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Aug 20, 2018

Agroecology Steps

Agro-ecology, feeding people without damaging natural resources

               The practices of sustainable agriculture, recently established in Iracambi, have been developing in an espetacular way, indicating future success.

               In three months of work, the demonstrative units of low environmental impact agro-productions are gaining the right format as well as being solidified as an example of generation of income for family agriculture.

 

Production of High Quality Agro-ecological Coffee

          Coffee is the most common income generating crop for rural families in Brazil. Because such practice develops well in higher altitudes, the region we are located: ‘mares dos morros’, in translation ‘the sea of hills’, is perfect for growing coffee.

          Coffee production gives low income families a decent social condition and aggregate jobs in the rural field.

          Due to being shade tolerant, coffee adapts extremely well in forest systems, either being grown perennially or just annually. However, the locals in the region do not take advantage of this fact, either because of a lack of interest or knowledge.

          Locals still use standard out-dated practices, with fields under full sunlight and under high application of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

The following are coffee-growing techniques utilised by the locals in the region:

  1. Coffee Monoculture: Monoculture induces pest vulnerability to plants because it damages the habitat of natural predators. On top of that, because this region has deep soils, the planting of only one species lead to drastic erosions and fertility loss.
  2. Use of Pesticides: The easy pest invasion in the monoculture fields lead to local farmers turn to radical measures so they will not loose productivity. They apply a high quantity of extremely damaging pesticides, intoxicating themselves, the soil and its biota, and consequently everyone who uses their products. Not only, these chemicals are expensive, leading the farmers to be in debt due to the acquirement of rural credits.
  3. Synthetic Fertilisers Application: Like pesticides, chemical fertilisers are very expensive. Most of the farmers’ income is used to acquire these. Because they are very soluble and volatile, such products are easily lost in the environment, thus leading to low production efficiency by the farmers, as well as creating cracks on soil and inputting a high quantity of salt in water resources. 

These three factors mentioned above cause high environmental and social impacts. Figure 1 illustrates this current scenario in the region.

Because the farmers loose the productivity of their soils and with time, enter into debt, they abandon their lands and move to the city in extremely poor conditions.

Due to this context, our mission is to create a model for these families to promote a sustainable, financially viable and socially just rural activities.

At Iracambi, it is utilised alternative agro-forestry techniques which are more appropriate for these families. The polyculture of species in one specific area does not allow severe ecosystem imbalances, in which pests do not have the proper habitat for their proliferation. In such mixing of species, there is more soil micro-biodiversity and its activity control the pathogenic fungai and bacteria activity of the soil, while above the soil, the higher diversity of plants create more habitat for natural predators.

In Figure 2 it can be observed four ecosystem extracts in the coffee plantation.

Extract 1: This ecosystem contains large trees with deep roots, with the capacity to absorb nutrients and water in deep soil horizons, and through the evapotranspiration and leaf and twig loss, the nutrients gathered are transferred to the ecosystem, forming a natural cycle of water and nutrients.

Moreover, these trees have the capacity to prevent soil erosion. Not only, these trees loose their leaves only at the time of the development of the coffee seeds, thus not interfering with the productivity of the field.

Furthermore, these trees have extrafloral extracts which attract natural predators capable of fighting pests. Another function of these trees is to provide fuel for cooking as well as fruits for the Iracambi residents.

Finally, these trees turn the soil more permeable contributing to the refilling of the natural springs surrounding the coffee plantation.

Extract 2: This extract contains smaller species of trees which produce a high level of biomass. Such biomass increases the organic matter of the soil. Through the subsequent increase of microorganisms, the mineralization of the soil increases, thus providing nutrients for other plantations.

Further, these trees decrease the spreading of invasive species and protect the soil from the direct impact of thunderstorms. Finally, the strong solar irradiation coming from their roots retain for longer the humidity of the soil, balancing the rate of the water infiltration in the soil.

Extract 3: This ecosystem extract is the coffee plantation. The coffee trees are plants that can withstand up to 40% of shade without loosing their productivity. Other than the benefits mentioned earlier, a great benefit of its cultivation under shade is that the fruits take longer to develop, increasing the quality of the coffee.

