Nossa Floresta, Nossa Casa maps indigenous economy within Tupi Conservation Mosaic

Project aims to complete production chain diagnosis for 14 groups in 8 indigenous lands

Nine months after launching its activities, the Nossa Floresta, Nossa Casa (Our Forest, Our Home) project has completed its wider analysis of the territories inhabited by 14 indigenous peoples within the Tupi Conservation Mosaic. Their diagnostic efforts can now shift focus toward value chains, in general, and productive groups.

 Nossa Floresta, Nossa Casa aims at improving local arrangements and expanding the potential for agroforestry management of native cocoa production, in addition to Brazil nuts, açaí and handicrafts – which are already produced in the eight indigenous lands covered by the project in the states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso. Cocoa seems to present significant potential in all these territories.

Nossa Floresta, Nossa Casa is coordinated by the Communities and Territorial Governance Initiative (ICGT-FT) run by Forest Trends, a PCAB implementing partner. Its goal is to develop indigenous socio-biodiversity chains in the Brazilian Amazon, promoting opportunities for income generation, conservation and sustainable land use in an area of about 1.5 million hectares.

As of early March this year, the project delivered 23 workshops focusing on developing joint actions with community leaders, during which participants signed commitment letters. There were also 21 meetings to further assess the economic opportunities of the territories. This first diagnostic stage also served to catalog samples of indigenous handicrafts and utensils, as well as survey inputs, tools and equipment, among other activities.

During the indigenous territories Economic Dynamics Assessment stage, it was possible, for example, to put together a seasonal production calendar, map the areas for forestry and agroforestry production, record the values of all products sold and all organizations involved, in addition to identifying the main production priorities for 2020.

Now, a new round of participatory workshops will  focus on developing the planning work in more detail. This stage, however, has been temporarily put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led many Brazilian municipalities to impose social isolation measures as a way to prevent the spread of the virus.

Indigenous people are more vulnerable to this type of contamination, so they must remain isolated in their villages. “We are working from home, doing what can be done remotely. We initially expected to return in May, but now it seems we will only be able to resume our activities in the second half of the year. We are all waiting,” said Fábio Wesley de Melo, a Forest Trends Technical Assistant.

According to him, Nossa Floresta, Nossa Casa's work is based on three main pillars: strengthening indigenous economic  initiatives, supporting territorial governance, and identifying trading partners in differentiated markets. He believes that the diagnosis process was important to confirm the demands of all groups, in addition to understanding and recording their involvement.

Income generation – The diagnostic stage also mapped those programs already in place in indigenous lands that are considered more prosperous. This is the case of açaí, which was found to already benefit from sustainable forest management in the Kwazá indigenous lands of Rio São Pedro, Igarapé Lourdes and Rio Branco. Previously, production required cutting and felling the trees, but now producers climb on the trees to collect fruit bunches without felling the plants.

The production of Brazil nuts in natura is also considered an important extractive activity for sustainable forest management, and one of those that most contribute to income generation. In addition, Brazil nut production involves elders, adults, and young people, who, during the harvest, spend days in the forest gathering, washing and storing their crops for sale.

In the Zoró indigenous land (in the state of Mato Grosso), one of the areas covered by Nossa Floresta, Nossa Casa, the community has engaged in Brazil nut management and commercialization activities for many years now.

The Vale do Amanhecer Farmers' Cooperative (Coopavam), working together with Partnership for Forests (P4F) and ICGT-FT, focuses its activities on local production in indigenous lands. In the last harvest (2019/2020), Coopavam managed to trade fresh Brazil nuts at R$ 6.00 per kilogram, while the average in the region is R$ 2.00.

According to Paulo César Nunes, Coopavam's Project Coordinator, the cooperative works in partnership with six ethnic groups in four indigenous lands. “In addition to initiatives aimed at ensuring sustainability, we work with organic certification and seek to attract partners and supporters,” added Nunes.

Another example that has been mapped is that of handicrafts, which is strategic for strengthening women's organizations and promoting gender equality in territorial organizations. The main difficulties, however, lie in the area of commercialization. They are slowly being overcome through important partnerships supported by the project, such as the one between the Rondônia Indigenous Warriors Association (AGIR) and the company TUCUM.