Marisa Glassman is GlobalGiving's Business Development Manager. She recently traveled throughout Brazil and visited a number of GlobalGiving projects. On May 4th she visited "Trees and Education Protect Rainforest in Brazil." When asked what she would tell her friends about this project, Marisa said: "Great: They are making a difference."
"With just a short time in as large a country as Brazil, I was afraid I wouldn´t be able to see enough of the country. And while I´ll almost certainly never be able to see as much as I´d like to, today´s visit to Roberto Lamego´s forest in Valença gave me a welcome complement to all of the city-based work I´ve seen. Now I can leave Brazil happy. While finding a way to get there was tricky to say the least, I can´t imagine this trip being complete had I not been able to go. The forest I visited was a two-hour drive outside of Rio de Janeiro city, where most of the land is now rolling hills where vast forests once stood. When man cleared the land to plant coffee trees and other produce, the forests were decimated. And although the crops thrived for a short time, they eventually disappeared because the land could not maintain them without the cover and moisture the forest had provided. Left with almost nothing, most local residents turned to other uses for their land, such as cow farming. With many animals throughout the area, the forests have not been able to grow back.
"On a plot of this land, Roberto Lamego´s family had a farm. The land was eventually abandoned while Roberto was living abroad, but he decided to return to Brazil to try and salvage it. Since 1993, Roberto has planted hundreds of thousands of trees and other crops on his family´s land, and his forest now thrives among the surrounding barren hills. With proper care and attention, he and his dedicated staff, who live on the forest grounds Monday through Friday, have grown a forest which not only houses tall trees such as palm trees, which will no longer grow on their own in most of the surrounding area, but also houses crops such as passion fruit, mangoes, limes, coffee, and various other fruits I wish I could spell in English - some of which I tasted right off the trees.
"Once or twice every month, Roberto brings a school bus full of local children to the forest to learn about the landscape and work he and his coworkers have done. He realizes the community´s immediate need for income, and thus conveys the message that, not only does his forest help preserve the land, but provides a sustainable way to produce crops for many years by giving them the environment they need to thrive. It is often an uphill battle against a government that does not share his goals and local community members whose immediate financial needs make it difficult to maintain the long-term outlook necessary to follow Roberto´s methodology. But Roberto´s will and conviction make his efforts less of a choice than a natural path. I am so thankful I was able to visit the forest with a diverse group of local students who were also visiting for the first time. Their enthusiasm and curiosity were wonderful to see, and although the language barrier between us didn´t allow us to communicate fully, we did manage to find the one thing that saved us all from some unnecessary itching: the citronella plant Roberto showed us, which luckily is the same word in English and Portuguese."
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Rio de Janeiro,
Rio de Janeiro