Thursday, 9 Nov 2000

PARANA, Brazil

For the past six months I have been spending five days a month here in Parana, working with one of Brazil’s pioneers in carbon sequestration projects, my friend Clovis Borges (another Ashoka Fellow). Clovis is a founding member and the executive director of SPVS — Society for Wild Life Preservation and Environmental Education. This NGO, located in Curitiba in the state of Parana, is responsible for important work in the conservation of the largest contiguous area of the Atlantic Forest.

In partnership with The Nature Conservancy, last year SPVS began to establish protected forest reserves in the Guaraquecaba Bay region, as well as programs around the reserves that help the local community develop new income-generating opportunities that will not harm the forest. The electric company CSW (Central and South Western Company) and General Motors have invested in the project. The carbon credits from the reserves will be measured based on established conservation and management procedures.

About a year ago, Clovis told me about his project and a new challenge that he suddenly faced: Buffalo herders had occupied most of the area. The buffalo is a rural animal (and docile, if well cared for). During the “green revolution” of the 1970s, with the help of international funding, buffalo were thrown into the Atlantic Forest. Not only have the buffalo had a profoundly devastating effect on the forest, but the farmers have not even benefited from the program. The buffalo, loose in an inhospitable environment, without the benefit of animal husbandry expertise or appropriate fodder, were unable to produce sufficient offspring to make grazing lucrative.

Solar powered electric fencing in action.

We were very close to a conflict between conservationists and farmers. Furthermore, the farmers were gradually growing poorer. I suggested a very simple idea: With the use of electric fences, we would remove the buffalo from the Atlantic Forest so that it could recover without the destructive impacts of the animals, and the buffalo would be limited to designated grazing land. We would develop techniques that would enable the recovery of the land, increase milk and meat production, and, finally, increase the farmers’ incomes.

Exactly one month ago, we started the first pilot project in this area and today I am back to follow up and see what has been happening. The farmers’ efforts show that, from the fifth day on, according to our measurements, production (and consequently income) has increased by 25 percent due to proper animal handling. Organic milk is produced and used to make buffalo mozzarella cheese. In addition, the animals have been removed from the forest reserves and SPVS has been replanting native trees in the devastated area. Soon, we will apply this model on a larger scale.

Tomorrow, I return home to Porto Alegre to take care of two big projects for IDEAAS. Ate la. See you there.