March 8: Double Celebration for Carina, an Indigenous Woman Living in the Amazon

Carina Cinta Larga was born 31 years ago on March 8, International Women's Day. Her family lived in the Roosevelt Indigenous Reserve, in the heart of the Amazon, and relied mostly on hunting for subsistence, rather than agriculture. This year, a date that marks the worldwide struggle for women's empowerment and equal rights will have yet another important meaning for Carina.

In addition to her birthday, Carina will be joining other women in her village to celebrate their success in reintroducing subsistence agriculture during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are mothers, so we know that our children need food, and we are concerned about their future. When isolation measures were introduced, everything became more difficult. So, we decided to get together and start planting our own food,” said Carina.

However, for the project to take off, they had to overcome many obstacles, including local resistance. “Because we are women, local men didn't believe we could do it. They said it wouldn't work, and we would fail. But we helped each other, and the result is impressive. The project has changed the way we think,” she added happily.

How it all began – In October 2020, COVID-10 isolation measures were still in place in several Amazon states. Women from the Roosevelt Indigenous Land in Rondônia, who had already formed a women’s group a year before, decided to explore other ways to get the resources they needed. They decided to resume planting crops such as corn, yams, taro and cassava, which are part of the Cinta Largas’ traditional diet.

Though the Communities and Territorial Governance Initiative (ICGT-FT) PCAB was instrumental in this process by putting them in touch with Fundo Casa Socioambiental, a philanthropic fund. The ICGT-FT is run by Forest Trends, PCAB’s implementing partner, which operates at the Roosevelt Reserve through the Nossa Floresta Nossa Casa project (Our Forest, Our Home).

With the help of Forest Trends consultant Tatiana Tintino, the Cinta Larga Women's Group obtained financial support from Fundo Casa to purchase garden tools, seeds and seedlings. They also became eligible for COVID-19 emergency support, including food baskets and personal hygiene items.

“All inputs were bought with funds provided by Fundo Casa. We also relied on our partnership with AGIR (Rondônia Indigenous Warriors Association) to mediate the transfers, and FUNAI helped us to get everything delivered to their land,” said Tatiana. 

The goal of Nossa Floresta Nossa Casa, a PCAB-supported program, is to develop indigenous socio biodiversity value chains in the Amazon, promoting income generation, conservation and sustainable land use opportunities in a total area of about 1.5 million hectares.

In addition to traditional crops, Roosevelt women also decided to plant rice. “We bought rice seeds from the Arara indigenous group. By doing this, we also supported that community, boosted local production, and promoted cooperation among different ethnic groups,” added Tatiana.

In the beginning, only 39 women were involved – now, they are more than 70. A little over four months later, some of them are already reaping the fruits of their work.

According to Carina, some indigenous women managed to sell a small part of their harvest. “Traditional farming had nearly disappeared among our people. We have managed to bring it back, and now we can pass it on to our children,” added Carina, a mother of three.

She said that they are now considering resuming another tradition that had been abandoned in their village: the Harvest Festival, an event in which the whole community gathers to celebrate their success with dancing and other traditional festivities.

“Prejudice will always be there because we are women, or because we are indigenous. But we need to be strong to overcome these barriers, and never give up on our dreams,” completed Carina.