efe-epaCacaol, Brazil

Illegal mining, forest fires and deforestation, which continue even on Christmas Day, threatened Monday the pioneering indigenous project for the sale of carbon credits in Brazil.

The initiative began in 2013 in several villages of the Surui people in the Amazon forests, and was the first to take advantage of the international emission standards.

Julio Surui, one of the village elders in Nabecob Abalakiba - in the rural area of the Cacoal municipality in the northern state of Rondonia - said that the project could not be very successful due to obstacles.

The carbon credit sale initiative, the first of its kind, began to shape up in 2009 and was met with success in 2013, when Brazilian cosmetics company Natura decided to pay for the equivalent of 120 tons of emissions.

The first sale generated 1.2 million real ($400,000), an amount that was set to reach villages of the Surui community in the Sete de Setembro region, however, the sum was never received due to chronic problems in the Amazon forests.

Julio said that one of the biggest obstacles was illegal cutting of wood, illegal mining of gold and diamond as well as fires.

He alleged that many people, whose interests were affected by the project that aims to preserve the environment in the Surui territory, have actively tried to harm the initiative, which benefits 1,300 people living in the communities.

Facing these hurdles, which reduced the funds raised in exchange of carbon credits to half compared to the beginning of the project, the Surui people hope the program will be revived in 2018 with more support and financing from state agencies.

The Surui Forest Carbon Project includes two forms of compensating the emission of greenhouse gases: by restoring the destroyed areas of the Amazon and by preserving the forests through reduction of deforestation and environmental degradation.

Julio said that in the beginning, the results of the project had been faster than expected.

Before the project started, indigenous peoples contributed to the deforestation in the Amazon due to lack of knowledge and organization.

However, since the initiative, 151,000 (373,000 acres) of the total 248,000 hectares of Surui land in Rondonia has been converted into a preserved area where every single tree is protected.

The trade of carbon credits is part of the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) project and has been certified under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard (CCB).

The project was presented to the United Nations by chief Almir Surui, renowned internationally for his efforts to save the environment.

The chief, honored by the UN as a "forest hero," was also made in-charge of the Google project to map the indigenous territories of the Rondonia province, started a decade ago.

The partnership with the tech giant helped create a cultural map of the Surui and a mobile phone app which helps in calculating the financial value of the forests in the international carbon credit market.

By Felipe Corona