Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative

We invite your support for a new initiative aimed at permanently protecting 60 million acres of tropical rainforests in the mighty Amazon River’s headwaters – the Napo, Pastaza, and Marañon River Basins of Ecuador and Peru – an area referred to as the Sacred Headwaters of the Amazon.


The Sacred Headwaters region of Ecuador and Peru is composed of the ancestral territories of a dozen indigenous nations, adjoined by a number of protected areas, together forming a vast contiguous mosaic containing the most biologically diverse terrestrial ecosystem on Earth.  These rainforests are critical carbon sinks and help to stabilize our global climate and rainfall and yet, they are facing a chronic and ever increasing risk from extractive industries.

The Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative is building a shared vision among indigenous peoples, NGOs, the philanthropic community, social entrepreneurs and governments towards establishing a bi-national protected region – off-limits to industrial scale resource extraction, and governed in accordance with traditional indigenous principles of cooperation and harmony that foster a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship.

The Initiative is led by Amazonian indigenous federations CONFENIAE (Ecuador) and AIDESEP (Peru) in partnership with Pachamama Alliance, Amazon Watch, and Fundación Pachamama and aims to advance bioregional and indigenous-led governance and stewardship of this vast region.

The two-year development phase will lead to these outcomes (a) a strong regional alliance of key stakeholders—indigenous peoples, governments, civil society—aligned around a shared vision for the protection of the Sacred Headwaters region; (b) a regional ecological economic plan for the Sacred Headwaters agreed upon by all of the key stakeholders; and (c) a long-term funding plan agreed to by stakeholders with initial commitments in place; and (d) no further expansion of extractive industries including oil and mining and related infrastructure in the region.

This Initiative offers an exceptional opportunity to create and demonstrate a new ecologic-economic model to usher in the post-carbon era – one that both safeguards the vital heart of our Earth’s biosphere and enhances human wellbeing.   Your support will help protect this ecologically significant ecosystem and the legal rights of its indigenous stewards and ensure a livable climate for future generations.


The Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative seeks to forge a new, post-carbon model for the region, off-limits to industrial-scale resource extraction and where fossil fuels are left in the ground.

The Initiative offers a multi-faceted strategy on climate change through working to:

  • Protect indigenous territories in the region that encompasses a continuous mosaic of 60 million acres of rainforest and contains some 3.8 billion metric tons of carbon (on average 66 metric tons of carbon/acre of forest).
  • Advance indigenous forest stewardship of these lands as the most effective strategy to protect the rainforest and avoid significant emissions from unchecked deforestation.
  • Forge a sustainable path that keeps undeveloped fossil fuel reserves in the ground, starting with the Sacred Headwaters. This would result in the avoidance of some 1.9 billion metric tons of C02 emissions.

We invite cooperation from the international community to fund and incentivize a just transition to a post-carbon economy, starting in the Sacred Headwaters of the Amazon.  

Acres of rainforest to be protected

Metric tons of CO2 emissions to be avoided


If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this Initiative, or you just want us to keep you informed of progress, please fill out the form below.

  • Share your interest in this initiative or additional info