Brazil is at the forefront of the BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—and is home to a valuable environment serving a global population. The largest remaining area of tropical forest in the world measures just over 410 million Brazilian hectares, which are under immediate threat. Despite a hike in deforestation due to an increase in soy and beef consumption, Brazilian President Michel Temer has announced a 44 percent slash to the federal science budget, which has scientists concerned on multiple fronts—including the fate of the country’s rainforests; the cuts include removing many safeguards to prevent deforestation, such as monitoring sensitive biomes and investigating illegal logging and burning operations. The announcement comes at a time when the need for environmental monitoring is considered more urgent than ever before. After two decades of forward movement, the fear is rolling back Brazil’s achievements, which include fighting deforestation, preserving indigenous lands, and establishing conservation areas.
However, an ever-growing network of individuals, communities, and organizations are taking action on multiple fronts to protect it. Among them is Gabriel Ribenboim, consultant on Innovation for Sustainable Development at Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS). He describes the nonprofit’s mission as promoting sustainable involvement, driving environmental conservation, and improving the quality of life for communities and users of protected areas in the state of Amazonas, which is covered almost entirely by the Amazon rainforest.
Launched in 2008, FAS set out to implement an environmental stewardship public policy, which Ribenboim explains is a mechanism for paying the local communities that serve 16 protected areas comprising 10 million hectares (home to 40,000 people). “They are the guardians of the forest,” he says, noting that their stewardship enables ecosystem services to benefit both the local peoples and the world. Once they join the program, participants sign an agreement stating they will not increase deforestation in their area, and FAS supports them with new technologies and methods for increasing productivity under a sustainable management system—applied to both plantation farming and logging.
Tied to this monthly cash payment is the idea of sustainable involvement, which refers to a set of participatory processes focused on strengthening relations between local communities and local ecosystems by recognizing and expanding social connections and commitments—cultural, economic, spiritual, and ecological—in order to establish sustainability on all fronts. “There is no way of doing such things without involving local communities and supporting and empowering them,” says Ribenboim, adding that all FAS programs are focused on bringing poor and marginalized people to the table rather than “putting them on the menu.”