Médio Juruá Territory: a new path toward strengthening traditional communities

  • “We wish to stay in our community in Médio Juruá and fight for projects that improve local life. Our focus is on keeping young people here, aware of their role and the history we are yet to write.” César Henrique Cunha, volunteer environmental officer  in the São Raimundo community (Carauari)
  • “The type of organization that we have at Médio Juruá is very positive. Before, women only acted behind the scenes in the pirarucu management process. This is changing now. We are empowering them and providing financial autonomy." Quilvilene Figueiredo da Cunha, who works in the sustainable management process of wild pirarucu in the São Raimundo community
  • “In the past, we lived in the dark and were unable to continue our activities in the night. Now we have light all night long, and everything is bright.” Francisca Figueiredo, resident of the Toari community, one of those who benefited from the installation of an alternative public lighting system

These statements are from residents of communities in the Médio Juruá region in the Amazonas State, and reflect the reality they have experienced in recent years. The Médio Juruá is of extreme ecological importance due to its vast continuous area of conserved tropical forest, in addition to its history of promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and care for local biodiversity. These communities are located in the municipality of Carauari in the southwest of the state of Amazonas, 1,676 km from Manaus by river.

Over the past three years, the area has been the focus of the Médio Juruá Territory Program (PTMJ), which will publish its results in April. The PTMJ involved a wide base of local actors and external partners in a participatory and collaborative effort aimed to develop and implement projects focused on conservation biodiversity and improving the quality of life of local populations.

With the support of USAID/Brazil (under the Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity – PCAB), Natura and Coca-Cola, the program was coordinated by SITAWI together with members of the Médio Juruá Territory Forum. For its implementation, it counted on the support and engagement of local associations, such as ASPROC, ASMAMJ, AMECSARA, FAS, and AMARU.

General impact results include providing socioeconomic benefits to more than 2,500 local residents, and contributing to enhancing the organizational management of four local associations. The PTMJ has also helped to conserve more than 919 thousand hectares, improving the territorial management of protected areas and surrounding communities, and showing that it is possible to generate a positive socioenvironmental impact, involving communities, associations, NGOs, government authorities, and companies.

"USAID believes that working in partnership and engaging with the private sector are important steps toward promoting sustainable development, conservation of biological resources, and the well-being of communities in the Amazon. The PTMJ is a successful example of how collaboration and the combination of resources, knowledge, and technologies have contributed to consolidating an integrated, sustainable, and effective territorial management model", says Alex Araújo, environmental project manager at USAID/Brasil. 

PTMJ local coordinator Felipe Pires, from SITAWI, considers that the initiative was successful in this stage that ended in January 2021, and points out that the entire process was developed in a collaborative and participatory way. “The strengthening of the Médio Juruá Territory Forum, where various local actors engage with each other, is a legacy that enables the development of a number of other actions, such as improving management, increasing local governance, and empowering women and youth, for example.”

Results – Several projects were implemented under the production chain segment, such as the sustainable management of pirarucu, one of the main economic activities in the region. It involved 28 communities, providing higher income and quality of life to many families.

Another initiative focused on conservation of chelonians and contributed to protecting important turtle species in the Médio Juruá region against poaching and the damaging effects on its ecosystem. The processing of oilseeds, in turn, positively affected 38 communities, expanding and improving their value chain.

Other projects aimed to strengthen local communities, including through electricity supply (most of the region is not connected to the Carauari energy grid, and thus had no more than three hours of energy per day); access to information, with the installation of internet infrastructure; and local empowerment activities, through training and entrepreneurship.

At the end of last year, a study named Climate Change and its Impacts on the Sociobiodiversity of the Juruá River was launched with the objective of investigating the potential impacts of climate change on local ecosystems and on people's life. The study sought to understand the perception of riverine populations and propose strategic solutions.