The past and the future are connected through the decisions we make in the present.


We support rainforest communities in fulfilling their rights and sustaining their livelihoods.

Who We Are

, Co-Founder
Trudie Styler, Co-Founder, Deputy Chairperson
Franca Sciuto, Co-Founder, Chairperson
Athos Gontijo, Financial Director
Li Lu, Treasurer
Madeleine Lesser, Program and Development Officer

What We Do

The Rainforest Fund supports programs that cover a range of issues from protection of civil and political rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, to the promotion and defense of their social, economic and cultural rights, including the protection of rights to their land and against the destructiveness of resource exploitation.

We support:

  • Community development
  • Natural resource management
  • Institutional strengthening
  • Legal defense
  • Public awareness
  • Policy activities
  • Climate change so that indigenous and tribal peoples may sustain a healthy livelihood.

Programs originate with Rainforest Foundation Norway, Rainforest Foundation UK, Rainforest Foundation US, Equipe de Conservção da Amazônia (ECAM, Brazil), Etnobotanica (Bolivia), Frente de Defensa de Amazonia (Ecuador), ClearWater and various indigenous organizations within rainforest countries. We assess each program based on stringent criteria, the most important being the empowerment and ownership of the beneficiaries. Planning and implementation measures must be conducted primarily by the beneficiaries as all programs and activities should strengthen the peoples themselves.

The funding cycle begins at the end of October each year.

Our History

The start:

A promise.

In the first years of work, the Rainforest Foundation focused on the Amazon region of Brazil, per the promise made by Sting to the indigenous leader Raoni, of the Kayapó tribe, to help him and his people obtain legal rights to their traditional land.

This commitment was fulfilled in 1992, thanks to the generous contributions of people from all over the world. The physical demarcation of the Kayapó tribe’s land was undertaken with the indigenous people themselves through the most modern technology.

In fulfilling the promise, the Rainforest Foundation became Rainforest Fund and broadened involvement in all of the world’s rainforests.

The organizations jointly known as Rainforest Foundation, founded by Sting and Trudie Styler in 1989, have been supporting indigenous peoples and traditional populations of the rainforest in their efforts to conserve their land and defend their rights. In its first years of work, the Rainforest Foundation focused on the Amazon region of Brazil, as the very first action was a promise made by Sting to the indigenous leader Raoni, of the Kayapó tribe, to help him and his people obtain legal rights to their traditional land. The promise was fulfilled in 1992. Since our beginning, programs have been developed throughout Brazil in multi-ethnic indigenous territories and then diversified by initiating new countries such as Belize, Cameroon, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mexico, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. Our approach has always been one of supporting on the ground projects initiated and carried out by local non-governmental organizations and indigenous groups, dealing with land rights, community organization, forest protection and resource inventories, as well as legal support, human rights protection, campaigning and advocacy. 

With the experience gained during years of work, the Rainforest Foundation as a whole developed even more professional and consistent programs, expanding in Africa through the specialization of RF UK, in Asia through the expertise of RF Norway, and the Americas where RF US broadened its involvement and expertise. In 2014, our work continues with many of the multi-year projects mentioned above, with a particular focus on extractive industries.


Protect and support indigenous and traditional populations in their efforts to conserve their environments and fulfill their rights.


Our Mission: 

The Rainforest Fund is a charitable foundation dedicated to the support of indigenous peoples and traditional populations in their efforts to protect their environment and fulfill their rights.

We are convinced 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.

The Rainforest Fund bears in mind the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, and carries out its mission by:

Funding programs and projects aimed at supporting indigenous peoples and traditional populations of the rainforests to assert their rights, to promote a sustainable development of their communities and to challenge governmental practices that have a damaging effect on their environment.


Starting with one promise in Brazil, we have since expanded to promote projects in Africa, Asia and other parts of South America.


There are over one million forest-dwelling Indians in South America, several hundred thousand Pygmies in African forests, and hundreds of different indigenous communities living in the forests of Papua New Guinea, Borneo, The Philippines, Malaysia, Burma and Thailand.

Only these peoples, after centuries of adaptation, have learned how to deal with their environment without destroying it.

For over two decades, the Rainforest Fund has been supporting these indigenous and tribal communities helping them to defend their rights and protect their environment and land.

As a matter of principle and good governance, the RFUND will grant only 80% of the total budget of the project.  Projects shall preferably have one year duration, will be assessed year by year, and will not go beyond a third year in order to avoid dependency.

The RFUND will NOT consider requests for:

  • conservation projects
  • general operating support of organizations structures
  • international fundraising appeals or campaign
  • individuals
  • academic research projects
  • purely data gathering projects or expeditions
  • projects that seek primarily to provide long-term services which are the responsibility of the state
  • production costs for films, video, television or radio projects
  • general operating support for indigenous organization structures greater than 17%
Application Deadlines and Procedures:
  • deadline for the receipt of proposals is November 1st and represents the final deadline for consideration of proposals
  • applications for grants are considered annually by the Board of Directors in mid-December
  • successful applicants will be notified by January 15th 



We strengthen and support local civil organizations and forest communities’ rights to their land, resources and ensure that justice systems return favorable jurisprudence.


Securing a favourable jurisprudence of the indigenous rights of Batwa People through Legal and Administrative Guidance – In its second year, ERND leads this project which works to establish a favorable jurisprudence of the Batwa peoples’ human rights through legal and administrative guidance and a special advocacy campaign.


