The Panel is composed of national and international experts bringing together diverse technical skills, academic qualifications and local knowledge
The Doce River Panel – an independent panel of experts coordinated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for advising the Renova Foundation on the recovery efforts of the Doce River Basin – has announced new recommendations for communities in the region to diversify their activities and to stop environmental degradation.
In the first article in the series Issues in Focus, the Doce River Panel examines how the Foundation can incorporate measures to promote regional economic alternatives, such as forest restoration networks and community tourism, that can provide a more sustainable future for all inhabitants of the Doce River Basin.
The region’s economy was affected by the collapse of the Fundao tailings dam in November 2015, and still largely depends on the extraction of natural resources. The impact of the dam collapse has impacted important sectors in the states of Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo, such as mining, agriculture, livestock and fishing, eliminating formal jobs and limiting the subsistence options for the inhabitants.
Other activities relevant to the region – such as ecotourism, community-based agritourism and dairy production – also suffer from the effects of the economic slowdown, highlighting the need for diversification through opportunities to generate profit alongside the protection of values and ecosystem services, in order to reduce dependence on the compensatory measures adopted after the dam collapse.
“Current compensation programs are insufficient for promoting long-term economic recovery in the region,” says Peter May, the lead author of the article. “New opportunities – such as investment in sustainable supply chains, new technical capacity building initiatives and the promotion of unconventional partnerships, with a special focus on youth employment – should be considered to help local communities reach socioeconomic and environmental resilience levels, in addition to investments in economic development already under way.”
The article Alternatives for livelihoods in rural areas of the Doce River Basin after the Fundao dam collapse- Creating opportunities for the future explores the benefits of alternative economic activities consistent with the restoration of the Doce River and promotes the prioritization of policy instruments and funding to support such efforts.
For example, the national legislation for the protection of native vegetation that has changed the Brazilian Forest Code can serve as a stimulus to restore land degradation and water quality, as well as generate new jobs and tax revenues associated with seedling production and increase the local knowledge on endemic species.
Yolanda Kakabadse, Chairman of the Doce River Panel, adds: “After decades of intensive mining and agriculture activities, communities in the Doce River Basin need to encourage the development of new value chains that enable the region to recover in the long term, considering the immediate needs and opportunities arising in the restoration process.”
The recommendations of the Doce River Panel emphasize the need to requalify professionals displaced due to the dam collapse and for the broader economic changes that have occurred in the region. They emphasize the importance of investing in the qualification of young professionals. According to the authors, it is possible to leverage support through the expansion of development funds and technical assistance and through extension programs in support of innovation in rural areas and strengthened value chains.
The article also addresses the need to create new policies and financial instruments to stimulate the development of such activities, generating permanent opportunities for the entire region.
For the CEO of the Renova Foundation, Roberto Waack, the construction of a sustainable future for the Doce River Basin should happen through education and social protagonism. “The training of young leaders is at the heart of the compensation actions. An example is the partnership with Instituto Elos, which is providing training to about 90 young participant along the Doce River Basin so that they can fulfill the collective dreams of the communities. We also entered into an agreement with the Instituto Terra for providing training to young participants, an intensive course on forest restoration, which helps to guarantee sustainability and improve the quality of water supply on rural properties.”
The Doce River Panel has advised the Renova Foundation to incorporate measures to promote regional economic alternatives, through the following actions:
- Identify opportunities and restrictions in rural value chains and production practices, offering the potential for alternative local products and services to scale up and generate a two-way interaction between local economies and employment.
- Coordinate training sessions, capacity assessments, business planning, credit repayment capacity and financial instruments among existing institutions through partnerships.
- Assess the need for additional financial policies or instruments, such as the creation of a trust fund to stimulate investment in economic alternatives.
The Doce River Panel is composed of national and international experts bringing together diverse technical skills, academic qualifications and local knowledge. Among them, the Chairman of the Panel – Ms. Kakabadse -, is Ecuador’s former Minister for the Environment and former President of IUCN. The lead author is Peter May, a senior lecturer at the Department of Development, Agriculture and Society of the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ).