The Reply from the Grassroots
By Christiane Peres, ISA*
For nearly a decade, hundreds of settlers, small and medium farmers in Mato Grosso have been betting on a new idea: let’s stop felling new areas of land but recuperate cleared areas to save the forest and generate income. Many people have long thought this impossible but it is becoming a reality in the basins of the Xingu and Araguaia rivers. In the documentary A Resposta da Terra (The Response of the Earth), farmers tell how they have gone from being loggers to pioneers in forest restoration. The documentary, in Portuguese, can be accessed here.
“Today I see that what is happening is a crime. If people had started to care about what was happening when I was a child — and I am over 60 years old –- we would not have this problem of global warming today. We would have more rain, because we would have more forest”, says Laertius Mariano, one of the people interviewed in the documentary, who lives in the settlement of Jaraguá in Água Boa in Mato Grosso.
At a time when the Forest Code is being revised, when lawmakers are planning to grant an amnesty to loggers and to reduce the size of conservation areas, A Resposta da Terra shows that it is essential for the viability of a property to recuperate the vegetation, and, contrary to what many people think, this can increase the farmers’ incomes.
“A Resposta da Terra gives recognition to all those unsung heroes who are trying in their everyday life to reverse the process of destruction of the world’s largest forest. These people show that, with a few incentives, it is possible to change the way we occupy the land and produce from it, associating forest with development. They are giving a clear message to Brazil and the world. And the Amazon is full of such examples. We just need to listen to what these people are saying in order to rethink and to refine our policy of incentives”, says Carlos Garcia Paret, the animator of Articulação Xingu Araguaia (AXA) and executive producer of the film.
Ivo Cesario, from Canarana in Mato Grosso, earns his living today exclusively from collecting seeds, which he then sells to the Xingu Seed Network — an initiative that involves 300 people in Mato Grosso and has already generated more than R$600,000 for the collectors. “If 20 years ago they had told me to collect seeds, I would never have thought that such a thing would be necessary and certainly wouldn’t have believed that today I would be living from it. But now, 46 years old, I earn my living from collecting seeds in the savannah and in the forest”, says the former painter.
Altogether, these initiatives undertaken by the institutions that make up AXA have generated more than R$1 million in income for settlers, small farmers and indigenous people. More than 2,500 hectares of land are being replanted. “These are innovative projects that are bringing new perspectives to people who previously only knew about monoculture model and devastation,” says Rodrigo Junqueira, assistant coordinator of the Xingu Programme in ISA
“When you arrive in a settlement of more than 400 families, who come from a culture of cattle-rearing and forest burning, and you insist, show them another model and new opportunities for income generation, then these people believe in it and take it forward. It’s been really worthwhile”, adds Ana Lucia Silva, from the Association of Education and Social Care Our Lady of the Assumption (ANSA).
The documentary is coordinated by the Articulação Xingu Araguaia (AXA) under the project “Disseminating an Agroforestry Culture in the Araguaia region Xingu”. It was supported by the Ministry of Environment within the subprogramme, Demonstration Projects/Alternatives to Deforestation and Fires (PDA / Padeq – MMA).
In 2007 Articulação Xingu Araguaia (AXA) was created to strengthen the work of ecological restoration and income generation that was being carried out in the two river basins by various institutions. After the creation of this network, the institutions began to work together and to coordinate skill strategies and actions, with greater involvement of the participants and increasing the visibility of the work done in the region.
Today, AXA is made up of four organizations that work systematically in the basins of the Xingu and Araguaia rivers. They are: the Association of Education and Social Care — Our Lady of the Assumption (ANSA) , the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) , the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) and Native Amazon Operation (Opan).