Community rights and conservation in the Congo Basin – Comptoir juidique junior & ALPSCO - This is a new project which aims to promote local and indigenous peoples’ rights in the context of conservation projects in the Congo Basin.  Conservation is contentious as competing interests often ignore indigenous peoples who live in harmony with their natural environments, but are often treated by governments and big industry as threats and violate their human rights.



We provide integral support to groups in Indonesia who fight for the recognition of their rights to exist,  to control their land and to sustain their economies autonomously.


Protection of the forest in the Bird Head region of West Papua through sustainable management of the forest by the local communities and the government - This project is in its second year of funding, led by Paradisea, and works to establish green corridors within nature reserves in West Papua where indigenous communities are secured in their rights to manage the forest sustainably, according to their needs, while protecting the forest from industrial exploitation.

Strengthen the participation of the Mentawai people in the design and implementation of public policies and in the management of their natural resources in a fair and sustainable way - Yayasan Citra Mandiri Mentawai (YCMM) is a new partner for RFUND and this first year of funding supports an alternative model for managing natural resources in a traditional and sustainable way so that the Mentawai people can be more independent economically with increased income from traditional agriculture and can influence public policies relating to natural resource management to bring an alternative to monoculture and industrial agriculture schemes.




In Brazil, Panama, Peru, and Ecuador our projects support land protection and monitoring; right to water; and natural resource management.


Strengthening the Tembe community of Para state in the Brazilian Amazon by improving their institutional capacity and implementing their Vigilance Plan Equipe de Conservção da Amazônia (ECAM) – Support for the Tembe extends into its second year in 2015.  In the first year, the Tembe have trained 26 park guards, established cultural and environmental maps and are continuing in 2015 to secure their borders and establish their Life Plan.

Strengthening of the Wai Wai people of the Trombetas Indigenous lands within the context of the National Policy for Environmental Management on Indigenous Territories (PNGATI) - ECAM - 2015 is the first year of funding which seeks to strengthen the Wai Wai community in the face of increasing pressure on their traditional lands through creation of a territorial management plan, together with the strengthening of the Wai Wai association APIM.


Protection of Collective Lands in the Darien – General de Tierras Colectivas Embera y Wounaan (CGTCEW) -This is the third year of funding supporting the Embera and the Wounaan indigenous communities in their efforts to secure land titles to their ancestral territories.


Environmental Monitoring and Organizational Strengthening – FEDIQUEP – Continuing support in 2015 includes the strengthening of the organization and environmental monitoring of the Quechua people within the Pastaza River region for the defense and vigilance of their territories.

AIDESEP – Emergency funding supports the legal cases of indigenous leaders and people arrested during the Bagua Riots in 2009.  So far, local lawyers have been successful in releasing from prison over 100 indigenous people and are currently working to ensure that the remaining individuals are freed.

Strengthening Capacity for the Protection and Management of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve – ECA – In its second year, this project works to promote community-based protection and management of the Amarakaeri Reserve by implementing a community environmental monitoring program and strengthening internal governance mechanisms.


WATER PROJECT This is the third year of support for the indigenous peoples in Ecuador’s Northern Amazon.  Together with partner organization, ClearWater, Rainforest Fund supports indigenous communities to continue building rainwater harvesting systems and in the creation of a water movement fighting for indigenous peoples’ broader human rights. In 2014, 258 tanks were built providing clean water access to over 1,500 people.  In 2015, another 250 will be constructed, mainly within the Waorani, Cofan and Siona communities. See the project video here:



Call For Bloggers

A Call For Bloggers

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." – John Muir

Some of the problems: 

Every day, extractive industries and illegal loggers threaten the livelihoods of indigenous and tribal populations living within the rainforests. Despite international agreement that calls for the consultation and consent of indigenous peoples regarding decisions that affect their lands, they continue to be left out of those critical conversations. Every time the forest is cut down or oil is spilled or land is overtaken, it is not just the earth, the animals and the people who live there that are affected – the global community is, as well. 

How you can help:

Rainforest Fund believes that the power of positive, collective discourse is essential in protecting the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples. We look to you – artists, students, photographers, environmentalists, advocates, academics, filmmakers, economists, professionals, the impassioned – to come together with your writing, photos, videos and illustrations to generate a most dynamic conversation.  

Volunteer bloggers are asked to contribute a piece of writing, a photo accompanied by a description or a video that reflects relevant RFUND issues including, but not limited to:
  • Indigenous & tribal populations
  • Human rights
  • Empowerment
  • Sustainability and Climate Change
  • The Rainforests
  • Land rights
  • Economic rights
  • Social rights
  • Water access
  • International organizations
  • UN conventions
  • The environment
Bloggers are urged to be creative!


Please submit to Madeleine (, the following:
  • letter that includes your experiences, backgrounds, fields of interest/study/work that influence your desire to participate
  • brief writing sample – can be an excerpt from a longer work (no longer than 750 words)
  • list of other blogs in which you participate(d) (if applicable)
  • relevant photos/illustrations/media (if applicable)
Each June and January (starting in 2014), recognition for the most inspirational post will be awarded and select postings will be featured in our annual report. 

We look forward to hearing from you!

Rainforest Fund
420 Lexington Avenue, Suite 1710
New York, NY 10170
(T) 212-677-6045
(F) 212-460-5609