Projeto Abraco Verde: A Practice-Based Approach to Brazilian Atlantic Forest Conservation. (Cases)

By Fenimore, Scott C.; Cullen, Laury, Jr. | Endangered Species Update, July-August 2002 | Go to article overview

Projeto Abraco Verde: A Practice-Based Approach to Brazilian Atlantic Forest Conservation. (Cases)


Fenimore, Scott C., Cullen, Laury, Jr., Endangered Species Update


Abstract

The Brazilian Atlantic Forest of the Interior is experiencing dramatic human pressure as newly landed communities increase farming along the edge of the remaining fragments of this important ecosystem. This paper describes and analyzes a project developed to reduce these pressures and restore the forest fragments. This practice-based approach addresses the lack of practical farming education in government land redistribution policies through a cooperative agroforestry project aimed at local "landless" farmers and large landowners. The program provides skills and technical assistance to farmers, contingent on participants including a majority of their trees in buffers to forest fragments. In order to transplant this cooperative program to regions facing similar pressures, it is necessary to establish trust among participants prior to commencing with the program; understand participant needs and expectations; and keep the program simple. Incorporating these three elements into a cooperative project results in a more successful and rewarding conservation program.

Introduction

The Brazilian Atlantic Forest is one of the most critically endangered ecosystems in the world (Downie 2001). When Portuguese explorers arrived on the shores of modern-day Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Atlantic Forest covered 125 million hectares along much of the Brazilian coast and into Paraguay and Argentina. Today, only 7% of the forest remains in small forest fragments (Anonymous 2000). This massive destruction is the consequence of intensive conversion to agricultural land during Brazil's population expansion of the mid-twentieth century.

The remaining fragments of the Atlantic Forest continue to face human pressures. Conservation International designated the Atlantic Forest as a biodiversity hotspot due to its high levels of diversity and endemic plants and animals. Of great interest are the primate species of the forest, including the several species of lion tamarin (Leontopithecus sp.), muriqui (Brachyteles arachnoids), and howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata), many of which are critically endangered (Downie 2001). Sao Paulo is the most developed state in Brazil, and its few remaining interior Atlantic Forest fragments in the Pontal do Paranapanema region serve as the remaining habitat for the endangered black lion tamarin (L. chrysopygus) (Valladares-Padua et al. 2002). Morro do Diablo State Park, a 35,000-hectare forest, is the largest fragment in the region.

In addition to wildlife in the region, there are significant human settlements. In recent years, the community around Morro do Diablo State Park has grown with the arrival of "landless" people, represented by the Landless Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurias Sem Terra, MST). In addition to the "landless" community, the other major group in the region is large landowners. Brazil has a strong history of aristocracy, with 40 to 60% of the land owned by 3% of the population (Mark 2001). This discrepancy in land ownership has led to increasing conflict between "landless" people and large landowners. The Sao Paulo state government, working with landowners, developed a negotiation process in which landowners donate 30 to 70% of cleared land to "landless" people of the Pontal do Paranapanema region in exchange for official title to the remaining property (Cullen et al. 2001). According to Cullen et al. (2001), much of the land donated to "landless" families is marginal and borders on sensitive forest fragments. The land redistribution process lacked a comprehensive program to provide these newly landed families with the skills and technological assistance needed to make productive use of their small farms.

This paper examines a program developed to address the problem arising from land redistribution without a program to assist new landowners in minimizing their impacts to the Brazilian Atlantic Forest of the Interior. This paper describes and evaluates the Green Hug Project (Projeto Abraco Verde, PAV) in terms of its social context, decision-making process, and ability to meet conservation goals. …

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