Less than one tenth of one of the richest bio-diverse tropical forests in the Western Hemisphere remains: the Atlantic rainforest, an ecosystem once covered an area as great as the whole of California, Nevada and Arizona together, but now covers an area less than South Carolina. 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. Smallholders privately own most of the forest and they face the same challenges as the rest of the community they live in: how can they make a living with what they have, while conserving our globally important biodiversity?
Iracambi have a number of projects on the table right now that have been designed to bring in income whilst saving the forest. One of the projects, forest futures, transforms 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 works to reforest them and place them under permanent protection, creating a new forest reserve to complement the existing Iracambi reserve.
Iracambi have asked Elizabeth Barr to join their team for a month to help them understand the long-term viability of forest futures, and other similar projects, with a view to find sustainable income streams for the Organisation. They need to assure the long term sustainability of the organisation with effective conservation tools that will be attractive to people, easily manageable by Iracambi staff and help generate money for the NGO.