Amazon community turns from logging to protecting rain forest

World Today

There a riverside community that may have a solution to break the cycle of endlessly logging the land to make income.

Paulo Cabral visited the site and filed this report.

Roberto Mendonca was born and has lived all his life in a Tumbira Riverside jungle community in the Amazon. At the age of 12 he began logging just like his father did before him. It was dangerous and illegal but for over 20 years cutting down the forest was his way of life and virtually the sole source of income for his community.

“Just a few years ago about 90% of the people in this area were engaged in logging. So, just imagine about 500 people cutting one tree per day for years and years That’s a lot of trees! At the time I didn’t really understand that this was bad All I knew was that I was surviving doing the only thing I knew how to do.”, says Roberto Mendonca at former logger.

Around ten years ago, things began to change after the area was declared a sustainable development reserve. Anti logging surveillance increased and people were encouraged, trained and funded to engage in sustainable activities.

One of those traders is hospitality. Now Roberto is no longer a logger, he runs a restaurant and guesthouse for tourists. Researchers and people from nearby communities are his regular clinets. He also works as a jungle guide.

There are many social and development needs in here in the Amazon Region of Brazil. One strategy to make this development sustainable is to help people here to manage these vast resources for the long run.

In this community meeting organized by the NGO that runs sustainability programs in 16 nature reserves in the state of Amazonas, locals are discussing how to increase their production of timber in a way that doesn’t threaten the survival of the jungle.

“Our strategy is to make forests worth more standing than cut down. That’s our main strategy. People are not stupid. They cut the forest because they see that as a way to improve their livelihoods. And we say ‘well, instead of cutting the forest, let’s make your life better by using more intelligently the resources.”, says Virgiliano Vianna the Superintendent of Sustainable Amazonas Foundation.

There are many needs to be balanced in the Amazon jungle. People are looking for ways to improve their lives but the challenge remains in how to create a better present without threatening the future.