In November 2021, EcoActors Sara Campanales and Josh Holland travelled to Marajó Island, in Brazil’s state of Pará, to audit a project that aims to conserve around 86,000 hectares (over 200,000 acres) of tropical rainforest and improve the social and environmental conditions for the communities that live there.
The Marajó project
The relaxation of global COVID-19 travel restrictions at the end of last year meant EcoAct was able to resume international field visits to the offsetting projects we support. This is a central component of our due diligence processes to ensure the compliance and transparency of our projects. Our field visits complement certification and periodic audits performed by international reference bodies and independent auditors.
To reach the Marajó project, EcoActors Sara and Josh, along with our local projct partners, embarked on a 12-hour boat ride across narrow Amazon rivers, home to some incredible species such as the pink dolphin.
“On every trip to the Marajó we connect more with the local community and environment. On this particular visit, I had the opportunity to make a new friend, a Kinkajou (Potus flavus) which is locally named as “midnight monkey”. For me this was one of the richest experiences of contact with biodiversity I’ve ever had.” Project Participant.
Marajó, a VCS certified project which began in 2002, aims to preserve around 86,000 hectares (over 200,000 acres) of tropical rainforest. The primary objectives of the project are to avoid unplanned deforestation, protect ecosystems, and improve social and environmental conditions for the communities in the project area. This unique project has been offered to EcoAct’s clients for several years.
The sale of carbon credits means that training in sustainable food production and alternative income generation is helping to prevent deforestation and aiding sustainable development in the region through a community-based approach.
The Marajó project supports sustainable livelihoods
Previously, the local communities here were financially reliant on the sale of timber products. The project now provides new sources of income for these communities. The state of Pará is the largest producer of açaí, a fruit native to Brazil that is consumed worldwide. In 2014 the project founded an agricultural cooperative, led by a local president elected by its members, to ensure açaí producers have fair wages and labour practices. The project gives members training in organic açaí production and covers the cost of bi-annual organic açaí certification.
While açaí is typically consumed as a sweet fruit in most parts of the globe, the EcoActors were surprised to discover that in Pará, the fruit is bitter and consumed with tapioca flour.
The communities that coexist within the project area are diverse and each has their own needs and cultural differences. In the past, this has made it difficult to work in grouped projects. The cooperative is, however, proof that it is possible for communities to join forces to improve their well-being. Although some were initially reluctant to join as members, the cooperative has doubled in size in the last couple of years. Currently, there are 49 members from different communities and more are continuing to join as its participants continue to spread the word on its benefits.
“At Marajó, we witnessed first-hand the complexity of engaging with remote, rural riverine communities, mainly due to the logistics costs. Despite this challenge, our local partners have, over the years, built a relationship of trust with these communities and developed social initiatives that have improved their quality of life. Everyone we met was grateful for the project and motivated to get involved in current and future activities.”
Sara Campanales, EcoAct
In addition to açaí production, the project oversees the integration of aquaculture within the communities. To date, the project has constructed two medium-sized fish tanks, as well as supported the management and expenses of these tanks.
The aim is to establish sustainable fish farming practices that can be introduced and replicated by other communities in the area through the guidance and support of local experts and the project itself
“It was great to see to what extent communities are involved in the project. I particularly remember the day a member of the cooperative travelled from far to speak to us and our local partners about the possibility of constructing more fish tanks. He had gone to university and was familiar with fish farming practices, which he was willing to put into practice to promote this activity in surrounding communities for the benefit of all.”
Sara Campanales, EcoAct
Given the large geographical scope of the project, individual community needs are assessed, and new project initiatives are regularly proposed. Throughout meetings with community members, interest was shown for the development of poultry farming and support for female artisans.
The Marajó project supports local education
Another key element of the project is to support local education. When visiting Marajó, the EcoActors stayed at the local school supported by the project that carries out vocational training on sustainable agricultural and forestry practices for rural producers. Since 2017, the project has made donations to the school to cover food expenses, and provides grants for older students to continue studying at the nearby university. To date, three scholarships have been given to students for the continuation of their university studies.
“Logistics here are always a challenge, even more for those so who need to get to school. For this reason, classes are held in 1-month intensive courses, reducing the number of journeys required. During our stay at the school, we had the opportunity to talk with teachers and note that the support of the Marajó Project on food expenses is crucial for the students’ good school performance.” Project Participant.
The school also supports the education of women in the area, with an equal ratio of both male and female students enrolled into the school. Many of the women who attend the school continue to work and participate in forest management after the completion of educational courses.
The project has constructed two fish tanks to feed the students when they return to school and built a tree nursery within the school boundaries. When meeting with the school’s teachers, the EcoActors discovered that the main aim of the nursery is to grow seeds from productive, native trees with commercial value for plantation on degraded lands. This initiative will see the restoration of degraded areas and grow products for both own-consumption and sale, contributing to food security and income generation.
“We saw first-hand how the project is protecting the rich rainforest of Marajó island. By supporting local communities through the creation of sustainable livelihoods, including fish farming and organic açaí production, the project ensures ecosystems in the area are better preserved for future generations. ” Josh Holland, EcoAct
The Marajó project aligns to the SDGs
The Marajó project positively impacts the local communities in the project area, and successfully aligns to several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. By providing the tools and knowledge to develop more sustainable industries, the project empowers community members to preserve their own environment and stimulate economic growth.
Following the significant reduction in deforestation, vital carbon sinks are protected and carbon emissions reduced. These precious forests that the project helps to preserve, are rich biodiverse habitats. These vital ecosystems are threatened by some of the world’s highest rates of deforestation.
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