This is the place we will leave as a legacy to our children and grandchildren, so why not take care of it and treat it like it deserves? That’s exactly what Instituto Terra, one of U2GUIDE’s members, does in the wonderful land of Brazil: encouraging the sustainable development of practises that are successfully reforesting the Valley of the River Doce, in the Amazonian Rainforest.
I have talked to Isabella Salton, executive director in this amazing organization. This is what she told me about the way they are helping recover the rainforest and how, even with the smallest things, you are having an impact on the environment :
U2G: Can you explain to our readers which is the main purpose of Instituto Terra?
Isabella: Our main purpose is to encourage ecologically sustainable development by recovering and conserving the forests, by environmental education and the proper use of natural resources. Following this purpose, we have been operating in five areas:
- Environmental education.
- Ecosystem recovery.
- Atlantic forest seedlings.
- Encouragement of sustainable rural development.
- Environmental extension (Olhos D’água - Water springs Program).
U2G: Why is it so important to you to raise awareness about Atlantic Rainforest deforestation?
Isabella: The Atlantic rainforest originally covered over 1.36 million square kilometers of the Brazilian territory. From this total, there is only an 8.5% left.
The population growth and great economic development explain most of this deforestation, which occur since the discovery of Brazil, however what remains now is considered to be one of the most threatened environments in the world.
The Amazon rainforest is the largest reservoir of biodiversity in the world. There are nearly 60 times more "adult" trees in the Amazon rainforest that are human on the planet.
U2G: What are the consequences of this deforestation?
Isabella: The Atlantic forest does so many useful things for the environment, such as protecting the soil from erosion, controlling the water cycle, preventing or reducing the cause of floods, silting and sedimentation…
These kind of great problems compromise the water reservoir to generate energy and supply the industries and even the population that live in this region.
The conservation and recovery of the Atlantic rainforest is a challenge, because the knowledge about its biodiversity is still fragmented and its extension, which corresponds twice the size of France, is under great pressure. The most important thing to do now is to implement effective actions to its conservation.
U2G: Besides from restorating the Atlantic Rainforest, you also carry environmental education in your own Institute- CERA-. What are your objectives when providing environmental education and trainings to all the specialists you work with?
Isabella: We understand that only by education is possible to build a sustainable future. We developed environmental education through projects with qualification of: teachers and students from public and private schools; communities on the Doce river valley area; farmers, native communities, landless movement people and political leadership.
Created in February 2002 to implement the activities of education and research, the CERA – Center of Education and Recovery of the Environment, aims to:
- Spread the technology developed.
- Promote an awareness about the current model of development.
- Prepare agents of transformation towards sustainable development.
U2G: When working on ecosystem restoration (flora, fauna and water), what is the first step to take in order to help increase the diversity of species in the Atlantic Rainforest?
Isabella: The first step is of course awareness. Without full awareness of the human role in nature and its relevance as a transformer agent to good or evil, we can understand that no action will be done.
To enhance the environment with different species, the human being needs to be aware on the matter that these actions benefit us all directly or indirectly, and just then have engagement on preservation.
After all this, we can start the identification of the areas that need to be restored and further activities.
U2G: How do you measure the progress in the actual reforestation effort?
Isabella: It is possible to verify the change personally! Many years ago, it was all pasture… Now, It’s become a forest again. This video can’t show it better!
U2G: Which conditions do you have to select the professionals that work with you? (Researchers, scientists, farmers, volunteers…).
Isabella: Firstly, we take into account the love for the environment and belief in our project. The technical aspects are also vital, but without the spark in the eyes we will hardly maintain a good professional in a NGO... especially in our region, that is very deprived of qualified labor. That is also a hard task!
We have at the institute, agronomists, biologists, administrators, accountants, former students, and eventually researchers and students.
U2G: What is the most ambitious goal you have right now?
Isabella: To restore 300.000 water springs in the Doce River Valley.
The actions in that matter have already been initiated from Program Olhos d’Água , for the protection of the water springs, which is a major goal that requires great support.
It also involves a great work on gathering resources, environmental education and activities with small farmers. There is still a lot of work to do.
U2G: Do you see any link between traveling and the deforestation?
Isabella: Without consciousness, every activity is linked to deforestation.
On that matter, you need to understand that the forests are not just trees, but also the fauna in the region, which makes a network needed for the environmental balance. The tourism (the bad one, the one that’s harmful), can affect the forests to innumerous situations – accidental fire, deforestation to build infrastructures…
Many impacts are impossible to avoid, that is why it’s necessary to go beyond awareness and establish ways to diminish the impact of humans, regardless of where they occur.
U2G: How can our community of travelers be helpful to your projects?
Isabella: There are many ways, being the simplest, through spreading our work on social media to increase visitation at Instituto Terra, buying our products in our virtual store and more efficiently through donations.
The amount obtained is invested in the projects that Instituto Terra develops for the reforestation of the Atlantic Forest, Environmental Education, Applied Scientific Research on the recovery of degraded areas, etc.
U2G: What concrete tips can you give our readers in order to minimise their impact on environment?
Isabella: To contribute to the legacy to the nature and the next generations. To help to make the difference in the world and to work for an objective that is to transform our reality! Be part of this change!