Extract 4: This extract contains plants from the leguminoseae family which act as a natural fertiliser to the coffee plants. They also act as a natural herbicide. In this extract, it is also possible to cultivate annual crops such as beans, corn, banana, and others.

Because of the hilly landscape of the region, local coffee producers can only care for the crops manually. This is why we are focusing on increasing the quality of small coffee fields in the surrounding community.

Recently, high-quality coffee has had more power in the market and can be an excellent source of income for small rural producers, since it is worth three times more than conventional coffee.

High quality coffee contains only selected grains that are fully mature and are dried in greenhouses to better their quality. Figures, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 depict the process of agro-ecological cultivation from the start to the drying process.

Through this technique, we produce a special agro-ecological coffee with 85 points without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers.

With this model we are sustainably influencing the local coffee producers of the region, through an open dialogue during several visits to their properties as well as welcoming them at Iracambi.

Some producers are already successfully adopting some of these techniques. Figures 8 to 12 show the experiences of some.

The next step is (with your help) to promote field meetings with the community to disperse agro-ecological knowledge, including organic fertilising and biological remediation.

In this way, we develop a good relationship with the local farmers, promoting development in the rural community.

 

Agro-ecological Garden

          A 100% organic garden has been implemented at Iracambi, which includes alternative techniques to properly generate income to the rural community. In the same way as the coffee, we are dispersing agro-ecological techniques to the locals, including the exchange of saplings and non-sterile seeds.

The following is a brief description of the sustainable techniques that are being used:

Selected area: The area selected was absolutely degraded with invasive plants and with a very compacted soil. Figure 13 shows how the area was before the garden was implemented.

We removed the unwanted plants and used the organic matter for composting, which was later enriched with efficient microorganisms of the forest. Figure 14 illustrates the process of composting. The final product was a rich compost with essencial nutrients and micro-organisms for the vegetative growth of the garden.

After, the soil was prepared and the fields for the crops established. Calcium carbonate was also applied to reduce the acidity of the soil which decreases the development of plants. Figure 15 depicts the process.

After the last steps, the soil of the fields was enriched with the compost we made ourselves. In sequence, several species of vegetables and medicinal plants were planted, including natural repellants to strategically control pests and several non-conventional edible plants.

Figure 16-20 demonstrate step-by-step the process of establishing the garden from beginning to the current moment. All of this was only possible with your contribution!

With your help, we plan to share our knowledge through the entire rural community to assist local farmers in increasing their income and by agro-ecologically enriching their diet with a more diverse range of nutrients.

 

Production of Honey with Native Bees

As a way to generate alternative income and promote conservation of the native honey-bees, we are creating models of apiculture that are uncommon in the region.

These bees are extremely important pollinators, thus being vital for the functioning of the forest ecosystems. This unity of production is still in initial development and we are currently in the process of capturing the bees.

With the help of a local apiculturist who is passionate about saving the native bees, we established a small place for capturing the bees with pheromones. The figures 21 and 22 illustrate the process.

 

Conclusion

There is still a lot to be done. The agro-ecology program of Iracambi has only been established three months ago.

With your help we are progressing towards a model of sustainable agriculture in our land and in the community.

Our experience is really important to promote viable examples to the local farmers.

Family agriculture is in crisis. Families are being marginalised by conventional agricultural system and are loosing their power. We are here to empower them, since 70% of the food consumed daily in Brasil comes from family agriculture.

Our demonstrative units of agro-ecology envisions the progress of these families, by straightening their relationship with the environment and by providing them a better and dignified life.

 

Translation: Carla Faccina

Jun 14, 2018

Overcoming Difficulties

Observation of insects in soil
Observation of insects in soil

For more than four years Brazil has been suffering with economical and political instability, notably scandals of corruption involving important political figures with a blatant disregard for Brazilian citizens.

As a result of this, the year began with much insecurity and discontent for the majority of Brazilians, who suffer on a daily basis with rising inflation, economic inequality and unemployment.

Last month, Brazil came to a standstill. A demonstration by truck drivers representing the working class and supported by public school teachers, resulted in the paralysis of food and fuel deliveries and the closing of several schools throughout Brazil.

Iracambi was also affected, as the crisis left the local council unable to offer transportation to young people.This interrupted and delayed several activities with our Eco Leaders in recent months.

