INTERVIEW: Climate change is harming lives of indigenous people in Brazil: Chief Zé Bajaga Apurinã

Suzy Elgeneidy , Saturday 12 Nov 2022

Wearing a traditional feathered headdress, Zé Bajaga Apurinã travelled to the 2022 UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh to deliver a message about the negative effects of climate change on the lives of his people in Brazil.

Chief Zé Bajaga Apurinã


Zé Bajaga Apurinã spoke to Ahram Online on the sidelines of the COP27 about the message he hopes to deliver to world leaders at the conference.

Ahram Online: Where exactly do you live in Brazil?

Zé Bajaga Apurinã: My name is Zé Bajaga Apurinã. I am the chief of the Apurinã, an indigenous community in a southern Amazon state in Brazil. I am also the general coordinator of the Puras Indigonious organisation and community federation.

AO: How has climate change affected you and your people?

ZA: Climate change has affected the lives of indigenous people seriously. We lost a lot of lives and lands because of floods and forest fires, all caused by climate change.

In the past, the rainy season was very regular, but nowadays it has changed a lot. For instance, we have floods now that did not use to happen and that impacts a lot the way we live. We also have been getting many storms that we did not use to have and that causes trees to fall down on top of our houses, so we and also the animals sometimes have to leave our lands and move to another place.

Also, the sun is becoming warmer. For instance, we used to get out of our homes early and work on the farms all day long. Nowadays we are not able to work all day long because of the high temperature. We have to leave our homes now at 5 am and work until 9 am, then we have to go back home and return in the afternoon at 3pm and work until 7pm because the heat is too much.

AO: What is the message you are submitting here in COP27?

ZA: We are here to bring a message to all leaders and businessmen and others that what you have been doing is not only jeopardising indigenous people, you are jeopardising the entire planet and all living beings.

We also come here in COP27 to say there are many ways to develop humanity without destroying it.

We are trying to keep our lands clean and we are trying to keep our water and air clean, and that is not only for us but for the whole planet.

This is the message we want to bring to COP27: there are ways to live in which we can live together in harmony with biodiversity and humanity.

AO: How do you view putting loss and damage on the official agenda of COP27?

ZA: I know it was not easy. I personally think it should have had been included years ago, but it is good it is now on the agenda in COP27 because we suffered from many incidents in my community and our region and we have been having a lot of losses and damages. For instance we have been losing our precious seeds with every flood that happens because of climate change.

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