By Antonio Carlos Teixeira, from United Nations website
Populated by 150,000 people and spread over seven protected areas, 12 indigenous lands and 15 Agrarian Reform Settlement Projects, Brazil’s Mato Grosso state in the Amazon rainforest is the site of a successful environmental initiative.
Ten years ago, life began to change for the region’s inhabitants with a project that reduced pressures on natural ecosystems, and combated deforestation and burning. The initiatve – led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility and the Secretariat of Environment of Mato Grosso allowed local communities to sustainably use natural resources.
“It left a legacy of social capital in a region of great agricultural frontier where lack of infrastructure and basic services left the population without assistance,” according to Paulo César Nunes, former coordinator of the project.
Increased awareness and respect for the environment
The project created 1,400 hectares of agroforestry systems and the response of local farmers could not have been more positive. With 12 hectares of land, Ruby Krindges, 56, from the city of Juína, said that the project had increased his income from guarana, coffee, honey and nuts. The farmers described the benefits not only for Juína but for the entire region. “There was an increase in environmental awareness and respect for the permanent preservation areas,” he said.
The project further encouraged the management of non-timber forest products, helping 720 farmers and investing in reforestation. “Three thousand people have benefited in total,” said César Nunes.
An additional 660 hectares of agroforestry systems were created in the city of Juruena, under the Poço de Carbono Juruena programme. Sponsored by the Petrobras Environmental Program, the project promoted environmental education, recuperated degraded areas and supported the sale of forest products. In just two years of operation, Poço de Carbono Juruena benefitted 150 farmers and prevented the deforestation of 7,000 hectares.
For the conservationist Jorge Vivan, the projects are inspirational experiences as they allow interaction with the forest people and enable an “incredible ecological and economic transformation driven by innovative farmers”.
Viable alternative to deforestation
In 2003 indigenous peoples, rubber tappers, farmers, rural workers, UNDP, the government and private sector came together to form the Integrated Nut Programme, or PIC in Portuguese. The project provided training in the management and marketing of non-timber forest products such as the Brazil nut.
Coordinator Plácido Costa said in Mato Grosso state PIC allowed rubber tappers to follow their traditional livelihood as extractors of rubber, instead of working on farms and logging “in a region where the forest is often seen as an obstacle”.
As a result of PIC, 2,400 people in the region benefitted from the annual production of 220 tonnes of Brazil nut and 30 tonnes of latex, generating revenues of US$ 400,000 and US$ 68,571, respectively.
Ligia Neiva, advisor to Zoró, an Association of Indigenous People, said the project contributed to the unity of the people of the forest. “Never in the history of this country did the indigenous, riparian and small farmers sit at one table to plan how to benefit collectively from the biodiversity products chain.”
For Carlos Castro of UNDP Brazil, the project was a successful action for the region’s economic and social sustainability. “That was the logic of the project: a viable alternative to deforestation.”