How is it possible to reconcile biodiversity conservation agendas with economic and human development in the Amazon?

Since 2017, the Partners for the Amazon Platform (PPA) has supported innovative initiatives for sustainable development and biodiversity conservation in the Brazilian Amazon. As a multisectoral platform for collective action, it has fostered dialogue and strategic exchanges between different partners, catalyzing the transformations needed to improve the quality of life of the populations living in the region.

Among the different PPA strategies, the promotion of programs and projects aimed at Territorial Development and to Impact Business Strengthening Positive socioenvironmental in the Amazon. Despite the existing specificities for these two lines of action, PPA and its partners have identified a lot of convergence and synergy between them.

Community Sao Raimundo located in RESEX do Medio Jurua in Carauari, Amazonas, Brazil. In the photo, the young leaders, Rosangela Cunha de Lima and Quilvilene Figueiredo da Cunha. September 2021. Photo: Bruno Kelly.

Impact businesses have made a significant contribution to strengthening production chains and the bioeconomy, supporting “keeping the forest standing”, forest regeneration and mitigating climate change. The development of the territory, on the other hand, has proved to be fundamental for conserving the forest, strengthening territorial governance, generating income, promoting new economic initiatives and establishing fair trade exchanges that benefit traditional communities. 

For both cases, the PPA has implemented a innovative and participatory management methodology, with a strategic and systemic approach, which allows leveraging resources, mitigating risks and connecting and exchanging between strategic actors. Not least important, it has carefully addressed gender issues and the productive inclusion of historically excluded populations in the territory.

The question that remains, after all, is: in what ways has the PPA been able to generate shared value for your initiatives and your partners, enabling an increasingly positive socio-environmental impact in the Brazilian Amazon?

 

To deepen this theme, we have an exclusive interview with PPA's project management specialists – denyse mello, which leads Territorial Development initiatives, and Juliana Simionato, which leads the Impact Business Strengthening initiatives. Check it out below:

PPA: In general terms, how does the methodology for monitoring and managing PPA projects work? What's your differential?

Denise: The project management area of the PPA established some principles. First, we consider it important act as a strategic partner rather than a watchdog. This means involvement in all stages of the project cycle – from the co-design until the final evaluation. Second, and fundamentally, we seek ensure the interactive aspect with local actors (implementers, partners and beneficiaries), so that it is possible to know and understand the different interests and motivations of each one, capturing perceptions about the local context of the territory and the initiative. Therefore, we understand that it is possible build participatory and collaborative management of the initiatives, with active involvement and participation in the management of the project together with implementers, beneficiaries, local partners, co-financiers, setting out the expectations, motivations, needs and interests of each actor involved in the project. With that, we got make flexible and adapt management strategies based on the dynamics of each initiative, through the interaction of strategic and transversal knowledge that contribute to the management performance and the achievement of the results of these projects.

Juliana: As a complement, I would add that we managed to establish a very robust methodology, consisting of three steps: monitoring, evaluation and learning. The first, the monitoring, starts with a workshop on set up, in which information is provided regarding our PPA project management methodology and what we expect as deliverables from implementing partners. They also receive, throughout implementation, close monitoring of the activities carried out, in periodic meetings, which can take place on a weekly or monthly basis, or specific forums, such as communication. These are essential moments to ensure that the initiative is properly carried out, in addition to noticing and correcting any problems that may occur. At this stage, it is also important to highlight that the partners produce a quarterly report on activities, presenting evidence and indicators of results achieved. The next step, of assessment, takes place annually based on criteria established by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In part, it takes place from the submission and presentation of the final reports of each initiative, but also in loco, with field visits by the PPA team. At this time, we carry out an in-depth analysis, verifying indicators, targets, challenges and making recommendations for the partner organization. Finally, the learning aggregates the collection of lessons learned during the follow-up and evaluation for the elaboration of recommendations and dissemination of good practices for the ecosystem. 

Evaluation of the Middle Juruá Territory Program project | Denyse Mello, Project Manager.

PPA: Juliana, thinking about the specificities of the initiatives for Strengthening Impact Businesses, from your point of view, how have they promoted or contributed to the Territorial Development of the Amazon?

Juliana: These initiatives end up contributing to Territorial Development by promoting training aimed at internal business management, leadership training, financial management and other specific needs of community-based organizations or businesses that value bioeconomy products, for example. At the same time, they offer networking and assisted capital for the structuring and/or growth of these organizations, contributing to their sustainability and prosperity. That is, directly or indirectly, we ended up supporting forest conservation and improving the quality of life of small producers, extractive populations, indigenous people, quilombolas, riverside communities and others peoples of the Amazon who are beneficiaries of this type of undertaking.

It is also important to consider that in this action pillar of the PPA portfolio, there is support for businesses in different stages of maturity (see more in the 'PPA Acceleration Thesis') and at different points in the Amazon value chains. This is very complementary to Territorial Development actions.

