Marcos Bauch* explains USAID’s regional program in the Amazon

The Amazon Forest embraces an area that is almost equal to the continental United States and covers about 40% of the South American continent. It represents more than half of the remaining tropical forests on the planet. The Amazon is the biggest and most biodiverse tropical forest in the world, with roughly 390 billion single trees divided into 16,000 species. The basin spreads through five countries and 60% of the Amazon is in Brazilian territory. These countries have different approaches when dealing and living with what is the biggest continuous length of tropical forest in the world.

USAID has local offices and works regionally to unify the impacts and goals of its projects. It offers a coordinated response to the challenges faced by the Amazon Forest in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guiana, Peru, and Suriname.

USAID’s regional headquarters, based in Lima, Peru, has a portfolio of projects of around US$70 million dollars spent in a range of diverse and important themes such as non-regulated fishing in the Pacific Ocean, supporting Amazon Indigenous Peoples, and the use of tools and geospatial data for state and national forest management. It also seeks sustainable and lasting solutions for artisanal mining and the management and control of fire.

The South America Regional Program (SAR) has Country Coordinators, in each of the six countries under its umbrella. They manage initiatives, projects, and programs both regionally and locally. As one of those coordinators, representing Brazil at SAR, I work with the other coordinators and help regional managers understand the specificities, sensibilities, and unique facets of Brazil. These insights can aid and influence the projects implemented here.

The coordinator position is highly strategic and important. They bring deep national knowledge. The Regional Program does not have the means to predict and calculate the developments these projects have. Nor would it find ideal combinations and synergies with the current bilateral projects in each country - which could lead to a waste of time and precious resources.

Once the communication between the regional office and the Missions gets facilitated and streamlined there is room for more contributions and for a dynamic, coordinated flow of information. This is a benefit due to the work of effective SAR representatives.

A good example is the Brazil Forest Management and Fire Prevention Program, which is being implemented by the U.S Forest Service in partnership with Brazilian government institutions, and which is an extension of the same program at a regional level.

This program has specific activities for Brazil, such as the development of socio biodiversity value chains. The program also conducts fire management in protected areas under the Partnership for the Conservation of the Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB). The project benefits from its regional coverage by promoting the exchange of knowledge and technology between countries while standardizing methodologies and terminologies for effective collaboration between several national teams.

In short, a healthy, resilient, and valued Amazon basin, one that guarantees human well-being and protects our global climate can only be achieved with a mix of local and regional focuses. In order to benefit everyone involved directly or indirectly our projects must consider and collaborate with strategic local activities, but keep the Amazon-wide aspect in mind.

*Marcos Bauch is Brazil’s coordinator for USAID’s program in South America.