Portfolio learning with Forest Trends and leaders of the Zoró and Sete de Setembro Indigenous Lands

Nossa Floresta Nossa Casa is a strategic partnership between USAID and PPA, implemented by Forest Trends' Communities and Territorial Governance Initiative (ICGT-FT) with support from Greendata. The project works with organizations and economic initiatives from 8 Indigenous Lands (TIs) in the Brazilian Amazon, in the states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso, namely: Igarapé Lourdes, Kwazá do Rio São Pedro, Rio Branco, Rio Mequéns, Roosevelt, Sete de September, Tubarão Latundê and Zoró.

Within the scope of ecological restoration for economic purposes, Forest Trends will deploy 350,000 seedlings of forest species in agroforestry systems in the next few months, of more than 50 different species. The activity is a promising opportunity to increase income, food security and indigenous autonomy, with the diversity of fruits, oils, essences, almonds, fibers and seeds for handicrafts, medicinal plants and others that are very common in this type of forest , which covers the Indigenous Lands covered by the project. Due to the proximity to the houses, management and monitoring is facilitated, especially for indigenous women and youth.

In addition to the forest seedlings, restoration with an ecological objective will be used, via direct seeding, using the muvuca method, in 40 hectares of degraded area of the TIs, 30 hectares in the TI Zoró and 10 hectares in the TI Sete de Setembro. In addition to the implementation of this area, indigenous initiatives are undergoing training and training in direct seeding for the implementation and maintenance of their ecological restoration areas, in which the technical knowledge and autonomy of indigenous peoples for the future implementation of new areas.

Within the scope of the Caminhos para a Amazônia Campaign, Suellen Mangueira (Forest Trends Consultant), Uraan Anderson Suruí (Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Suruí Cooperative for Sustainable Agroforestry Development and Production – COOPSUR) and Alexandre Zoró (President of the Zoró Indigenous People's Association – APIZ) granted an interview about their partnerships and actions related to forest regeneration/restoration.

Check out the full interview below:

PPA: Can you talk a little bit about how Forest Trends (FT) Communities and Territorial Governance Initiative, APIZ and COOPSUR have been working on the forest regeneration/restoration front in their different lines of action?

Suellen: We are working on two action fronts within this reforestation strategy, in Rondônia and Mato Grosso. One of these actions is through the agroforestry system with seedlings. This year 350,000 seedlings will be planted in 8 Indigenous Lands, in addition to direct planting of seeds (muvuca), pilots in the Sete de Setembro and Zoró TIs. We want to see how this strategy behaves in two different ITs. For this, we are counting on the Xingu Seeds Network, Ecoporé, APIZ and COOPSUR. Muvuca is a mixture of seeds that we plant directly in the ground. For this, together with the partnership of APIZ and COOPSUR, we carried out a survey of the landscapes to be restored. We have some obstacles for restoration, as these areas are commonly photographed, or even have the presence of exotic grasses. But this diagnosis was very important for us to carry out this project. We at FT were very satisfied, as we met the demands of APIZ itself and COOPSUR, who were very concerned about restoring their territories. Together we are looking to solve this problem of landscape degradation.

Anderson: We have been working on this Nossa Floresta Nossa Casa project for some years now. One of the central discussions and one of the general objectives of the indigenous peoples and partner entities is, of course, the preservation of the environment and the forest, without failing to develop ourselves as individuals, families and peoples. This existing potential brings great hope to us. How to work with this is one of the great challenges and the partnership with FT has brought enormous encouragement. (…) Reforestation we see in the long term and the benefits too, so that the insertion of this culture and this thought of wanting to preserve in a conscious and responsible way, but with an economic bias, must be fundamental for the sustainability of the project in themselves. It's the humans who are going to direct this and take this forward. 

PPA: How important are the actions linked to forest regeneration/restoration developed by Forest Trends for increasing income, food security and indigenous autonomy?

Suellen: This is a concern we have. We want it to be not just a reforestation, a restoration process, but also a way of bringing income generation, food security and autonomy to these peoples. With the restoration, we are looking for the insertion of species that have this potential. They will contribute to these pillars, through the diversification of fruits, potential species of essential oils, almonds, seeds for handicrafts, rescue of medicinal plants, among others. Something very interesting to bring up is that we have several reports of important species that were left outside the demarcation area, for example the chestnut. They lost many areas and, with that, many species important to their culture. Within the project, we will have several fruit trees that, in the short term, will bring security to food security and, in the long term, will enable commercialization.

COOPSUR, for example, wants to work with honey in the future. Therefore, in these restoration areas we are including species that are attractive to bees. In the case of the restoration of APIZ, there is another aspect: they seek to return animal life to the place… Each of the two areas has a different history, very beautiful and of a very strong rescue.

PPA: Anderson, what was it like to implement the cooperative system with COOPSUR, since it depends on collective decisions, and how have your people received the partnership with Forest Trends' project Nossa Floresta Nossa Casa, supported by PPA? To what degree do you consider that this arrangement has brought advances to the cooperative's work?  

Anderson: The strength of the collective and this perception that the collective makes a difference are things that give us a lot of hope. Cooperative members have their own voice, their own desires and their own decisions. And a project like this only makes us stronger. The perspective is that other projects are durable and become even stronger than one or another beneficiary family. The cooperative has its members, but it also has its indirect beneficiaries… Somehow, a project within COOPSUR ends up covering all of this and we see that people's lives have changed for the better. Food security and the planting of products that can then be sold, for example, are great gains for us.

PPA: Indigenous peoples have also been regenerating thousands and thousands of years ago. How does this exchange of traditional knowledge with technicians take place?

Anderson: We still haven't been able to get a very concrete experience, due to the pandemic. People are meeting now and from now on this exchange should happen. But I see that it will happen in a very similar way, as we have a lot of experience, especially our older ones… With our involvement in the planting, we will have a very interesting exchange of knowledge.

Suellen: That's what we ask ourselves every day. How will we take and absorb the information in the field. What we make clear in the communities is that non-indigenous people give a name to what indigenous people have always done. We have studies that talk about fruit trees cultivated by indigenous peoples in the Amazon. The traditional swidden is a SAF, the muvuca belongs to the indigenous peoples. Our biggest concern when arriving in the community is to make them visualize that it is theirs. 

PPA: And how have the processes of involvement, training and training of indigenous peoples to act in these lines of action that you indicated have taken place? How are activities managed and monitored?

Suellen: We know that projects have a beginning, middle and end and we always say that to the communities. We are looking for partners who also seek the autonomy of peoples. And seeking this process autonomy, the FT has been training 30 indigenous youth (15 from COOPSUR and 15 from APIZ) with technical and management guidance.

The practical part will take place at the time of planting, so that they understand what is being done, how it is done and how we will take care of long-term monitoring. We are starting now with TI Zoró and at COOPSUR we will probably start in the second half of December. 

Anderson: We see this with great joy. The participation of young people within the cooperative is massive: there are almost 55% of cooperative members. An initiative like this, which thinks in the long term and with a sustainable mentality, aiming at autonomy and food security, means that the project is not just an experience, but is converted into productive areas, so that we can have the forest again. But in addition to the degraded areas, we managed to support the family. Inserting youth within this vision of territorial protection and governance, how to manage this, is fundamental for us. I'm sure the project will bring excellent results.

To follow the “Portfolio Learning” series and PPA's Paths to the Amazon campaign, go to: www.ppa.org.br/caminhosamazonia