Less than one tenth of one of the richest bio-diverse tropical forests in the Western Hemisphere remains: the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. This is one of the world’s most threatened biomes, and it once covered a million and a half sq km – an area about three times the size of France. Today it covers less than 120,000 sq km (the size of the State of Louisiana). It is still being cut: in the 1990s an area the size of Delaware was cut. The reason is that smallholder farmers are pushed by economic necessity to maintain their income levels in the only way they know: to increase their area of cultivable land they cut the forest. Iracambi aims to confront this threat by working with the community to make the conservation of the forest more attractive than its destruction.

Iracambi is located in the Serra do Brigadeiro, in the highly endangered Atlantic Forest area of Minas Gerais. Their vision is to see thriving communities living sustainably in a thriving landscape, and everything that they do is directed towards maintaining a healthy balance between the needs of their forest environment and the people who live in it.

The main source of income which allows Iracambi to support its important research and conservation work is the volunteer program. Through that, an average of eighty to a hundred international students come to Iracambi every year, lending their skills and passion to work in their program areas of ecological restoration and community education, as well as many of the other tasks involved in running a non profit: marketing, fundraising, filming, photography, monitoring forests, flora and fauna, teaching English in the local schools, site maintenance, graphic design, clearing forest trails, collecting data for the GIS, helping catalogue medicinal plants, the list is endless.

Currently Iracambi volunteers are attracted both through word of mouth and also through the use of online platforms that connect volunteers with projects. That has worked well – everyone who volunteers at Iracambi leaves deeply impacted by their experiences, and are happy to share the word with their networks, but this could be leveraged further, and new approaches need to be undertaken.

This TIE project will help Iracambi revamp the volunteer program’s communications strategy, taking it to the next level and attracting more attention, more people and more funding to support the important work performed by the organisation.

Natalie Galbraith from Octopus Investments is heading to Brazil in January 2020 to carry out this project with Iracambi. Stay tuned for updates!