peoples are among the first to face its effects. They are also increasingly negatively impacted by climate action and green investments in their lands and territories, are increasingly negatively impacted by climate change mitigation initiatives on their customary lands such as the establishment of conservation areas and national parks, renewable energy projects, etc. The loss of land and natural resources contributes to the loss of traditional livelihood practice, valuable indigenous knowledge, and to food insecurity. It also entails risks of hampering mitigations efforts more broadly as indigenous peoples are not only the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change but also stewards of most of the remaining biodiversity, with important contributions to adaptation and mitigation efforts, e.g. in regards to nature-based solutions.

Land defense & human rights defenders

The growing demand for land and natural resources make indigenous peoples’ land a target for increased exploitation, illicit acquisitions, and land-grabbing.

Land defense & human rights defenders

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The growing demand for land and natural resources make indigenous peoples’ land a target for increased exploitation, illicit acquisitions, and land-grabbing.

Indigenous peoples risk losing their remaining lands and territories and face forced evictions and other human rights abuses, violations, and conflicts. There are increasing number of attacks detected against defenders of lands and forests, sought after for mining and extractive industries, logging, agro-businesses, conservation purposes, etc.

Indigenous peoples find themselves at the core of human rights violations and conflicts. Competition over land and natural resources results in human rights violations and the denial of basic human rights to shelter, food, etc. Land grabbing and invasions contribute to mass forced evictions of indigenous peoples from their traditional lands and territories and to other gross human rights abuses, violations, killings, and conflicts.

Gender inequality

Indigenous women experience multiple forms of discrimination due to their indigenous identity, their gender, and poverty.

Gender inequality

Group photo of Women Environmental defenders after a wokrshop on physical security and defense of land rights in Buliisa district

Indigenous women experience multiple forms of discrimination due to their indigenous identity, their gender, and poverty.

Indigenous peoples’ systems of governance and power structures are often highly gendered and may exclude women and their perspective from decision-making, which increases women’s vulnerability to abuses of their human rights. Indigenous women are more vulnerable since, in many cases, they traditionally have very limited influence and decision-making power on land matters, and since they often suffer the most when land is lost and they no longer are able to provide for themselves and their children. Indigenous women are very often targets of multiple forms of violence, including structural violence that results in their being victimized by the circumstances of everyday life. Some of the forms of violence they face are sexual violence, gender-based killings, traditional harmful practices, domestic violence, violence in the contexts of conflict, tribal segregation, and trafficking. Although indigenous women and girls face enormous challenges and discrimination, they are active and important change agents.

Among other issues, indigenous youth are challenged by discrimination, illiteracy, forced relocation, unemployment, incarceration and lack of legal protection, traffic and sexual exploitation, food insecurity, malnutrition, and sexually transmitted diseases. Indigenous youth also experience much higher rates of suicide and self-harm compared to other youth.

Our approach

Environmental Defenders’ actions are driven by the idea of protecting the environment through the conservation of forest ecology and the use of nature-based solutions as a strategy of defense against climate change. Promoting equitable governance, effective management, and positive conservation outcomes.

Our actions are aimed at protecting and defending the natural environment, the people and wildlife that depend upon it, helping marginalized indigenous communities make a sustainable living, and protect their water sources and the local environment.

We believe that accepted environmental and human rights principles embody the right of everyone to a secure, healthy, and ecologically sound environment and that environmental degradation leads to human rights violations such as the right to life, health, and culture.

These are the different actions through which Environmental Defenders implement its programs:

Tree planting and reforestation, seed banking and collection, biodiversity monitoring, restoration of degraded land, habitat protection and restoration for wildlife and plants protection, environmental education, and awareness campaigns.
tree-nursery
Tree planting and reforestation, seed banking and collection, biodiversity monitoring, restoration of degraded land, habitat protection and restoration for wildlife and plants protection, environmental education, and awareness campaigns.
Empowering people to develop their resilience to difficult situations, helping indigenous communities to advocate and take direct action against illegal land sales and forced evictions that often take place without their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, providing direct legal support, land survey, and mapping. We form, register, support, and equip women groups. Increasing agricultural productivity and market access, forming and strengthening producer groups and cooperatives through training, learning exchange, multi-stakeholder dialogue platforms, business mentoring, and coaching in gender, life skills, financial and basic literacy, and numeracy skills.
The staff of environmental defenders removing seedlings from nursery ready for planting in the field
The staff of environmental defenders removing seedlings from nursery ready for planting in the field
Empowering people to develop their resilience to difficult situations, helping indigenous communities to advocate and take direct action against illegal land sales and forced evictions that often take place without their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, providing direct legal support, land survey, and mapping. We form, register, support, and equip women groups. Increasing agricultural productivity and market access, forming and strengthening producer groups and cooperatives through training, learning exchange, multi-stakeholder dialogue platforms, business mentoring, and coaching in gender, life skills, financial and basic literacy, and numeracy skills.
capacity building workshop for Women Land and Environmental activists in Biiso Buliisa
We protect, defend and secure environmental defenders and land rights activists who are targeted, harmed, and endangered due to their efforts to defend their environment, land rights, and tenure security. We offer emergency support service (relocation, legal, and medical emergency grants), capacity building to improve conservationists and defenders’ security (personal/organisational and digital security workshops), psychosocial support among others.
capacity building workshop for Women Land and Environmental activists in Biiso Buliisa
We protect, defend and secure environmental defenders and land rights activists who are targeted, harmed, and endangered due to their efforts to defend their environment, land rights, and tenure security. We offer emergency support service (relocation, legal, and medical emergency grants), capacity building to improve conservationists and defenders’ security (personal/organisational and digital security workshops), psychosocial support among others.