Despite the crisis Brazil is currently experiencing, Iracambi continues to make every effort to maintain its activities with the Eco Leaders in the Atlantic forest. At the beginning of this last quarter we received our first group of Eco Leaders, 40 students from the 5th grade from two public schools in the municipality of Rosário da Limeira.

The visits introduced the students to a fantastic new world of adventure and discovery in the Atlantic Forest, for many it was their first visit to a natural environment full of amazing animals and plants.

The students observed every detail on their visit, from the number of different colored butterflies to an infinity of different types of ants.


We laughed a lot when one of the students, known as Carlos, was startled by a cricket that jumped from a plant directly onto his shoulder! Marília,a student living in the countryside, knew a lot about the forest and was curious to learn the names of several plants as we walked.

The students discovered, each in their own way, the easiest and most exciting form to observe and catch the small insects of the Atlantic Forest.

"A lot changed in the class after the students visited Iracambi, they became more curious in class and are enthusiastic to return to the reserve" - reported their school teacher Edna.

Another group that partook in  Environmental Education activities at Iracambi came through our partner CRAS (Rosário da Limeira Social Services). Almost 100 children participated in the Easter hunt we held,  hunting for natural treasures. Through these activities the students were able to learn more about the forest animals, walk along trails that keep the treasures of the medicinal plants, and to end, each was gifted with a delicious chocolate egg.

The volunteers at Iracambi did a great job in leading and organising the event, inspiring the children on their quest for knowledge. Scott, one of our volunteers, had so much fun with the children remarking that the experience was one he would never forget.

Scott was a very important volunteer for the children from Rosário da Limeira community. Through him we were able to offer 60 students from the 6th grade the fantastic opportunity of English classes with support from a native. This was the first time this had happened in any of the public schools in  Zona da Mata region. It was three weeks of dynamic and fun English classes that offered students a unique experience in their classes with their English teacher Aline.

"The students were so excited when Scott came to teach, they arrived to classes already complementing everyone in English and using new sentences they had learnt. They said their names, their age, where they lived, etc. I never thought they would react in this way, it was truly moving to see"  reported English teacher Aline.

In other great news, we have recently partnered with DEMSUR (Municipal Department of Urban Sanitation) in Muriaé, a neighboring city with more than 86,000 inhabitants. Together we have launched the first competition to collect batteries that are harmful to the environment.

The competition began in May and the prize is a day filled with fun and immersive activities in the Atlantic Forest demonstrating the importance of discarding batteries at the appropriate collection sites so that rivers and soil are not damaged by the chemical components of such materials.

Iracambi was the first entity to carry out environmental education activities in the region and is the only one that does this work, to stimulate the direct contact of the children with the animals and plants of the Atlantic Forest, encouraging them to appreciate, learn more about the forest and consequently to love nature and all that it offers us human beings.

We know the importance of the local communities, which are gradually decreasing along with a little bit of our beloved forest and therefore, despite the various crises in Brazil, we are working to expand our services to other schools in the region.

There are more than 2,000 public schools in our region and our focus is to be able to welcome all students who belong to these schools to partake in activities that awaken their senses and reinforce the idea that our mission of "saving forests and transforming lives" is the way forward.

Carlos showing the cricket found on the way
Carlos showing the cricket found on the way
Eco Leaders learning animal names in English
Eco Leaders learning animal names in English
Visit of the Ecolideres in different environments
Visit of the Ecolideres in different environments
Eco Leaders visiting a clean stream
Eco Leaders visiting a clean stream
Visiting a seedling nursery for the first time
Visiting a seedling nursery for the first time
Launching the competition to collect batteries
Launching the competition to collect batteries
Visit from CRAS students
Visit from CRAS students
Volunteer giving the first native English class
Volunteer giving the first native English class
Jun 12, 2018

Let's start with updates on the Forests 4 Water

Limeira Volunteers
Limeira Volunteers

Want to learn more about what we have planned for ‘Forests for Water’ in 2018?

Continue reading, we have great news!

A few improvements

We have made changes to the type of data we collect. Until recently we only collected data on local families, springs, fences and proposed reforestation areas using Geographical Information Systems (ArcGIS) with the support of our great friend and partner Cliff.

