Who are the people and the projects that are already making a difference in the Amazon?

What are their needs and how can we support them?

We have first explained about the Brazilian Amazon in numbers in our first post of this Special Amazon series and pointed out that we cannot ignore our responsibility over the largest rainforest in the World and continued by explaining the 7 main threats to the Amazon and which are the industries behind the deforestation purposes. In this post we will talk about the people that are actually working for the communities and the forest, the serious projects and NGOs that struggle to make a difference and support social and environmental protection.

Brazil is among the countries that mostly kills environmentalists and activists in the world, according to the NGO Global Witness. In a scenario where the great leaders of agribusiness, mining and mega-dams are the opposition, who risks rising and fighting for traditional peoples and the forest? Sustainable development projects in riverside communities are true epics. Carried out by amazing people who gave up their lives in comfortable cities to help and carry out projects in remote, hostile and precarious regions of the Amazon. 

In Brazilian nut production initiatives, for example, planning requires from tree management to the concentration of extraction in an industry capable of processing the nut, packing and shipping it to the consuming centers. Industrial process, logistics, marketing, sales and management. A distant vocabulary from riverside communities and necessary for the development of a sustainable extractive solution, but a path with economic potential and in
many cases even superior to predatory exploitation. For example, comparing extraction of açai with soy, according to Professor Raoni Rajão of UFMG (Minas Gerais Federal University), the productive capacity of açai per hectare is around R$ 26,000 while soybean is less than R$3,000.

If a single fruit from the Amazon is today one of the world’s most famous sports foods and valued for its nutritional quality, how many others are there to be discovered? Do we really rather support the monoculture that burns the forest and contaminates rivers with pesticides to
exist? It is time to encourage our researchers, value sustainable products and generate economic income with the forest standing.

When I first decided to go to the Amazon there was a universe of expectations within me. The harsh reality of the conditions of the communities gradually hit me as I had the opportunity to move deeper and deeper into the remote regions of the Negro River. My gaze soon stopped on a couple who left a comfortable life in Europe to offer study conditions for riverine children. What many people around the world and even Brazilians do not know is that schools in these regions offer multi-grade education (all ages in the same class with the same teacher) and only until the fourth grade, around 11 years old. Those who continue their studies are children sent to relatives’ homes in the cities, often in precarious situations, vulnerable to abuse and child labor.

This European couple has felt a calling, what we feel when our mission is presented and we know that we cannot change the world alone, but we can change some people’s lives and that is enough. The VivAmazônia School in the Gaspar community, celebrates nearly 20 years of child-rearing work through the eighth grade, in a region accessible only by 2 days by boat.

I also had the opportunity to meet another European who married an Amazonian and with the support of friends from Switzerland created the Almerinda Malaquias Foundation, which offers working conditions through the production of reused wood crafts from local shipbuilding for adults and environmental education for children. Promoting sustainable activities and encouraging alternative crafts to illegal work as the best way to provide conditions for Amazonian communities to subsist with the forest standing.

Within the activities that can help save the Amazon from its threats, it is necessary to consider that many communities live in fully protected conservation units. Unlike the sustainable use units, which allow family farming and other sustainable extractive activities, the more restricted units have in the production of handicrafts and tourism their main economic sources.

Given this scenario, what can we do for the Amazon? Continue to read other information about the Brazilian Amazon in our Special Amazon with 3 other posts about: the Brazilian Amazon in numbers, the 7 main threats to the Amazon and what can we do to help save the Amazon.