Data collected in Yanomami land as 2022 census comes to a close

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Census takers began collecting data in the Yanomami indigenous territory this Monday as part of Brazil’s 2022 census, the national statistics institute IBGE reported.

The operation is due to last 30 days and will see teams of census workers visit 169 Yanomami villages in the state of Roraima and a further three in the state of Amazonas. The Yanomami territory, Brazil’s largest protected indigenous reserve, straddles the two Amazonian states near the northern border with Venezuela.

The IBGE has already collected 50 percent of its data in Yanomami territory, and this latest push aims to gather information on remote and hard-to-access areas.

The operation is jointly organized by the Health, Planning and Budget, Justice, Defense, and Indigenous Peoples Ministries, as well as the presidential and military chief-of-staffs. Specially trained IBGE census workers are accompanied by interpreters, guides appointed by the National Indigenous Agency (Funai), and in some cases indigenous health experts, and are working with police and military support.

The Yanomami territory was placed under a public health emergency in January, after the Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva administration uncovered severe malnutrition and cases of preventable diseases among the local indigenous population, a consequence of widespread illegal mining on their land.  

Brazil’s 2010 census had counted 25,700 Yanomamis, equivalent to around 5 percent of Brazil’s recorded indigenous population at the time. This year, the IBGE expects to record a much higher number.

Usually carried out every ten years in Brazil, censuses are key for effective policymaking.

The statistics institute completed its house-to-house general data collection for the overdue 2022 census last week, with information collected on 91 percent of the population. Initially due in 2020, the census was several times delayed due to the Covid pandemic and budgetary cuts. After the census finally began in August of last year, the deadline had to be pushed back due to a lack of workers.

Analysis of the census data is finally taking place this month, with the first results to be released in late April.

Planning and Budget Minister Simone Tebet highlighted the symbolism of wrapping up the census with the collection of indigenous data.

“The IBGE will count how many Yanomami we are. Yes, because historically, we are talking about ourselves. How beautiful is it to be able to say that the Brazilian census will end where everything began, with the indigenous peoples, with the Yanomami,” she said.

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