Investing in quilombola culture to fight climate change

Project will map the role of traditional communities in tackling climate change

The Carmo do Maruanum quilombola community is located about 70 kilometers from Macapá, state capital of Amapá, and can only be reached by boat on the Maruanum River. Community children travel to school using the riverways. The river has become increasingly low at times of drought, which makes the life of local residents very difficult. 

“With the drought, more trees are dying and falling into the river, making it difficult for boats to go through. This direct impact of climate change has changed our life in the past ten years. Things get better in the winter, when the river rises," says Lavousier Ferreira Vitor, a local resident.

Vitor was one of the local youths to participate in the pilot project developed in three quilombola communities — two in Amapá and one in Goiás. The goal was to map farming practices with low GHG emissions and the preservation of carbon stocks in order to highlight the contribution of these communities to climate change mitigation and adaptation. The work was based on the methodology developed during the New Technologies and Sharing Worlds programs, conducted under the Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB). 

Now, under a project named “Communities, Data, and Action on Climate Change — Reducing barriers to access”, developed in partnership with Google Earth Outreach and the Amazon Conservation Team (ECAM), and with support from USAID, other quilombola communities will engage in socioenvironmental mapping. 

“The idea is to show that the quilombola way of life, especially with regard to food production, contributes to food security while preserving the forest. They have a tradition of low-carbon family farming, growing manioc, vegetables, and fruits, and using techniques that do not contribute to the devastation of ecosystems,” says Muryel Arantes, project coordinator at ECAM.

Community gardens are usually created inside the forest, in a practice known as agroforestry. They are an important source of organic food for urban centers, while protecting the standing forest. 

The quilombolas are descendants of Africans who were forcibly brought to Brazil. Many escaped from where they were kept as slaves and created spaces of resistance to preserve their way of life. These places became known as quilombos. However, they still suffer from lack of infrastructure and visibility.

Black History Month is celebrated in February, especially in the United States and Canada, to mark and celebrate the political and cultural contribution of Black people to society (read more about it here and here).

In Brazil, the National Black Consciousness Day is celebrated on November 20, the day when Zumbi dos Palmares, the last leader of the Palmares Quilombo, was murdered in 1695. This month is a national reference for activities that inspire the struggle and resistance of Black people.

Community participation — During the pilot project, the two quilombola communities in Amapá used Google mapping tools to collect and analyze data. They identified more than 80,000 tons of carbon stock under their protection. One of them was the Ground application, which is also being used in TerraBioa tool developed to assess the impact of private sector activities on biodiversity. The aim is to simplify data collection processes and democratize communities' access to action against climate change.

The lessons learned from the pilot will be incorporated to extend the project to other communities participating in the New Technologies and Sharing Worlds programs. The programs lasted for nearly 15 years, and benefited more than 200 traditional communities, including quilombolas and Indigenous peoples in the nine states that form the Legal Amazon. They are the result of a partnership between USAID/Brazil, the Amazon Conservation Team (ECAM), CONAQ, Google Earth Outreach, Imaflora, and Natura.

The actions assisted communities in data analysis, focusing on the strategic use of information to support the demands identified by the communities. They focused in the areas of health, infrastructure, and food safety, among others. The program objectives included developing a format that could be adaptable to different realities and communities in the Amazon. The studies supported communities in their search for autonomy and sustainable development.