Candy, honey and cocoa: Can candy save the Brazilian rainforest? | Global Ideas | DW

Luiz Henrique López Ferreira fights for his homeland with sweets and jam. The 22-year-old lives in the eastern Amazon region of Brazil. It belongs to a new generation of indigenous people who are showing how young people make money in the middle of forests while protecting biodiversity. It is also concerned with preventing the continued deforestation of rainforests. Ferreira makes sweets, jams, and liqueurs from many different fruits of the forest.

It resides in the Extrativista Tapajós-Arapiuns Reserve, one of more than 80 protected areas for sustainable use established by the Brazilian government between 1990 and 2009. The area spans over 640,000 hectares, making it three times the size of Saarland. It consists almost entirely of forests and is home to tapirs, jaguars, or giant armadillos, as well as hundreds of other species of mammals, birds, and fish.

The Amazon rainforest is a biodiversity hotspot, but many species are now threatened in existence

Most of the approximately 13,000 people in the reserve are indigenous or kabuclo communities, that is, descended from the links between Europeans and indigenous peoples.

Ferreira, who describes himself as an indigenous, was born in the state capital of Amazonas. His family moved with him to the reserve 15 years ago. It has been his home ever since. “The Amazon is a great place to live…here in the middle of nature,” Ferreira says. “Everything is so magical. But our peace is threatened.”

With the fruits of the forest against illegal deforestation

The reserve was created in the late nineties. For nearly two decades before that, residents resisted logging companies, who wanted to push their chainsaws further and further into the forest. The reserve aims to protect nature. People are allowed to engage in subsistence farming, i.e. farming for pure self-sufficiency. Sustainable hunting, fishing, and collecting wild plants are also permitted.

Luiz Henrique López Ferreira, a young indigenous man who lives in the Brazilian Amazon

Luiz Henrique López Ferreira says that deforestation is the biggest threat to his way of life

However, today the logging industry’s sawmills are the biggest threat to the reserve, Ferreira says. His home is located in the state of Pará. The largest deforestation in Brazil occurred here between 2001 and 2021. Since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, deforestation in the Amazon has been at its highest level in 15 years because the government is systematically sabotaging environmental protection.

Ninety-nine percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is illegal. Caetano Scanavino says this makes it difficult for legally operating timber producers. Because wood from sustainable farming can’t compete with dumping prices for illegal cutting. Scanavino is a coordinator at the Brazilian NGO Projeto Saúde e Alegria. This means as much health and vitality. Since 1987, the initiative has been working in the Brazilian Amazon to promote sustainable community development. “We have to get out of this culture of illegality,” Scanavino says. “In order to change this culture, we have to be persistent.”

Infographic of deforestation in the Amazon region

PSA has been operating in Pará State for 30 years and currently has around 30,000 people. The organization provides training and funding. In this way, the communities should be able to earn a living in a legal way. Focal points are, for example, sustainable agriculture and agroecology. These concepts of permaculture are primarily based on natural local conditions.

Ferreira also worked with PSA. Through his small business, the income of 40 families is now. Many young people still leave to work in lumber companies or in the city. However, at the same time, many remain in the reserve and try to earn money from the natural resources of the forests.

PSA organizes workshops and training for indigenous communities and cooperatives so that they can process forest products such as cocoa, honey, acai and tropical fruits, for example into oils or butter. With these products, people can earn more money.

Locals collect honey in the Brazilian Amazon

Honey is one of the natural products produced by the communities in the Tapajós Arapiuns Extractive Reserve

“We have to help create better living conditions, otherwise young people are going to town,” Scanavino says. He adds that if no one is here anymore, no one will stop the ever-evolving logging companies and gold miners in the rainforest.

Save the forest by protecting the rights of indigenous people

says David Kimowitz, program director at The Tenure Foundation, a Swedish NGO dedicated to work to secure land rights for indigenous peoples.

Kaimowitz led a United Nations investigation that evaluated more than 300 studies from the past 20 years. Accordingly, indigenous and tribal communities in Latin America and the Caribbean are the best keepers of forests, he says. This is largely due to their cultural practices and traditional knowledge. In order to continue to ensure this type of forest protection, these communities need a functioning economy and an environment in which young people want to stay. “It does well in parts of the Amazon,” Kaimowitz says. “Where these structures are, the forests remain intact.”

Residents of the Brazilian Amazon learn how to harvest seedlings

The residents of the reserve participate in a workshop to learn how to harvest seedlings

Only 0.5 percent of the forest at Reserva Extrativista Tapajós-Arapiuns has been cut down since 1985. Meanwhile, in the rest of the Amazon, deforestation has become so developed that the rainforests there are dangerously close to the tipping point where the spaces can be permanently transformed. to dry land.

Ferreira lives in the Santarem region. Since the 1980s, rainfall during the dry season has decreased by more than a third. The average temperature rose a good two degrees and the number of wildfires increased exponentially. As a result, more than one million hectares of forests were destroyed.

Locals in the Brazilian Amazon learn how to manage forests sustainably

Members of the Tapajós Arapiuns Extractive Reserve conduct research on permaculture and agroecology for the sustainable management of their forests

Preventing epidemics at their source

The shrinking of the Amazon rainforest is not only having an impact on the climate. It also poses health risks.

In order to avoid epidemics, it is necessary to reduce deforestation in the Amazon region. This is the result of a study published in April 2022 by TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University.

The Amazon rainforest is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world. Many bats and monkeys also live here. They often carry a viral load in their bodies that is harmless to them. However, if animals lose their habitat and thus come close to humans, the risk of zoonoses increases. These are infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Forest maintenance reduces the risk of new diseases spreading from wild animals to domestic animals and humans.

Deforestation in Brazil

If deforestation can be stopped, epidemics can be prevented – this is the current assessment

The study researchers argue that protecting forests and managing controlled hunting could be a concept to avoid future epidemics. In addition, forests can continue to serve as an important carbon sink and biodiversity will be preserved.

“If we live on a planet with a stable climate and a healthy biosphere, maybe we can wait and see. If a disaster occurs, one can try to contain it,” said Aaron Bernstein, lead author of the report. In fact we no longer have on such a planet. And just pretending that it still is that way is probably one of the greatest follies of our time.”

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