Brazil’s traditional populations – Indians, descendants of runaway slaves, traditional fishermen, peasants, and communities engaged in extractive activities – are important allies in the fight to preserve the Brazilian environment.
This realization stemmed from a debate on environmental management, in Santarém, capital of Pará state, on the second day of the National Seminar to Evaluate the Pilot Program for the Protection of Tropical Forests in Brazil (PPG7). The PPG7 was created in 1992, but its implementation only commenced in 1995.
“When there are traditional inhabitants in conservation units, the protection of nature becomes effective,” declared Leonel Teixeira, who represented the Ministry of Environment (MMA) in the thematic discussion on Territorial Organization and Environmental Management.
This perspective was reinforced by Magaly Medeiros, representative of the Secretariat of Environment of the State of Acre, who affirmed: “It is the resident population that keeps the forest standing,”
It is Acre itself that provides the example to which Teixeira was referring: the struggle by the National Council of Latex Gatherers (CNS) for the creation of the first extractive reserves.
The conservationists’ big taboo, making forest preservation contingent upon the absence of human beings – the mentality behind the establishment of the first conservation units -, began to be overturned.
With the law that instituted the National System of Conservation Units (SNUC) in 2000, the units were divided into two categories: integral protection (which does permit permanent residents) and sustainable use (which permits the existence of inhabitants in the area).
Paulo Autiere, representative of the Secretariat of Environment of the State of Pará, informed that, when the process of eco-economic macro-zoning began in the state in 1988, 1.23% of the state’s 1,247,689 square kilometers were integral protection conservation units.
“We were hoping to attain 10%, but we have only 4.38% at present. On the other hand, the sustainable use units expanded beyond our expectations. They represented 10% and were supposed to reach 16%, but now they form 27% of Pará,” he revealed.
A proof of the growing recognition of the role of local residents in environmental management.
“Our main challenge is to adapt government policy to the diversity of cultures and landscapes in the Amazon region,” Teixeira observed.
Hanz Krueger, representative of the multilateral agency, German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), pointed to deficiencies in socio-economic data as a barrier to be overcome in meeting this challenge.
“Nowadays there are abundant data for the analysis of physical space, good studies based on satellite images and good technological equipment. But satellites don’t reveal people’s heads and the dynamics of social processes,” he joked.
The Pilot Program is coordinated by the MMA’s Secretariat of Amazon Coordination. The program, which is an offspring of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio-92), represents a multilateral cooperation initiative to test and develop innovative strategies for the protection and sustainable use of Brazil’s tropical forests.
Since its inception, it has invested US$ 400 million on projects in the Amazon and the Atlantic Rain Forest.
The funds come from Germany, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, Japan, France, and Canada and are channeled through a Tropical Forests Fiduciary Fund administered by the World Bank.
ABr – www.radiobras.gov.br