A Nature and industry in harmony
We have been presented with a huge opportunity: to transform the region of the Doce river. We want to set an example for other places in Brazil and around the world. A place where people can work in agriculture, fishing and tourism in harmony with the environment. In other words, we will support and help to conserve nature while restoring socioeconomic conditions, guaranteeing its recovery and maintenance of its healthy status. This work will require resources, technology and the capacity to organize Renova Foundation’s actions, but also requires the involvement of all people affected and those with a stake in recovering the entire Doce river basin. The main challenge lies in being persistent over time, as this project may take between 10 and 15 years, and to remaining united to understand that each property can play its part in the solution for the whole region.
We are well aware that this desired is shared by many farmers of the region.
João Bigode by Ricardo Correa
We are well aware that this desired is shared by many farmers of the region. “he mudslide hit the best part of my land, where I used to plant sugarcane and other crops, and had some cattle. My home was also destroyed, so it is impossible for me to stay there. I moved five cows so my neighbours could milk them and send it to the dairy processing. It is impossible for these animals to stay on my land. Not even Chumbada, a warrior of a cow who got stuck in the mud and was only rescued after a super humane effort”, remembers João Bosco Gonçalves, 68, commonly known as João Bigode in the region of Paracatu, adjacent to the Gualaxo river. “All I want in the world is to have my land back and live there again. The guys (employees of Renova Foundation) have already told me that I cannot build my home where it used to be because the area is a risky site. They also told me I cannot grow crops on the riverbank because it contravenes environmental legislation. That’s fine by me, I really don’t understand any of this. All I know is how to grow crops”.
The recovery of watercourses and quality of land use are mutually dependent from one another.
This is why we decided to combine all programs helping recover nature into a single front, which we call Land and Water. Needless to say, these programs will be more effective if they are implemented side-by-side. When we consider soil use, we have to think about cleaning out the stream beds and stabilizing the banks of the Gualaxo do Norte and Carmo rivers, recovering the permanent conservation areas across the region up to the mouth of the Doce river, protecting and recovering the springs in general belonging to the raw properties located along the rivers, which need to be regularized in the rural environmental register and an environmental regularization plan. This means giving individual attention to each property, with a view to benefiting the entire region affected.
The area nearest to the collapse is where the heaviest work is taking place to remove trees, branches and tailings from the river beds, to reconstitute the banks, minimize the erosion process and protect meanders with small stone walls (gabions). This is the area where farmer Márcio Ramos – known as Marcinho – 48, lives, in the district of Borba, near Paracatu.
“We will not have to leave our place. The guys (from Renova Foundation) are only going to build homes in a safe area, on this very piece of land. They told me there will be a cellar and a house above it, really posh”, he said humbly. “Here we make a living by selling milk to the dairy processing, looking after the land and planting crops. I have heard that Paracatu is going to be rebuilt some distance from its original location. But I will keep going there to see my friends no matter what”.
Through the partnership with Emater technicians, all the 237 rural properties between Mariana and the Risoleta Neves power plant, including Marcinho’s, will have their own Socioeconomic and Environmental Adaptation Plan (known as Pasea), which regularizes the land according to the requirements of the new Forestry code to make it a sustainable property in social and environmental terms. This includes the rural environmental register (CAR) compiled and the documents already prepared for the environmental regularization plan (PRA), which is being prepared but is still undergoing regulatory compliance adaptations. All the documents are completely legalized and suitable to combine rural activity with caring for the environment. Note that all Socioeconomic and Environmental Adaptation Plans will be prepared with the active participation of property owners so that each Pasea is personalized and therefore meets the requirements and interests of each individual.
The recovery should involve everyone
Whether they own large or small rural properties does not matter, everyone has been equally affected by the dam collapse. Our engagement to re-establish the use of land and water in the Doce river basin must, therefore, democratically include all realities.
Farmer Carlos Salgado Purger, known as “Seu Carlito”, from Governador Valadares, and farmer Marlene Ferreira Martins, from the Primeiro de Junho settlement, in Tumiritinga, are two sides of the same coin.
Seu Carlito’s second chance
“I come from traditional family of farmers in this region and my farm is 28 kilometres far from Governador Valadares. On my 160-hectare property, I used to raise both dairy and beef cattle and had a hay production project. I had purchased machinery irrigation systems and just when I was about to start seeding my crops, the Mariana mudslide hit us. I had taken out a nearly R$ 500,000.00 loan from Caixa Econômica Federal of to be paid in six years, with 1year grace period. I sold my cattle to pay the bank. One year later I had no money to afford the installments because I had no money for the crop. I had no income whatsoever, so I started using the credit card and overdrafts from the bank. I had to mortgage of the only asset I had because of this project.
After the river subsided [making reference to the mud], I leased out the pasture for cattle raising. And this is my only source of income at the moment because the card allowance is not enough to pay my bills. I really want to restart my hay project because at the end of the year I need to pay the bank. But in order to do that, I need technical support, seedlings, fertilizers, herbicides and money to buy oil and get to work.
I want to be compensated for the cattle I had to sell, for the milk I was kept from milking, and the ceasing profits resulting from interrupting my production. Seeing the river like that was heart-breaking, because in addition to the farm itself, I used to live in a paradise: a 2 km long sandy beach with crystal clear river water. You could catch dolphinfish, pacu, pacumã, and catfish, amongst other species. But I believe the river will recover, although in a gradual process. I was visited by an agronomist and an animal science technician from Renova who are part of the farm revitalization team. I am hopeful and will not give up
MARLENE, ONE OF THE LOCAL FARMERS, WANTS TO REVEGETATE THE BANKS
“We arrived in the settlement in 1993 and spent eight years living under improvised shacks until we finally got our land plots from the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), which had expropriated this area. Here we plant beans, corn, greens, sugarcane and an orchard with oranges, coconuts and many other fruits. I rear dairy and beef cattle, produce honey and sugarcane rum (cachaça). The milk is sold to the cooperative and we sell the honey and the rum at the farmers’ fair in town, and occasionally in the state capital Belo Horizonte. My two sons are students but give me a hand.”
Farmer Marlene, a landless settler in the past, now wants to recover the river
By: Alexandre Battibugli
“The settlement is located over good land and has springs but the most important thing for us is the Doce river. The dam collapse made life difficult for us because we cannot plant along the riverbanks. And we are suspicious of the water because we don’t know how harmful to our health this might be.
I drilled an artesian well to get water for the vegetable garden and made ponds to provide water for the cattle. Our products were rejected by consumers for a while, who were also a bit scared.
It was a surprise for us when Renova came and proposed meetings, explained about the programs for environmental recovery and started registering people. Most people here already get some financial assistance. We were suspicious because we were dealing with a company…
Everybody depends on this river and our settlement is at Renova Foundation’s service to rebuild the Doce river together. I am simply a farmer, but I would like to reforest the banks, to have this river back and make it beautiful again”.