This year, in order to be more effective, we added new fields to document planting (germination, delivery, planting, species of seedlings planted, fertilizers used, etc.) and monitoring (observing ant attacks, crowning seedlings, mortality, etc.). By adding these fields we hope to produce reliable qualitative and quantitative data to help make more informed decisions and measure the success of the plantings, allowing us to address any problems effectively.

In 2018 we plan to produce 6,000 seedlings to plant in 30 properties in 3 municipalities surrounding the Serra do Brigadeiro.

Fagner has  been hard at work, collecting seedlings and seeds, preparing bags for planting and irrigating the nursery. Fagner has been supported by some fantastic volunteers from abroad and young people from Rosário da Limeira; Scott, Anthony, Remco, Celle, Karolainy, Anderson, Flay and Ronald!

It was an incredible experience interacting with the young people from the local community, who were enthusiastic and engaged throughout! After all the hard work, we made a beautiful bonfire to celebrate our increasing appreciation of our amazing surroundings.

BOVESPA SOCIOAMBIENTAL

More great news! After 1 year of our project being listed on the BVSA platform, we have managed to raise $ 30,000 that will be invested in the project during a period of one year, beginning 03/28/2018.

Thanks to this new funding, along with the donations from each one of YOU, we have made even more progress:

  • Soil analysis will be carried out on each property where reforestation will take place in order to analyze soil types, their characteristics and deficiencies.
  • Purchase of agroecological fertilizers, such as: Bioisca, Caldas, Limestone, Earthworm humus, Efficient Microorganisms, ashes, etc. Together with the soil analysis, we will know the quantity and type of agro-ecological fertilizers that each property will need, improving the chances of successful reforestation and reviving springs!

Partnership with DEMSUR

We are always looking to improve our projects and have recently identified water analysis as a great way to achieve this. Iracambi has some equipment that measures PH, turbidity, flow among other measurements, enabling us to analyze if the reforestation affects the quality of the water over time and increase our project outcomes.

Unfortunately, most of the equipment is not in good condition.

We are looking to partner with DEMSUR (Municipal Department of Urban Sanitation) who are are also working with reforestation in Muriaé. We proposed to support them by providing them with  access to ArcGIS to collect and analyze information, and they in return have offered to support us with water analysis

The initial idea is conduct a water analysis of each spring that we recover. We will conduct an analysis before planting, and then once a year for a period of 3 years using the following parameters:

  • Total coliforms  
  • E. Coli
  • Color
  • Turbidity
  • pH

Total coliforms (also used to analyze the presence of domestic sewage) and E. Coli are to verify the quality of water. Turbidity is the measurement of the resistance of water to the passage of light and color refers exactly to the color of water.

We have seen that surface erosive processes affect two parameters in a more specific way: color and turbidity, being able to demonstrate changes in the hydro sedimentary dynamics of a basin as a consequence of the accelerated erosion.

Thus, turbidity is a very useful environmental indicator when analyzing watersheds, since it is possible to associate soil use and erosion, for the purpose of identifying damages in water courses related to human activities.

SENAR Course

From 05/28/2018 to 05/30/2018 Iracambi hosted a course on Protection and Recovery of springs led by SENAR (National Rural Apprenticeship Service). There were 11 participants, 2 of which were Iracambistas - (myself Arielle and Fagner) always aiming to acquire more knowledge.

We had a theoretical class in the morning of the 28th on spring definition,  the types of springs, soil formation, among other subjects, such as silting, erosion, water basins, methodologies to increase water flow, like nitrates and terraces and went to the field to identify and choose a spring to start working on.

The spring we chose is located in a degraded area of pasture, without a fence and silted, due, mainly, to a road just above the pasture.

We identified it to be a sloped spring with an initial flow of 925 liters per day. After we cleared the área we increased the flow to more than 2500 liters per day!!

After having a clearer view of the paths where the water was flowing, we used marlua stones so as not to cover the waterways, these stones help in the filtration of the water, in addition we we put in a pipe for sewage, 3 pipes for water capture and a further 3 for surplus..

After organizing  the stones, we covered the área with tarpaulin (serving as an insulator, not letting the cement fall into the water) and mixing tundish earth with cement to fix it

With this methodology, the silting of the source is avoided and protected.

 It was great to learn a different methodology, we hope to use our new-found  knowledge and apply it to Iracambi’s projects.

Initial Visits to Landowners and Properties

We started the visits armed with new methods of monitoring of planting, soil and water analysis which has been fantastic!
Initial visits allow us to better understand the reality of the families and their properties, as well as to explain about the project.

The landowners accompanied us during the visits, where together we chose the best place for reforestation, counted and identified the source of the springs, collected samples for analysis, spoke about the issue of water scarcity and reflected on the importance of water for agriculture, animals, humanity and our world.

We assess each property and try to ascertain the following information: number of residents, length of time at property, size of area, crops produced, main water source, water usage, how many springs they have, how many have dried out, what surrounds the springs, if they have trees near the spring, if they have small dams, dry boxes, terraces or any other structures for water retention, if not, we scope their interest. We also enquire about how they deal with  domestic sewage.

We use this information to make a thorough assessment of each property to decide the best approach according to the individual needs of each family/property.

PUBLIC HEARING IN R. DA LIMEIRA ON MINING

Since the end of last year, the Commission for Combating Mining in the Surroundings Areas of the Serra do Brigadeiro (of which Iracambi is a member) has held hearings in several municipalities such as Muriaé, Miradouro and most recently in Rosário da Limeira on 04/04 / 2018.

More than 300 people attended including the Deputy Mayor and local Council who lent their support.

We made positive progress in many areas such as: the demarcation of the territory to be free from mining,  highlighting the importance of family agriculture, motion of repudiation of the Council against mining in the municipality of Rosário da Limeira and a future audience at the Legislative Assembly of the State of Minas Gerais

After the hearing, on May 2, there was a meeting in the Chamber of Rosário da Limeira, where the local Councillors voted unanimously on the motion of repudiation against mining in Rosário da Limeira, a fantastic result!!

In the words of  Sigmund Freud: "One day, when you look back, you will see that the most beautiful days were those that you fought for."

Seizing Wild Birds from Illegal Capturers

On World Environment Day (05/06) we were given a mission by our dear friend Kamilo, partner and member of the project Forests for Water.  Kamilio brought to our attention a very serious and sad matter where 46 birds native to the Atlantic Forest were seized, some of which are threatened with extinction!! Kamilio brought the birds to us to care for and release.

After cleaning the cages, we fed and watered the birds and released the birds as soon as they were strong enough.

The existence of vegetation cover and biodiversity of the flora depend directly on the action of the birds, considered the "planters of the forest", because they feed on the native fruits and disperse the seeds in all areas in their range.

You Make the Difference!

Well, dear friends,  many things have happened here in the Tropical Forest, and YOU are doing your part for a better world! Be it donating, volunteering, spreading the word about our work, or encouraging people in the cause!!

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

We are eternally grateful to each of you for every contribution and all your support, as without you none of this would be happening!

You are planting water, saving lives, birds, agriculture, supporting several towns in a big fight against a huge mining company, and you are making a DIFFERENCE in the WORLD !!

The Atlantic Rainforest is the world’s most endangered biome, who knows, if it was not for you and so many other institutions, it would not exist anymore! But we still NEED YOU!

The Atlantic Rainforest continues in its fight for survival, help us save it!

Getting ready for planting
Getting ready for planting
Restoring the seed-beds
Restoring the seed-beds
Irrigation process with the help of volunteers
Irrigation process with the help of volunteers
The spring in the beginning!
The spring in the beginning!
The necessary tools and team!
The necessary tools and team!
Springs silted and waterways!
Springs silted and waterways!
The Process (pipes, rocks)
The Process (pipes, rocks)
The finished product!
The finished product!
D. Maria talking about the scarcity of water
D. Maria talking about the scarcity of water
Collecting data
Collecting data
Visiting Rodrigo
Visiting Rodrigo
Visit with reforestation in mind
Visit with reforestation in mind
Public court hearing R. da Limeira
Public court hearing R. da Limeira
Residents filling up the Chamber
Residents filling up the Chamber
Bird seizure by environmental police
Bird seizure by environmental police
Feeding the birds
Feeding the birds
Parakeet
Parakeet
Cleaning the cages
Cleaning the cages

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