By Cristina Ávila
The jungle amidst deforestation
Biological reserve saves an exuberant forest in Rondonia. The decisions to protect it are made together with the dwellers in its surroundings.
Jaru Biological Reserve (Rebio) has 353,000 hectares of forests. There are cedar, mahogany, Brazil nut, and rubber trees, and the area is inhabited by large mammals and colorful birds which fly over the rivers and creeks. This protected area located in the municipal districts of Ji-Paraná, Machadinho D’Oeste and Vale do Anari, in Rondonia state, was consolidated through Arpa financial resources. The area is surrounded by farms, settlements from the agrarian reform, and small towns; and they all participate in the PA management.
In order to preserve the Jaru Biological Reserve, which is a federal protected area in the scope of Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), the Environment Ministry’s Arpa Program invested R$ 3.230 million in 2003-2012. The funds were used to create the area and also for actions which were essential for its maintenance.
The Biological Reserve was created by decree # 83,716, on July 11, 1979, and it protects an area of 293,000 hectares. By May 2006, a dry line marked the boundary between the reserve and another area of 60,000 hectares, which would later be added to it. The enlargement of the area was also achieved with Arpa funds.
The line drawn on the map only would evidently be trespassed if the area were not expanded. With the area enlargement, the Machado River became the present boundary to the west of the area.
During nearly 10 years, Arpa investments went to initiatives such as the management design; the creation of an Advisory Council, with the participation of the government and of the civil society; land survey; demarcation; signalization; support to scientific research; permanent monitoring of the territory; and the funding of sustainable development projects for communities in the surroundings of the area.
Jaru Biological Reserve is located in one of the top deforester states in the Brazilian Amazon and it is a strict protection area. This means the area is closed to public visitation and the direct use of its natural resources is forbidden. This is due mainly to its location between the Madeira and Tapajós hydrographic basins, which is among the Brazilian regions on which there is less scientific knowledge, although it is considered to be an area of endemism in the South Amazon.
This protected area is practically an isle (of preservation) in a highly deforested area; it is connected only to the forests in the south, which are within the Igarapé Lourdes Indigenous Land, where the Gavião (hawk) and the Arara (macaw) Indians dwell.
Jaru Biological Reserve is part of the National Protected Areas System (Snuc), law # 9,985/2000, which represents one of the national strategies to fulfill Brazil’s multilateral commitments to solve the environmental issues — including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which aims at stopping the changes in the ecosystems.
Investment results – “Before Arpa, this reserve used to be invaded, the area was degraded, and there were several social conflicts”, recalls the head of the PA, Simone Nogueira dos Santos. The most notorious consequence of the investments made by the program, according to Simone Nogueira dos Santos, was the removal of the invaders, as well as of the cattle, and the expansion of the area, which in May 2006 gained 60,000 extra hectares.
The incorporation of those lands, forming a 9 kilometer wide and 100 kilometer long stretch, took over two years of patrolling, patience and courage. During that period, Simone Santos herself and ICMBio staff members spent several nights sleeping in tents in the forest and faced threats from people who were against the reserve.
“The first position taken by Arpa was to ensure a patrol barrier operating 24 hours a day, between May 2006 and December 2008”, says the head of the Rebio. She says that the barrier allowed control over who went in and out of the PA, and prevented agriculture tools and agrochemicals to be taken into the area.
During those two years, the travelling allowances (per diem) paid to staff members and even to the police officers were provided by Arpa, to ensure the patrolling, and there was no other source of funds (paying the public officers through Arpa is not allowed today, but it used to be).
The environmental liabilities were quite significant in that stretch of land which would be added to the original area of the PA: 6,000 hectares of pastures, 3.200 heads of cattle, and 30 families of dwellers in the area.
“Our role was to strangle the economy which was irregularly being introduced in this reserve. As we stayed on, the dwellers were removed. Finally, between June 2008 and January 2009, all cattle was peacefully removed from the place”, reports Simone.
Decreasing forest fires and deforestation
Forest fires and deforestation decrease are one of the crucial indicators of the results achieved with Arpa support and the enlargement of the Jaru biological reserve; and these indicators referred to the stretch of land which was added to the original PA area.
“Deforestation dropped from 854 hectares in 2006 – the year of the PA expansion – to 51 hectares in the following year”, reports the Biological Reserve Protection leader, Luciano Malanski, who is an environmental analyst from ICMBio. Between 2004 and 2005, when the Arpa support to that PA started, the deforested area was 1.300 hectares.
Monitoring is done based on the Brazilian Amazon Deforestation Monitoring Project by the National Institute for Space Research (Prodes/Inpe). “After the expansion of the PA, there was a decrease by 17 times”, states Malanski.
