Family of açaí growers at the mouth of the Amazon River. More
than 30 million people live in the Amazon region and obtain from
it their means of survival.

Deforestation Leaves us Breathless

The Amazonian Biome — known as the “lungs of the world” and made up of diverse ecosystems where rivers, lakes, jungles, forests and savannahs meet — possesses an immense and rich biodiversity millions of years in the making, but it is currently in danger of collapse. The rapid destruction and degradation of the tropical rainforest and its biodiversity have left the biome more vulnerable, especially given the recent changes in weather patterns associated with climate change which bring higher temperatures and increased incidence of drought, fire and flooding. This represents a direct threat to human beings: there can be no life without breath.

Evidence of ancient civilizations in the Amazon tells us that the situation could be different, that humans can have a symbiotic and harmonious relationship with the forest. The indigenous people of the basin and the river communities that practice sustainable harvesting help us to imagine another scenario, one in which the biome is appreciated and protected as an efficient producer of water, oxygen and life.

 

A Common Vision: We are the Amazon

To reduce the chance of collapse, scientists estimate that at least 80% of the Amazon biome must remain intact. That is only possible if this vision is shared throughout the basin, which is why it is so important to identify, strengthen and connect key people, organizations and initiatives working toward that goal.

Fundación Avina has joined forces with allies who contribute to the conservation of the Amazon biome and ensure the sustainability of its ecosystems and the quality of life of its inhabitants. In this effort, two aspects are essential. Without question, the principal protagonists who assume leadership, determine priorities and decide on local strategies must be from the local population. At the same time, local action is only part of the solution to a challenge of this scale and complexity, therefore it is critical to forge a shared vision and a culture of collaborative action among organizations and leaders in the nine countries that share the Amazon Biome. The commitment of international allies is also important to strengthen local leadership and connect it to the best ideas and the most advanced technologies in the world.

Fundación Avina contributes by building and consolidating social capital — the potential and practice of collaboration — encouraging aligned strategies for action among organizations, countries, communities and collaborators. United action and common purpose are necessary to alter the region’s course. Specifically, the strategy that Avina has developed with its allies focuses on strengthening forest monitoring and protection, promoting development that is compatible with the preservation of the Amazon rainforest and linking up key players to share valuable knowledge and Amazon culture. 

 

On the Way to Creating a Culture of Collaboration

How can you encourage collaboration at a scale that is relevant? It is not easy in such an immense region that is shared by nine countries. The publication Amazon and the Millennium Development Goals, produced by the Amazonian Regional Coordination Network (Articulación Regional Amazónica, or ARA) in 2011 compares for the first time the results of countries of the Amazon basin in terms of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals for 2015. It illustrates significant differences from country to country. There is a clear indication that the countries working with little collaboration fail to meet the basic needs of their Amazon communities.

In November 2011, a significant step was taken toward the establishment of interregional collaboration when the “Fifth Annual Encounter of the Sustainable Amazon Forum: Scenarios and Perspectives of Pan-Amazonia” was carried out in Belem, the capital city of the Brazilian state of Pará. This event, organized by the Sustainable Amazon Forum and ARA, with the support of Fundación Avina among others, gathered researchers, regional leaders, indigenous community representatives, business leaders and social and environmental organizations. At the event, protagonists from all of the Amazon countries met for the first time to discuss the trends in Pan-Amazonia, highlighting the interdependence of the region’s countries. Together they designed actions geared towards sustainable development, with a common vision as a starting point. This first step establishes a foundation and builds mechanisms for cooperation and exchange among organizations from all sectors in the countries of the region, a common front that moves beyond borders to provide solutions.

Fundación Avina is a founding member of the Sustainable Amazon Forum and has sponsored ARA since its inception in 2007, supporting and collaborating with both associations to facilitate and implement their joint actions and projects in the Amazon basin.

 

 

With the “Green Municipalities”
project, several cities located within
the limits of the Amazonian Biome
have considerably reduced their levels
of deforestation.

