Denise Amador Bittencourt, Biologist, Ecologist and Educator writes about different initiatives in Brazil, related to communities and agroforestry, some challenges, positive news and a vision for the future.
We need to construct a civilization based on human rights, cooperation, health, connection, nature and love. In every corner of the world, people and institutions are getting together to promote changes. Now is the time to unify our voices and believe in the new world we can create.
What unites us makes us stronger?
Brazil, more than ever, faces huge challenges in the fields of nature conservancy, agriculture and social justice. Urban and rural populations are suffering due to lack of job options and poverty. Indigenous people are still waiting to have their lands demarcated and are treated as outcasts. The Amazon forest and Cerrado continue to be deforested and burned, contributing to global warming and the climate crisis.
As a large country with vast tropical forests and great biodiversity, it is urgent that we foster development practices and policies for conservation, restoration and sustainable agriculture. Agrarian reform is also critically necessary, to distribute land, minimize social disparity, decrease urban overpopulation and promote healthy food production. Agroecology is key to this change. It is a practice that unites community groups, social movements and institutions in rural and urban zones. It’s time has come
Agroforestry in Brazil
Agroforestry is a tropical farming approach that integrates trees and humans in natural agricultural dynamics. It establishes an agricultural model where natural processes are applied to farming practices. It regenerate soils, restores biodiversity, regulates water cycles, and moderates the local climate while also being highly productive. IN short, agroforestry is the best strategy to integrate forest restoration and food production, since natural processes promote recovery through use.
Though agroforestry is an ancestral practice used by native communities, it has only recently been discovered by academic groups and developed in different scales throughout Brazil. Leading to wider adoption of agroforestry and growing appreciation of its importance. Its practices are based on observation and reproduction of natural processes. Including biodiversity, ecological succession, gap dynamics, resilience, cooperation and synergic relationships between vegetable and animal communities.
These aspects can be inspirational and educational for human society and communities, if we can rethink our relationship to nature. And if we do, we can generate a more supportive, diverse and collective world.
How 2020 is accelerating change
The current pandemic has increased mobilization around networks and solidarity campaigns. We have also witnessed expanded awareness of the relationship between health and nutrition, food origins and consumer responsibility. Two initiatives exemplify how cooperative actions unifying voices and social functions can strengthen resilience against these difficult times.
Ribeirão Preto is a city located in the São Paulo northeast region, dominated by sugarcane monoculture and socio-environmental degradation. There are some agroforestry projects being developed in this region, in diverse contexts, some conducted by small farmers in rural settlement communities (from Landless Movement) and others in medium-scale properties.
In 2019, a Regional Agroforestry Network was created, based on cooperation and exchanges. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, social isolation brought many challenges such as the lack of marketplaces and the supportive public policies extinguished by the current government. A large campaign called “Agroecological Food for All” was created, raising money from civil society to buy agroforestry produce from small farmers and deliver it to communities in social food insecurity. More than 400 people donated money, enough to finance the purchase of more than ten tons of food between April and September 2020. This food supported 1,500 families and provided income to small farmers whilst strengthening the communities. Other campaigns are going on in different parts of the country connecting institutions, communities and consumers.
Another powerful initiative is the Woman´s Agroforestry Network, RAMA, created in 2019. The Network had one presential meeting on November 2019 at São Luiz Farm, in the State of São Paulo, and has grown fast, counting 447 members at this moment, from all parts of the country. This network is based on a Telegram group chat and weekly online meetings. A huge national community of women in agroforestry is being structured to provide support in all types of situations, from domestic violence to entrepreneurship. It is an important collective structure to promote women’s resilience.
A sense of community
The sense of community is crucial for building the new civilization the world is asking for. One based on empathy, solidarity, responsibility, citizenship, reconnection with and regeneration of nature. Resilience in the face of the crisis we are experiencing depends on a collective and community-based foundation. As the Brazilian indigenous leader Ailton Krenak says:
“There are several constellations of people around the world that dance, sing and make rain… What I’d like to do is tease you into always telling one more story. If we can do that, we´re postponing the end of the world”.