Less than one tenth of one of the richest bio-diverse tropical forests in the Western Hemisphere remains: The Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil. This is one of the worlds 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 decade of 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: increase the land cultivated – cut down the forest. Iracambi aims to confront this threat by making 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.

Since all of the Serra do Brigadeiro is under pressure from various threats – intensification of agriculture, mining, urban expansion, industrial development – the Park authorities have defined a buffer zone around the park in which they attempt to restrain developments which might have impacts on the conservation of the park itself. As part of this policy, the state encourages the creation of private nature reserves, which, under Brazilian law, are given the full legal protection of a publicly owned conservation unit.

Iracambi’s answer is a project called Forest Futures. The aim of Forest Futures is to transform degraded lands to their former beauty and fertility so that the once mighty rainforest can flourish once again. The scheme uses public or corporate donations to enable Iracambi to purchase patches of redundant forest adjacent to areas of protected forest. Iracambi then work to reforest them and place them under permanent protection, creating a new forest reserve to complement the existing Iracambi reserve. The project has an enormous amount of potential, but sadly, the project has still not properly worked to date. And the main reason is communications.

Iracambi needs help packaging the Forest Futures scheme and figuring out how to sell it and how to get people to buy into it. It is not working, and we need to find out why. We need to help Iracambi think about how a scheme like this can work, and learn from similar ones out there that do, such as child and animal sponsorship NGOs, and schemes that increase reforestation. Therefore, we need to find a way to get individuals and/or companies and/or schools to buy plots of land as a way to protect the rainforest. We need to find an effective conservation tool that is attractive to people, easily manageable by Iracambi staff and helps generate money for the NGO.