Partnerships were the central theme of ICMBio’s third national “best practices seminar” for the Protected Areas management

The Chico Mendes Institute of Biodiversity (ICMBio) held its 3rd National Seminar on Best Practices in the Management of Protected Areas November 27 to 29 bringing to a close the celebrations of ICMBio's 10th anniversary. The Seminar also represented ICMBio’s first hosting of an international seminar for Protected Areas Best Practices, demonstrating Brazil’s growing leadership in this area and a great potential for future US-Brazil led trilateral cooperation.

The seminar was supported by USAID, through the US Forest Service, as well as a consortium of other partners active in the Protected Area management in Brazil and joined some 300 partners and managers to share experiences and best practices in Protected Areas management and its many elements, which potential of replication. This year’s central theme was partnerships and how a diverse range of different ones with all sectors of the society are important for the management of the 324 Protected Areas in Brazil.

The conference coordinators selected 46 best practices from Federal and State protected areas to present and discuss during the course of the conference. In addition, international participants from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Spain, Colombia and the United States, also brought examples from their countries to share with park managers and partners across Brazil, enriching the discussion and international relationships that recognize Brazil’s global importance in relation to biodiversity conservation.

In his keynote opening the Minister of Environment, Jose Sarney Filho, emphasized the complexity, maintenance and management of these national assets and the importance of sharing positive experiences, challenging all participants to think collectively on solutions. Anna Toness, USAID Brazil’s Director of Environment, highlighted the potential that the Amazon region and protected areas have to meet both conservation goals as well as economic development, stating that “protected areas in remote areas are often the source of sustainable rural economic growth.”

According to the ICMBio’s President, Ricardo Soavinski, the agency needs “to get even closer to the society.” A major theme during the seminar was the importance of tourism, outreach, recreation and other public uses, as well as increasing volunteering among Brazilians, in protected areas management and maintenance, education and guiding. Other key themes included: governance, sustainable financing, inter-institutional relationships and contracts, community relations and community-based natural resource management and tourism, sustainable livelihoods and sustainable value chain development.

Local community members living in protected areas had a chance to share and discuss their role in sustainable protected areas management and articulate a call to action for local communities. Irismar Duarte, a community leader in Ituxi Extractive Reserve in the Amazonas State said, “participating in the national discussions was interesting and I had the chance to explain that we need more people able to build up relationships and trust, locally. We have been exploited and abandoned in the past. Saying that now it is different is not enough”.

More than 45 best practices involving some 800 partners from government, private sector and civil society were discussed and one of the main conclusions was that many best practices can be adapted and replicated, but each protected area is unique and diverse and must look to adapting these based on local context, while also creating its own solutions and partnerships. Despite severe budget cuts to key government agencies, partnerships have the power to advance Brazilian protected areas’ management and that conferences like this are critical to meet, share, and strengthened these joint efforts.