INTERNATIONAL DAY OF BIODIVERSITY 2010
 

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Brazil: Nature protection for gastro-diversity

Announcement

Action Day in the Cerrado

Zoos on the Move

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Announcement

Original announcement of the event on this website (April 2010)


For the GEO article in Portuguese language, please go to the downloads section.


Action Day in the Cerrado

The Brazilian Cerrado is topographically as flat as an African savannah. Its vegetation, quite monotonous in many stretches during autumn and winter - from May to August - lacks any exuberance in form or colour, being predominantly green, pinpointed here and there by some yellow specks from brushwood and medium-sized trees.


Animals rarely appear in these drier areas, which might be one of the reasons why its rich biodiversity was never really recognized. This is exactly the reason why GEO Brazil chose the area for an Action Day for Biodiversity on the 22nd of May.


The Cerrado is Brazil’s second largest biome, covering about 23% of the national territory. It includes 10000 plant and more than 300000 animal species. It is widely believed that one single hectare might harbour up to 400 different plant species and, among the 195 native mammals, at least 18 are endemic species. Tragically, 21000 square kilometres habitat of theses life forms are lost each year. This devastation is transforming the remaining land extension into one of the 25 top priority conservation areas of the world.


However, a general outcry by all public and private initiatives seems not to suffice to protect this area. Compared to the efforts made to preserve what is left from the Atlantic Forest, third in the ranking of land occupation (and with only half the Cerrado’s dimensions), the work to protect the Cerrado is yet tenuous and imperceptible. However there are some successful initiatives. These are invariably linked with local communities and their traditional knowledge. The initiatives have indeed helped to contain the advance of large-scale cattle breeding and destructive agricultural monocultures. The communities are formed by uncountable so-called quilombolas, the common designation for descendants of former runaway Negro slaves, which used to take refuge in small settlements called quilombos (the term is derived from the Kimbundu word kilombo) and familial farmers.


The Cerrado needs its vital man–nature interaction, especially in view of its huge (and scarcely studied) economical biodiversity potential. This interactive existence has flourished for generations through very primitive and efficient sustainable exploitation techniques, which many universities and research institutes have already recognized as being ideal for small properties tenancy. They include guided management, small-scale farming and extraction, the use of natural defence and organic gardening, as well as taking advantage of each native plant forms seasonality.


Colônia I in Padre Bernardo

One example of such small-scale farming and extraction activity is the Colônia I, in Padre Bernardo, a piece of land, in the State of Goiás in the Brazilian Midwest. This land is somewhat like a familial farming settlement, it was demarcated through the National Agrarian Reform Plan in 1996. According to João Batista, the local former communist leader, “all you have to do is let nature take its course and she will recover slowly”. He was referring to Colônia’s new and diversified plant coverage, which originated from the subtle man–nature interaction, guided by conservationist tradition. The present leader and sexagenarian farmer Teobaldo Rocha prides himself while defending the role of the settlers there: “We are the ones who tell them (the Agrarian Reform politicians) what can be preserved around here.”


Today, the Colônia I is home to 24 traditionally agricultural families, established on several small holdings. The area of 600 hectares is now destined exclusively for extraction and community farming, instead of the former large-scale cattle breeding, which has degraded the soil through successive slash and burn activities and resulted in the spread of just a few species of grass. GEO Action Day activities have highlighted the improved conditions of the formerly degraded cattle ranch, which today has a third of its extension, 200 hectares, under permanent conservation. Furthermore, on the small agricultural plots, typical and native species are slowly reclaiming their vital space under the care of the settlers who live from their extraction products and their small organic gardens, which help to enrich and restore the soil.


Getting a Taste of the Cerrado

For one morning, about 50 people (farmers, scientists, government and NGO representatives, as well as university students) participated in a march, on which in its first 100 meters and in just a few minutes, they detected almost 50 different typical Cerrado plant species. Some of these were completely unknown to many of the invitees, who, curiously enough, came from the capital city of Brasília, just 70 kilometres away. All in all, approximately 100 plants (species and subtypes) were identified during the march - not bad at all for an area of just 17.5 hectares within the visited property. Some of the edible plants were served up at a banquet hosted by the “Associação Sabor do Cerrado” (“Cerrado’s Taste Association”), formed by the women of Colônia I. It is an enterprise which promotes buffets with food typical of the area – a true lesson in socio-biodiversity and sustainable economy. The buffet preceded an extensive debate about bioconservation and practical utilization of Cerrado products. This eco-gastronomic effort is a valuable option to improve the Cerrado women’s income, which is so important to aggregate value to their otherwise low scale of production.


The buffet offered a taste of “araticum” (Annona crassiflora), a fruit with a thick skin and seeds enveloped by a viscous pulp, commonly used (and also served) as ice-cream; “pequi”, also called "souari nut" (Caryocar brasiliense), is small and spicy and used in liqueurs, compotes and rice seasoning, and “jatobá” or “Brazilian copal” (Hymenaea courbaril), which renders a rich flour used to enrich purees and other specialties.