Local Alliances Seek a Global Solution

Three years ago, the “Green Municipalities” project was established in Paragominas, a town in the state of Pará, Brazil, as a response to being put on the federal “red list” of municipalities engaged in rampant deforestation. In 2011, it was the first city to be removed by the Ministry of Environment’s from that list thanks to a series of bold actions to stop predatory practices and to change local development priorities. The experience of Paragominas led Imazon, an ally of Avina, to prepare the “Green Municipalities” guide, aimed at encouraging other municipalities on the red list to follow the same example. Eleven have joined to date. Avina has supported this initiative through Imazon and has established links with the government of the state of Pará and the municipalities involved.

Similarly, the municipality of Querencia, in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, demonstrates the influence that local leaders have in launching comprehensive solutions. Just two years ago, Querencia was known for its high level of deforestation, one of the 42 municipalities with the highest rates of deforestation in the country. In order to rectify this situation, the municipal government reached out to civil society and the rural producers of the region.
The Social-Environmental Institution (Instituto Socioambiental, or ISA) responded, managing to win the respect of rural producers as well as demonstrate that an alliance could bring them positive results. After great effort, the municipality of Querencia was able to significantly decrease the level of deforestation, and it was the second municipality, after Paragominas, to be removed from the red list. To achieve sustainability, the municipality has already begun to implement reforestation practices in the region. Together with ISA, and through the “Y Ikatu Xingu” campaign, the rural producers in the region will reforest more than 250 acres along riverbanks and springs.

Fundación Avina, through the “Green Municipalities” initiative, financially supports ISA in its several projects in Mato Grosso, including those in Querencia. This is one of a number of activities supported by Avina and other organizations to collaborate with mayors and communities of the region in search of development methods that are compatible with the biome. Avina follows the progress of these municipalities, promoting communication and the exchange of experiences between city halls and civil society organizations, not only in Mato Grosso, but in other Amazon states of Brazil as well as in other countries of the basin.

The process of locating, strengthening and connecting initiatives for change in the Amazonian Biome is an ongoing challenge. These are just a few of the many results we saw in 2011 that demonstrate how empowered local people sharing a common vision and collaborating across the region are key to the struggle to establish a new culture of sustainable prosperity in the Amazon region.

Our main regional allies
and co-investors for this opportunity are:
  • Skoll Foundation, with which we have an alliance to mitigate the effects of climate change through preserving the Amazonian Biome and its associated environmental services.
  • Climate and Land Use Alliance, to promote the decrease of emissions caused by deforestation in Brazil.
  • ARA – Articulación Regional Amazónica, promotes exchange among Amazon organizations and debate around different alternatives for conservation in the basin, both at the national and regional level.
  • The Latin American Network of Environmental Prosecutors, to promote the discussion and exchange of information and best practice among government environmental prosecutors from different countries who face similar challenges in putting the brakes on unsustainable development in the Amazon.
  • Forum Amazônia Sustentável, one of the most important
    multi-sector forums for debate development models for the Brazilian amazon.
  • RAISG – Red Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada, an initiative to share and coordinate
    geo-referenced social and environmental information, data processing and distribution across the region for the benefit of conservation and social development.
  • Amazon Working Group (Grupo de Trabalho Amazônico, or GTA), to promote the participation of more than 600 organizations of the Brazilian Amazon in spreading sustainable development policies, acknowledging that inclusion and cooperation with indigenous communities is essential to achieving sustainability.
  • Green Municipalities Movement, to encourage the practice of sustainability through local territory management, promoting the change from an economy that destroys nature to a green economy.
  • LAC Network – Network of Environmental Funds for Latin America and the Caribbean, to promote the ECOFUNDS tool, which aims to facilitate coordinated action by environmental funds and other financial backers in their biodiversity conservation efforts.

 

 

The Amazon and the Millennium Development Goals report, published in 2011 by the Amazonian Regional Coordination Network (Articulación Regional Amazónica, or ARA) and with Avina’s support, analyzes compliance within the Amazon region with the Millennium Development Goals for 2015. Download here.