"Dollars and Sense in Rainforest Stewardship"
Brazil 's green movement has emerged recently in the nation's politics, largely due to the logging protests orchestrated by Francisco " Chico " Mendes, and his subsequent assassination three days before Christmas in 1988. This atrocity exacerbated the rapacious image of the logging and livestock industries, and forced the government to start taking a serious stance in protection of the Amazon. Yet at the same time, the overwhelming need to provide for the millions of migrant workers and ranchers cannot be ignored. Fortunately, Brazilian ingenuity is leading a push for sustainable business that is beginning to burgeon in surprising lines of business.
What is most surprising about Mendes's story is that his platform for ecological protection did not come from an altruistic perspective, but one of business. Rainforest soil is largely dependent on fallen debris for nutrients; the soil is incredibly poor. An Amazon farmstead rarely lasts longer than five years before the earth is taxed and cannot support crops. In contrast, a rubber tapping plantation within a healthy rainforest can continually provide an income that rivaled most professions in the Amazon backcountry. Mendes and his Rural Workers Union fought not only for the rainforest, but the livelihoods of dozens of small communities that made their living off of a thriving rainforest.
Our visit to a manioc farm outside hotels.
This family supplemented their crops with Brazil nuts,
plantains and cocoa grown on their property.
So it comes to no surprise that the next generation of Brazil 's entrepreneurs have learned to adopt environmental practices out of good business sense. Farmers in Nova California have adopted a hybrid practice of farming and extractivism, growing cash crops in one part of their property while leaving most of their property untouched, where they can gather seasonal (and profitable) delicacies such as heart-of-palm, Brazil nuts and açai. Crop rotation ensures that while they deplete one area, the forest will rejuvenate the soil if left to overgrow for a few years. These farmers also make how twice as much as their fellows in the Amazon.
Nova California is not the exception. I visited the farm of a local family, as part of our tour with Ariaú Rainforest Hotels, where Amazon peoples have managed to build a sprawling hotel complex from scratch that is, literally, in the middle of nowhere (and about twenty minutes by boat to the Amazon Survivor set).They supplemented their manioc crops with goods harvested straight from the rainforest outside their farm. Together, a community of farmers with this strategy can conserve a huge amount of rainforest while making more money out of their land. As more and more people are expected to live around and inside the Amazon, I'm convinced that this can be an excellent option to meet both human needs while safeguarding the Amazon for the future.