 

PPA: And for you, Denyse? From the perspective of Territorial Development initiatives, can Amazon Impact Businesses contribute? In what ways?

Denise: Territorial Development projects are molded in a complex performance dynamics in the territorial management, strengthening of social capital and economic dynamism in the territory, that is, there is articulation between socio-cultural, political-institutional, environmental and economic dimensions, with a view to valuing forms of production, distribution and use of assets in a region. Thus, we generate wealth with social inclusion, aiming at improving the quality of life and well-being of the population, and we support the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity, for sustainable development in a given territory.

It is important to point out that the term 'Impact Business', within the scope of these projects, is not commonly used. The most adopted term is 'economic initiative' (associations, cooperatives, informal groups). In general, they are community initiatives, which have many particularities depending on each region that must be taken into account when conducting actions for the advancement of positive impacts in the region. Thus, the economic dimension is treated as a strategic line of action for this type of project, and not necessarily the central focus. In this sense, the set of socio-cultural, political-institutional, environmental and economic actions (such as the strengthening of community economic initiatives) has been contributing to positive impacts on Territorial Development.

 

PPA: How do these two categories of the PPA portfolio interact?

Denise: This happens in two ways: first, through themed events promoted by the PPA, in which representatives of the initiatives are invited to participate as speakers or listeners. In addition, the PPA also provides exchanges between initiatives. In this type of situation, we mediate dialogues between two or more partners in our portfolio categories (Territorial Development or Business Strengthening). In these spaces, we aim to share experiences and lessons learned and, thus, correct routes and add efforts, never overlapping. The PPA project team has put itself in the role of linking opportunities and contacts between them.

Juliana: It is a feature of the PPA to link opportunities, build bridges and map synergies between actors – this is how we exercise our role as a collective action platform.

An interesting example is the Association of Rural Producers of Carauari (ASPROC), from Amazonas, active in the pirarucu chain in its sustainable management. This association participates in the Juruá Middle Territory Program (PTMJ), supported by the PPA, as the implementer of structuring actions for this locality. At the same time, ASPROC obtained investment, training in financial management and support for strengthening commercial relationships through the program NESsT Amazônia – Forest Incubator, also supported by the Platform. We carried out an exchange between the two initiatives and were able to adjust some of the project's activities, in order to avoid overlaps and include new lines of action demanded by local leaders.

Another relevant case was the participation of Coopaiter, an indigenous cooperative that sells Amazon nuts and is a beneficiary of the program Our Forest Our Home, in the program 100+ Accelerator from Ambev. We mediated conversations between the two initiatives, so that the two supports could occur synergistically.

It is also very important to observe how the maturation of Impact Businesses can be relevant for Territorial Development projects. This is the case of manage well, an impact project beneficiary of the program 100+ Accelerator. After the acceleration experience, the business had the opportunity to contribute to the initiative Alliance Guarana de Maués, also supported by Ambev. Today, the business still benefits from the program NESsT Amazon, taking its services to community businesses from that same portfolio.

Accelerator 100 + program business meeting | Juliana Simionato, PPA Project Coordinator.

PPA: How have the initiatives for Strengthening Impact Businesses and Territorial Development addressed the gender issue in the PPA portfolio? Why, from your point of view, is this particularly important for the Amazon region? What are the main challenges?

Denise: In Territorial Development projects, it is very important to approach gender equity, so that the participation of women (and also young people) in project activities is very much considered by the indicators of each initiative. Projects also have specific activities to strengthen women's initiatives, training young leaders, in the perspective of economic and socio-environmental empowerment of this public. And they seek to establish partnerships with organizations that have expertise in the subject to contribute to the conduct of this approach. While the PPA team recommends that projects adopt this approach throughout the entire project cycle.

Juliana: Business Strengthening initiatives also seek to strengthen gender equality within supported organizations. Normally, it is a differential selection criterion that the businesses are managed by women (or have women on the board of directors). We also develop structuring actions, such as the development of workshops and support in the formulation of internal gender equity policies. We have seen the theme gain more and more relevance in the programs and the PPA encourages and supports the adoption of actions that aim to generate or increase women's income and strengthen their leadership and management skills. As Denyse commented, the results of these actions are monitored by the PPA through indicators reported in a disaggregated manner.

Reconciling biodiversity conservation agendas with economic and human development represents one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. The lines of action adopted by the Partners for the Amazon Platform are one way to do this.

There are no easy solutions to such huge and urgent challenges, hence the need to structure collaboration spaces where collective intelligence, the fruit of dialogue and co-creation, can serve as the basis for lasting paths, both for the Amazon and for others biomes of Brazil and the world.

The work of the PPA represents a small but important element on the path towards an 'Amazon with quality of life, rich biodiversity and sustainable use of its natural resources'. The Platform seeks to catalyze key actors around a common agenda, creating focus, inspiration and critical mass to drive the much-needed transformation forward.