UNDP project in Brazil with local partners in the northwestern of Mato Grosso state shows that the benefits generated by conservation of flora promotes local economy and contributes to the sustainability and development of traditional and indigenous communities
By Antonio Carlos Teixeira
TerraGaia’s blog Editor
The Northwest of Mato Grosso state (MT), in the central-western region of Brazil, is part of the Amazon´s rainforest, one of the areas affected by deforestation in the country. With an extension of 105,000 km2 (12% of the state), is occupied by a population of 150,000 inhabitants, distributed among seven municipalities. It has seven protected areas, 12 indigenous lands and 15 Agrarian Reform Settlement Projects (PAs).
In year 2000, an initiative in benefit of relationship balance between men and environment began to change the life of region´s inhabitants: the project: “Promoting Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in the Forests of Northwest Frontier of Mato Grosso.”
Held by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Secretariat of Environment of Mato Grosso (SEMA), the objective of the GEF Northwest MT (as the project is known) was clear: to maintain standing forest, reduce pressures on natural ecosystems, combating deforestation and burning, and use natural resources in the region to the sustainability of local communities. The GEF Northwest ended in 2010, but their activities inspired the creation of other projects in the region.
Paulo César Nunes, former coordinator of the GEF Northwest, says the project has contributed to public policies for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the region. “He left a legacy of social capital in a region of great agricultural frontier where lack of infrastructure, basic services, left the population without assistance.”
One of the great deeds of the GEF Northwest was the implementation of Agroforestry Systems (SAF for its acronym in Portuguese), based on technical management meeting of agricultural crops and forest that provide benefits for both the ground and to the farmer.
The GEF Northwest created 1,400 hectares of agroforestry systems between 2001 and 2010. The response of farmers could not have been more positive. Ruby Krindges, 56, lives in the city of Juina. Owner of 12 hectares of land, the implementation of the SAF has earned him awards for its production (guarana, coffee, honey and nuts). “The SAF has provided increased my income,” he says. Ruby points out that the GEF Northwest brought benefits not only for Juína, but for the entire region. “There was an increase in environmental awareness and respect for the permanent preservation areas.”
In addition to the SAF, the GEF Northwest encouraged the management of non timber forest products and sustainable in 13 PAs in the region, helped 720 farmers and invested in reforestation. “Three thousand people have benefited,” says Nunes.
Current coordinator of the “Poço de Carbono Juruena” project, Nunes said an additional 660 hectares of agroforestry systems were implemented between 2010 and 2011 in the city of Juruena. Sponsored by Petrobras Environmental Program, the project promotes environmental education and social organization in communities, recover degraded areas and supports the sale of forest products and agroforestry. In two years of operation, benefiting 150 farmers and has avoided the deforestation of 7,000 hectares.
For the conservationist Jorge Vivan, the GEF Northwest and the Poço de Carbono Juruena project are inspirational experiences as they allow interaction with the forest people and enable an “incredible ecological and economic transformation driven by innovative farmers.”
Another benefit of GEF Northwest was the realization of the Integrated Program of Nut (PIC for its acronym in Portuguese). Created in 2003, the PIC was born the so-called Pacto das Águas (Water Pact), the joint formed by indigenous peoples Zoró, Rikbaktsa and Arara, rubber tappers, farmers, rural workers, UNDP and technical state and federal governments and representatives of private enterprise.
The purpose of the PIC was to support processes of social organization, training and structuring of collection systems and management and marketing of non timber forest products such as the Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa). One of the areas of the PIC was the Extractive Reserve Guariba-Roosevelt (RESEX), where 300 people live.
Former coordinator of the PIC, Plácido Costa says the GEF Northwest allowed the rubber tappers to live as extractivists, instead of working on farms and logging. “In a region where the forest is often seen as an obstacle and the model is the predominant pasture, construction environmental management processes and alternative income generation based on the value of standing forest is strategic,” says Costa, who coordinates the current second phase of the Pacto das Águas, sponsored by Petrobras Environmental Program.
The biologist Fatima Sonoda says that PIC boosted the region’s community organizing and training for management and marketing of nuts and just contributed to the development of the state policy of socio-biodiversity products. “It was an innovative and strategic reserves to protect the last forest of Mato Grosso, expanding the participation and empowerment of society in the supply chain, environmental conservation and sustainable use of natural resources,” she says, environmental analyst of SEMA MT, former coordinator of Conservation Units of the organ.
With the implementation of the PIC, 2,400 people in the region are benefiting from the annual production of 220 tons of the Brazil nuts and 30 tons of latex, which generates revenues of R$ 700.000,00 (US$ 400,000.00) and R$ 120.000,00 (US$ 68,571.42), respectively.
Ligia Neiva, advisor to the Association of Indigenous People Zoró, says the PIC was a project that contributed to the union of the people of the forest. “Never in the history of this country indigenous, riparians and small farmers sat at one table to plan the extractive market of sociobiodiversity´s products chain.”
Sávio Gomes Rego, of the Water Pact, says the PIC encouraged riparians, indigenous and extractivists to appreciate their work. “The project gave the communities a new way of seeing the forest and to relate to her.”
For Carlos Castro, head of the GEF Northwest in UNDP Brazil, the project was a successful action for economic and social sustainability of the region. “That was the logic of the project: a viable alternative to deforestation.” Already Ligia Neiva said the project provided a “successful experience of sustainable development.”
From the reviews and results, we can say that the GEF Northwest symbolizes an expression that, I hope, is the highest among all of Brazilian society: “Forest good is standing forest!”
Thanks: to André Alves, Carlos Castro, Sávio Gomes Rego, Fátima Sonoda, Ione Santos do Nascimento, Jorge Vivan, Laércio Miranda, Ligia Neiva, Paulo César Nunes, Plácido Costa and Rubi Krindges by support in this story.