By Carlos Meneses
Belem, Brazil, Sep 27 (EFE).- Another Amazon is possible, one that is free of deforestation and wildfires.
That is the vision of a Brazilian collective-action initiative whose strategy is to provide support to businesses capable of unlocking that region’s potential without destroying its natural resources.
Around 25 million Brazilians live in the Amazon region, one of the country’s poorest. Extractive practices have historically gone unchecked there and are currently actively promoted by rightist President Jair Bolsonaro.
But a sustainable revolution is quietly gaining a foothold and showing an alternate path forward.
Over the past four years, an alliance between Bioversity International, a global research-for-development organization, and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), in conjunction with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has been carrying out a program known as Catalyzing and Learning through Private Sector Engagement (CAL-PSE) in which economic development goes hand-in-hand with sustainability.
The idea is to enlist the participation of the private sector in efforts to preserve biodiversity.
Through CAL-PSE, CIAT and USAID jointly facilitate the Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA), through which a “network of companies and civil society organizations” has been forged to “promote sustainable projects” in the region, the director of CAL-PSE, Fabio Deboni, told Efe.
“Brazilians in the Amazon region need help and are open to solutions,” said Alexandre Alves, the private sector engagement and partnership development specialist at USAID/Brazil.
Through its accelerator program PPA has invested nearly 5 million reais (around $1 million) in small businesses in the region over the past two years, including one – Instituto Peabiru in the northern state of Para – that supports the sale of traditional Amazon projects and thereby provides a source of income to poor riverside communities.
One of those products is stingless bee honey, which is produced in harmony with the rainforest and has a unique flavor and properties that reflect the Amazon Biome’s enormous biodiversity.
Furthermore, those bees’ skill as pollinators makes their presence beneficial for the ecosystem.
On a small island in the Amazon gateway city of Belem that is bathed by the Guama River, 26-year-old Abimael Teles Teles, a technical assistant in stingless beekeeping, stands guard over numerous small wooden boxes that contain beehives and are anchored to the ground with poles.
“Without those bees, life would not be possible here,” he said.
The idea of expanding the production of Amazon honey and other products, including Bacuri liquor (made from native fruits), came from Hermogenes Jose Sa de Oliveira, the executive director of Instituto Peabiru.
He said that activity promotes conservation because local families understand an intact rainforest is necessary for honey production, adding that a score of families have set up rudimentary honey-making operations in their homes.
Peabiru Produtos Da Floresta, a Belem-based spinoff of Instituto Peabiru that buys honey from family farmers and handles the logistics, processing, Federal Inspection Seal (SIF), sale and after-sale processes, has been one of the beneficiaries of the PPA Acceleration Program.
Another beneficiary of that program has been Manioca Brasil, which was founded in 2014 as an outgrowth of a family restaurant.
Launched by Joana Martins to connect people to the Amazon through creative and natural foods, Manioca is committed to promoting fair trade with producers, working without intermediaries with locally based small farmers and providing them with technical assistance and sustainability training.
Now Amazonian foods such as black tucupi sauce and seasoned tucupi, jambu flower liqueur and the butter bean, as well as other items processed and sold by Manioca, provide work to 50 families in the region.