A study by the Renova Foundation, WRI Brazil, ICRAF and Ecological Farm points out that the implementation of sustainable production technologies in the affected region can generate economic opportunities
Forest restoration techniques and sustainable agroforestry practices can be successfully applied in the Gualaxo do Norte River Basin and region, in Minas Gerais, in the area impacted by the Fundao dam collapse in 2015. This is what a study conducted through the Renewing Landscapes project shows. This project is a partnership between the Renova Foundation, WRI Brazil, Icraf, and Ecological Farm. According to the analyses, the restoration of 77.2 thousand hectares of pastures in the basin can generate an added value of R$ 23.5 million per year for economic purposes spread over eight municipalities and reduce 281.2 thousand metric tons of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The objective is to recommend actions and strategies that aim to point out more sustainable methods and, at the same time, provide conditions for the resumption of agricultural activities in the most affected region on properties located in Mariana, Barra Longa, Ponte Nova, Rio Doce, and Santa Cruz do Escalvado and regions. Part of the actions to achieve this objective involves the implementation of Demonstration Units (DUs), where Agroforestry Systems (SAFs), silviculture of native species, and ecological pasture management practices are developed. These units, located on affected properties, serve as a model for other producers. To date, 16 DUs have been implemented, and nine more will be implemented according to the next steps of the project.
To achieve results, the ROAM methodology (Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology) was applied. The technique is used on scale to identify the best restoration opportunities and is serving as a basis for restoring degraded Brazilian landscapes.
The study also showed that restoration activities implemented in DUs, such as silviculture of native species, ecological management of pastures, and agroforestry systems, could be implemented in the analyzed basins. The economic return for each of these activities was estimated and varied according to the productive arrangement. One of the proposed examples can generate an income of almost 180 thousand reais per hectare over 12 years through wood and non-wood products, representing significant gains in relation to the current use of extensive livestock. It is important to note that the success of the implementation depends on incentives and measures such as legal security; technical assistance and agricultural extension (Ater); structuring of productive chains; and research and development to improve productivity and economic return. Therefore, the study shows that restoration on scale is a viable alternative for the region.
ROAM is applied based on socioeconomic and biophysical analyses of databases that were maintained in the territory to be remediated. Based on common motivational factors, relevant actors and rural landowners discuss the data and plan actions to restore the landscape in thematic workshops, promoting participation and social engagement in building solutions.
“Various maps are drafted throughout the process, based on primary and secondary information, and with the full involvement of the region’s rural landowners, riparian people from Gualaxo, Carmo, and Piranga (Upper Doce River). The purpose of these maps is to support the decision-making process. In other words, the territory gains information that supplement territorial planning or the visualization of opportunities with biophysical and socioeconomic analyses and maps,” says Vitor Hermeto, specialist of Renova’s Program for Sustainable Land Use.
The following were involved: researchers, teachers, and agroforestry extension specialists who work locally; implementers of socio-environmental projects who are looking for new resources to support their actions; associations, and cooperatives of farmers who require technical support for the development of activities in rural areas. This information was taken to other forums, such as Municipal Councils and River Basin Committees to help refine existing plans aimed at better land use in rural areas, considering that forests bring a range of gains, both socioeconomic and environmental. The data collected will also serve as a basis for action by public bodies, such as the State Forestry Institute (IEF), among others.
According to Mariana Oliveira, from WRI Brazil, the study shows that the success of the restoration depends on understanding the motivations and meeting the expectations and needs of the population. “The promotion of the restoration of the landscape must be embraced by municipal governments and local leaders, and it must also seek to value local production, recover popular know-how and promote the exchange of knowledge and experiences, and the engagement of communities,” she says.
In addition to the legal obligation to repair the damage caused by the dam collapse, the main benefits that people expect from the forests and sustainable production systems that were proposed and tested in the study are related to improving the quality of life in the countryside through improving the quality and quantity of water throughout the year, diversification and increase in income and, finally, engagement and social interaction in landscape restoration actions.
The study was released in an online seminar, watch:
Global Restoration Agenda
The study was based on the application of the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM). This methodology has already been applied in several Brazilian states and regions, such as the states of Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, Santa Catarina, Para, and the Federal District. One of the significant advantages of the methodology is the engagement and social participation of local leaders in the decision-making process.
The application of a participatory diagnosis helps decision makers in the municipalities affected by the dam collapse to optimize the implementation and application of resources, identifying the areas with the best cost-benefit for the recovery of degraded areas and reforestation. Therefore, restoration in the region will serve the interests of the local community and will also help to fulfill Brazil’s commitment to the Paris Agreement to restore and reforest 12 million hectares of degraded areas and forests by 2030.
There are about 2 billion hectares of degraded areas and forests in the world that can benefit from public and private investments to recover their functionality and productivity. Coincidentally, 2 billion hectares is the area needed to meet the global demand for food and fiber by 2050, so restoring landscapes and forests is one of the most effective strategies to meet fundamental needs for the well-being of society, both local and globally.