Luciano Malanski also points out that the forest fire rate within the reserve, which he analyzed through Inpe’s Forest Fire Data Bank (BD Queimadas), shows an abrupt reversion from the annual average of 45 firest before the PA’s territory expansion to 17.75 fires after the attached area no longer had dwellers nor cattle. There were approximately 60% heat sources.
Although the surveys show that the forest fires rate has significantly decreased, the head of the Biological Reserve observes that the numbers were not smaller only because, in 2010, there was a criminal fire in in 600 hectares of the reserve.
“In 2011, no heat sources were detected within the Jaru Biological Reserve. Those rates show are due to the permanent surveillance of the PA by our team”, emphasized Simone Santos.
Debate with society
All themes referring to the Jaru Biological Reserve are taken to the Advisory Council
The expansion of the Jaru Biological Reserve was thoroughly discussed with the Rondonia state society, through the Advisory Council, which addresses all themes regarding the protected area.
“The Advisory Council took part in the entire expansion process of this reserve. Meetings were held with all the institutions in order to create a strong basis. I do not think it would be possible to do it without it. Today, everything works based on the Council discussions”, says Council member Vilton Sanchotene Pinto. He represents Mandala, Art and Ecology, which is a local NGO from Ji-Paraná.
Several meetings were held regarding the removal of people from the Biological REserve. Around 19 families were transferred to the Jequitibá Forest Settlement Project, a model which prioritizes family agriculture sustainable development. The rest of the people had other options of where to live.
The Jaru Biological Reserve Advisory Council was created through an administrative decree by Ibama, in March 2006, in order for the protected area to fulfill its role, which is essentially to maintain the ecosystem. Even though it is a strict protection area, this reserve also has the purpose of saving the natural resources in favor of society as a whole and, in particular, the communities in the PA surroundings.
This forum of permanent debates includes representatives from the federal government agencies, such as ICMBio; from the local governments in the municipal districts of the PA surroundings; from non-governmental organizations, such as the unions of rural producers and fishermen; and from the universities in Rondonia.
“All actors interact and this strengthens the relationship of the communities with the biological reserve”, states Vilton Sanchotene Pinto. He says that the members of the Council underwent training to fulfill their roles in an efficient way. They also prepared lists of locations where each one of them would give speaches to raise people’s awareness about the relevance of environmental preservation.
“In those speeches, we talked about the relation between the forest and the rainfall, as well as with the infernal heat experienced in some Rondonia cities where deforestation is very large. The fishermen would hide their fishing equipment and we called them for recycling, to understand the importance of not fishing in an indiscriminate way”, said Vilton Sanchotene Pinto.
ICMBio used to be seen as an oppressor by the communities. Today ICMBio is a partner in projects with an ecological view. Council members from the surroundings are consulted on every Arpa investments in the biological reserve.
Jaru Biological Reserve creation process, together with the removal of invaders and cattle from the area, annoyed dwellers in the small towns and in the agrarian reform settlements located in that region. It took a lot of work to make them understand the benefits of nature conservation in their neighborhood.
One of the main characters for changing local mentality was the Vale do Anari municipal secretary for the Environment, Zequiel Santos, who represents the local executive government in the PA Advisory Council.
Vale do Anari has 9,200 people and it is located on the margins of the Machado River, in front of the Jaru Biological Reserve. Zequiel is passionate about this little town and by the ecological cause. He is a historian and is presently doing Ph.D. studies in environmental management. His academic project has to do with the creation of an ecological corridor between Jaru Biological Reserve and a local Extractive Reserve.
“During the process to remove people and cattle, the image of the reserve was damaged in the municipal district. Public agencies, such as ICMBio, caused fear and represented the oppression”, recalled Zequiel Santos.
One of the initiatives to change the situation, according to Zequiel Santos, was the creation, with Arpa funds, of an arboretum with a capacity of 15,000 seedlings per harvest, in the agrarian reform settlement of Palma Arruda. The experience started with 10 families and this number may increase.
“Family farmers were encouraged to recover the degraded areas, grow agriculture-forestry systems, and steward the margins of the creeks outflowing into the Machado River. We talked about environmental education in the schools and about sustainable development in the rural and urban area of the district,” reported Zequil Santos.
He also said that the Council members are consulted and that Arpa is accountable for all the investments made in the Reserve, even regarding the patrol actions. One of the decisions, for instance, was to build the headquarters of the farmers association in the Palma Arruda Settlement. It is now ready and they are just waiting for a telecenter with free access to the internet, through a partnership with the Environment Ministry and the Communications Ministry.
