Unesco Green Citizens

Agrobiodiversity in the lower Rio Negro

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Project begin: 10/08/2005

Mariana Gama Semeghini, created this project in 2005 to protect biodiversity and local agriculture in an area threatened by deforestation. Mariana shares the knowledge of local communities and promotes knowledge exchanges, in order to live in harmony with the Amazon. 

This project deals directly with the issues of agriculture, food security and cultural valuation through innovative fronts in conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The objective of the project is to develop and consolidate agroecological production systems and agrobiodiversity products, through participatory ethnoecological research, training and exchange of experiences, adding value to local knowledge, generating income, entrepreneurship and strengthening local organizations. The main actions of the project are the following: 

–        Development of agrobiodiversity products

Support for the production, dissemination and commercialization (within the principles of solidarity economy and fair trade) of agrobiodiversity products of populations in the lower Rio Negro, where the following are emphasized: agricultural products, fruits and sweets made from regional fruit. The project develops training, promoting the participation of production groups of women in regional and national markets. The sweets (jams, biscuits and candy) are produced by a group of women, from locally grown fruits. This group of women provides breakfast, using regional products, in a community-based tourism itinerary in the region.

–        Participatory Research

Participatory research about local knowledge, use and development of agrobiodiversity in traditional agricultural landscapes is central to the project. It seeks to understand the definitions, classifications and use of agrobiodiversity. We integrate ethno-botanical knowledge in the conservation of phytogenic resources and the valuing and protection of associated traditional knowledge. The goal of this initiative is the characterization of knowledge from communities along the Cuieiras River. We also seek information on the fauna and fish exploited through hunting/fishing in the region. 

–        Participative methodology and agroecological extension

Education, agroecological extension and social organization initiatives are carried out through a participative and constructive method. Here, dialogue between traditional and technical/scientific knowledge is encouraged, as is the valuing of local knowledge and empowerment of groups. The techniques used focus on valuing, mobilizing, integrating and organizing groups during informal talks, meetings, diagnoses, participative planning, workshops, activities, entertainment activities and other exchanges.

–        Strengthening community organizations

Forming associations and entrepreneurial partnerships with local communities and organizations. 

–        Agroforestry 

Agroecological activities combine ways to stimulate and involve communities in the identification and development of sustainable practices. In accordance with the principles and ethics of permaculture land. We seek to stimulate social and ecological solutions generated within communities. Agroforestry systems were identified as sustainable agricultural systems of high productivity and they were adapted to the local context.

Leading organisation: IPÊ - Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (Ecological Research Institute)
Covered Countries: Brazil
Theme: Biodiversity, Education for Sustainable Development, Indigenous and Local Knowledge
Sub-themes: Agriculture, Climate change, Climate change, Cultural diversity, Cultural diversity, Environment, Environment, Food and food security, Forests and desertification, Gender equality and women's empowerment, Natural resource management, Natural resource management, Poverty and inequality reduction, Poverty and inequality reduction
Selection: 2020
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Project needs
Communication strategy design
Crowfunding
Equipment supply
Financial management
Financial partners
Logistical support
Monitoring and evaluation
Partnerships development
Research
Sponsorship/ Philanthropy
Training
Translations services
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Initial Problem

The indigenous and riverine communities of the lower Rio Negro, in Amazon biome, have acquired local knowledge about the use and management of biodiversity and landscape over the years. There is a strong interdependence on this diversity for their daily activities, such as agriculture, extractivism, hunting and fishing. The agricultural systems involve a mosaic of cultivated spaces, where the field, homergardens and secondary forest stand out, integrated with the forest. The most common form of agriculture in the region is the slash and burn technique, which allows for the cultivation of agrobiodiverse crops and the cassava is the central crop. Among local residents, there is a trade of fruit, fish, manioc flour and its by-products.

There is not, however, effective improvement in income and quality of life through these activities due to the difficulty of local organization, selling and inserting products in the market with fair prices. In recent decades, moreover, logging has become significant. It has been developed, however, in an illegal and unsustainable way, under precarious social conditions and has caused the abandonment of traditional practices of agriculture and extractivism. The erosion of diversification of traditional agricultural diversity is of special importance in the case of the Amazon, considering its role as a source of cultivated plants.

The positive impacts that the project has made:

 – Training and exchange of experiences that benefitted 150 family farmers and women from the communities of the region, through participatory methodology, in association for business, entrepreneurship, agroecology and production improvement;

– Implementation of 20 areas of agroforestry systems, with more than 20 species;

– Improvement of product quality and production and processing processes;

– Participation of a group of women that produces sweets in several fairs of regional, national and international scope, which has acted in the autonomy, self-esteem and empowerment of these women;

– Participation of farmers in the organic fair;

– Increase in household income;

– Strengthening of women’s productive organizations and associations;

– Valorization of local knowledge and agrobiodiversity;

– Strengthening of agroecology

The project has been awarded with the following recognitions:  The Professor Samuel Benchimol and Banco da Amazônia Award for Conscious Entrepreneurship (2010), the FINEP Social Technology Award (2012), a Certification as Good Practice in Environmental Education and Family Agriculture by the Environmental Education and Family Agriculture Program of the Ministry of the Environment (2012), the Certification as Social Technology by Banco do Brasil Fundation (2013), and finally, the Best Practices in Local Management Award – Caixa Econômica Federal (2013)

The impacted areas and population:

Protected areas of the lower Rio Negro, where indigenous and riverine people live. These include groups of women and family farmers that deal with topics of autonomy, rights and public policies.

The obstacles and challenges

At first, there was an initial distrust and resistance to getting involved in the project. Also, the unwillingness to learn about new forms of production and organization. This was dealt with using a participatory methodology and by building trusting relationships through exchanges of experience, where organized groups reported their experience and showed that it can work.

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