Fellow Since 2006
This profile was prepared when Benki Piyãko was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Benki is implementing a new model of land management and environmental protection in the Brazilian state of Acre. Acre, occupied mainly by indigenous people, contains some of Brazil’s most valuable natural resources. Lack of state-enforced regulation on extractive industries like mining and logging is threatening the land and the people that live on it. Benki has created a new role, the Agri-Forest Agent, to educate indigenous peoples about the long-term damage being done, and represent and defend them against outside interests. In addition, Agri-Forest Agents teach indigenous communities forest management practices that allow them to benefit from the sustainable use of their natural resources. Because they work with communities on an individual basis, Agents promote bottom-up, tailored strategies that are culturally and ecologically appropriate to each community. Benki has succeeded in having his Agents adopted by the state of Acre as government employees, and he is now working on replicating this position in other Amazonian states. In addition to his work with communities, Benki has implemented mechanisms to unite Agri-Forest Agents in a broad network. This network allows them to share techniques and provides a common platform to influence public policy regarding indigenous land management.