All of these foods have a very distinct taste - exotic to the European palate and even to the cosmopolitan Brazilians of the southeast. They were served as the main ingredients of three different dishes and a terrific dessert (a petit gateau) adapted to the Brazilian Cerrado’s kitchen, with araticum ice cream and babaçu cake (Orbignya speciosa), improved by Marilde Cavalletti, chef of the Convivium Slow Food movement. Marilde met the Colônia’s “girls” at the occasion to help them create some different petit fours for a Christmas basket commercialized by the Central do Cerrado, which not only sells products from the Colônia’s products, but also from 34 other communities. “It’s very good to know that we have a good market opportunity that fits so well the local women’s needs”, says Marilde, referring to the movement. “And it’s also good to know that it helps to maintain a healthy Cerrado biodiversity, making this something special”. The Instituto Sociedade, População e Natureza (ISPN - Society, Population & Nature Institute) supports the settlement and the Central do Cerrado with resources from the Brazilian federal government’s Program for Ecosocial Projects, which has helped Sabor do Cerrado to set up a professional kitchen to improve their business.


Findings and Conclusions

The debate after lunch was headed by ISPN and came to the following conclusions: much more communication is still needed to reproduce the Colônia’s results in other settlements (the settlement itself also has a lot of other needs). Biodiversity has not been the focus of any serious economic discussion. “What a great solution that would be”, says Luis Carrazza, coordinator of Central do Cerrado. He was talking about finding a way to support environmentalists by extending the scope of the project to include visionary and influential business men.


During the march in Padre Bernardo, the invitees also had a chance to view the “lobeira”, or “fruit of wolves” (Solanum lycocarpum), a delicacy for the almost extinct maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) – without these fruits, these wild dogs develop fatal kidney diseases. The site also included varieties of “Bate-caixa” (Palicourea sp.), from the Rubiaceae family – an evergreen shrub, with yellow to orange colored tube flowers, pollinated by hummingbirds. The Rubiaceae family is considered the seventh richest biome of the Cerrado. The genus Palicourea includes approximately 250 species of shrubs and small trees, which are normally found in the tropics. During the visit, it was not possible to see its multicolored flowers, which attract so many hummingbirds in these latitudes. The Montanoa bipinnatifica, also called “Tree Chrysanthemum” or “Daisy Tree”, illuminated the site with a quite different hue of bright yellow.


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Zoos on the Move

On May 22nd, many more activities were under way to promote biodiversity: 15 zoos were demonstrating the Brazilian fauna by educative games and competitions, where masks representing Brazilian animal species were mounted by thousands of children. In Manaus, e.g. over 300 children took part in guided monitoring trips through the Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico Adolpho Ducke) in the outskirts of the capital of the Amazonas State. Especially children from the nearby favelas (squatter urbanizations) together with scientists were discovering the richness of the huge reserve. In the country's capital Brasilia the Zoo of Brasilia signed a partnership agreement with the Frankfurt Zoo (Germany) to foster the exchange of expertise in research and education and to promote the role of Zoos for nature and species conservation in situ. All activitieswere covered by various national media.


A special approach was taken in the largest metropolitan area of South America, São Paulo - in front of the Trianon Park, located outside the São Paulo Museum of Art on Paulista Avenue, the economic heart of the country. This part of the city hosts a beautiful fragment of Atlantic forest. To (re-)discover it people passing by were invited into the park to observe the forest with the help of professors from the University of São Paulo. A hundred people were following this invitation by the NGO "I care".


The activities in Padre Bernardo and the zoo events were a partnership led by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, the German Development Agency GTZ and GEO Brazil, with support from the German Ministries for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).


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Links

Further information


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Downloads

Press_release_German_Embassy_16-2010.pdf

Press release by the German Embassy in Brazil, on the occasion of Biodiversity Action Day 2010 (in Portuguese)

78 K

Description_Brasil_Zoo_Events.pdf

Description and invitation to Action Day in 15 Zoos all over the country, in Portuguese

68 K

Brazil_Biodiversity_October_2010.pdf

GEO coverage of Biodiversity Action Day in Brazil (GEO Brazil, October 2010, in Portuguese)

2.7 M

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Radio

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Video

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Gallery

Participant briefing

Very dry pequizeiro

Healthy araticum

Araticum attacked by insects

Pau-terra

Lobeira

Margaridão

Graminoids

Brinquinho

Canela de ema

Chapeu de couro

Coquinho do cerrado

Coquinho do cerrado

Organic garden

Pequi compote

Chuveirinho

Ready for the buffet

Kitchen activities

"Sabor do cerrado" group

Participant group

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Photos: Ricardo Alcará


Text: Jussara Goyano