Seminar brings together Participatory Biodiversity Monitoring stakeholders

“I can say I was born a monitor because I found out that my great grandfather, my grandfather and my father had been monitors – and today we still have the same rubber tree that my great-grandfather used to tap almost 200 years ago," says Raimundo Nonato, from the Cazumbá-Iracema Extractive Reserve. He was one of the speakers at the 2nd Learning and Knowledge Collective Construction Seminar. The event, which took place from June 4 to 6 and brought together about 100 people in Brasilia, aimed to assess the results of the Participatory Biodiversity Monitoring Project. This PCAB-supported initiative is also part of Monitora – the Government of Brazil’s national biodiversity monitoring program.

The objective of the seminar was to promote and strengthen communication among the different stakeholders involved in biodiversity monitoring, so as to identify best practices and promote the incorporation of Monitora's results and processes by other ICMBio areas, communities and partners.

“Another of our priorities for this second seminar is to expand the participation of community monitors, and this exchange between them is very important. We are building this from a multitude of different perspectives. All these hands together will help us share this monitoring information to ensure it is useful. It can then be geared toward supporting decision-making in the areas of conservation, management, and the use of natural resources," explained Cristina Tófoli, project coordinator at the Ecological Research Institute (IPÊ). “By the end of this event, we want to have clearly defined guidelines on how to do it.”

The first day focused on a general assessment of the program. Participants discussed the knowledge gatherings – feedback sessions and data discussions with the communities – held between November 2018 and May 2019. There was much praise, but also several areas for improvement, regarding, for instance, the materials used and the time for community preparation.

The focus of the second day was on how to integrate monitoring to the other activities developed by ICMBio, including the relevance of monitoring for value chain management, as well as public use. “The goal of monitoring is to find out whether what we are doing is actually working; it is therefore in everybody's interest. What we need now is to improve our understanding of the demands of other areas," said ICMBio's General Coordinator for Biodiversity Research and Monitoring, Katia Torres Ribeiro.

The second edition of the book " Participatory Biodiversity Monitoring: Evolving Knowledge", produced by IPÊ and gathering BPM experiences between 2013 and 2017, was also launched on the occasion.


Monitors' Key Role

The rest of the seminar focused on the experiences of the monitors, who had an opportunity to share their stories and discuss how to build on the project. Under the IPÊ program, monitors are residents of Conservation Units (protected areas) or communities around them.

“You have no idea how important it is for communities themselves to lead on monitoring activities," said Manuel Cunha, manager and resident of the Médio Juruá Extractive Reserve. According to him, it is essential for the communities to participate in the management and monitoring of their regions – not only to preserve them, but also to better understand different phenomena affecting them. He recalled a year in which the pirarucu, a fish that used to abound in his region, did not reproduce in great quantity. “We knew we had fewer young ones because they had not reproduced, but we needed the researchers' help to find out why those ‘schmucks’ did not want to mate that year," he joked.

Monitors from other conservation units agreed. Raimunda Soares is the only female monitor from her community at the Tapajós Arapiuns Extractive Reserve. She had to overcome a lot of prejudice when she went into the forest with the other monitors, but now feels accomplished. “Being a monitor means understanding what exists where we live, in the forest. I feel I am now the happiest person in the world. I never thought this would be so important to me. I have found out how valuable I am”.

Cléa dos Santos, from the Último Quilombo community, in the Trombetas Biological Reserve, also highlighted the importance of the exchanges between researchers and technicians: “We knew very little, but when someone comes here to teach us more, we put it together with what we already have, and bam, we are now grinning from ear to ear! We love to be valued, of course – who doesn't? Monitoring is important to the community. It is not as when someone says, ‘The researchers are here!’ because we know they will leave soon. We are here to stay.”