“We are presently creating the Jaru Biological Reserve visual identity; this is a joint activity, which is done including through the use of videoconference. Therefore, people are now part of the reserve and the protected area is no longer seen as an obstacle”, concludes Zequiel dos Santos.
New mentality – The work in Vale do Anari achieved significant results. “No hard feelings were left. We understand the ecological view and today we think differently. We now feel it is a priviledge to live near this reserve and enjoy better climate — the wind that comes from there is a cooler wind”, says Geraldo Ferreira, president of the Palma Arruda Settlement Project Small Producers Association, with 200 members.
His wife, Regina Araújo Ferreira, who is a community leader herself, mentions that the other strategy which was used to approach he women was providing workshops, in order to develop handicraft with native materials, such as the Buriti Palm leaves.
“The course on handicrafts opened the doors for us to give talks. Before that, only the men took part in the meetings; the would always say they had laundry to do and never came to the meetings”, she recalls. “The course taught them how to make lamps and now they want more. They want new courses to learn how to make baskets and sieves.”
The farmer families are also interested in new incentives to trade native seedlings. They plant several tree species, such as rosewood (jacarandá), cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum), tamarind, Brazilian cherry (jatobá), ice-cream bean (ingá), and açaí.
Geraldo says that they were particularly interested in the arboretum after they were taken for a visit to the Reca Project (Joint Venture on Economic Densified Reforestation), which was developed in an agriculture-forestry system in municipal districts in the states of Rondonia and Acre. Reca Project production started 20 years ago and it originated in the need for survival alternatives for farmers just like them, who came from other regions and were settled there by Incra. Today, Reca Project is one of the most successful and acknowledged experiences in production and environmental preservation in Brazil.
Fishing under control
Fishing control was not easy. Fishermen were forced to stop their activity in the places which offered most fish. But they understand it is worth to control.
Fishermen are also members of the Jaru Biological Diversity Advisory Council and they participate in the meetings and decision making. After they became part of this forum of debates, they changed their attittude. They stopped catching species in an indiscriminate way and they understood the need to preserve the ecosystem.
“Without this control, I believe there would be no more fish in the Machado River”, says Manoel Batista Dantas, the president of Z9 Fishermen Association, in the surroundings of the reserve. He estimates that ten years ago the fish stock decreased by 30% , approximately, and it was only after the restrictions were imposed that the stocks began to be restored.
There are approximately 180 professional fishermen and they catch an average of 80 kg per month each. The chief species caught are catfish like pescada, pintado, tambaqui, pacu and jaú.
Before the restrictions imposed after the creation of the biological reserve, fishermen had an area of 280 km available and catching was free along the west boundary of the PA. Today, they can only work on the left bank of the river, i.e. the riverside where the communities are located. They also had to give up their best spot, which was the 18km of rapids, where there is a greater concentration of shoals, in the southernmost part of the reserve, at the outflow of the Azul (blue) Stream, which marks the boundary with the indigenous land.
“Income from fish decreased considerably. Due to deforestion, the Machado waters became muddy. It is important to comply with the rules. This rapids area in the Machado River and the Reserve are the fish nursery. Today fishermen can understand that. Fish are found where there is food for them, and the reserve is important to feed them and allow them to reproduce.”, says Manoel Dantas.
Restrictions to fishing were designed based on the Advisory Council discussions of the matter and also on the legislation, which bans catching during the breeding period (defeso), which lasts four months, from November 15 to March 15. During this period, fishermen receive insurance money from the federal governmental, in order to compensate them for the days off.
Those dates, however, may be changed. Following what has been observed by local fishermen, the Federal University in Rondonia (Unir) develops a project which may change the dates of the non-fishing period. Studies made with Arpa funds will produce a diagnosis about the aquatic and terrestrian environments in this reserve.
“Fishing stops in November, and yet in September some catfish species — such as tucunaré, pescada, piau, and pacu — have already hatched. We can see that during fish cleaning, we can see they are filled with eggs”, explains Manoel Dantas.
The research leader, Rinaldo Ribeiro Filho, who is a professor in Unir’s Fishing Engineering Department, explains that “perhaps the non-fishing season (due to procriation) is incorrectly chosen, since fishing ordering in Rondonia is being done based on other states”.
Rinaldo Filho reports that the research is now in its sixth month of collection and it will diagnose the species living in that place, what they feed on and their reproduction areas. It will also analyze the quality of the water through the use of computerized plumb lines, and it will observe the vegetation in the riparian forests (along the water courses). The work will be implemented in two years and the first results are due in 2012.