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Sep 11, 2018

It is with great happiness that I am here to share our accomplishments in this trimester!

Winning school
Winning school

The result of the school competition that we started last year had amazing results, and the smallest school that participated in the competition was the winner of the competition.

The Municipal School Joaquim Ribeiro Carvalho  showed that it was there to win and gathered 0,17 kg of batteries per student- the highest result considering the number of students. The Municipal School Cândido Portinari won second place, with 0,15 kg per student.

In sum, all the students removed from the environment a total of 228,5 of batteries which would be all discarded directly into the soil. This is a disastrous issue to the health of the regional aquifers.

With this result we can prove that even with small numbers we can make a difference. Let's follow the steps of these young eco-leaders and keep doing our part to better the life of our planet.

In this last trimester, the transportation crises, the multiple school strikes, and the school- holidays turned it impossible for students of Rosário da Limeira and Belisário to Iracambi. However, now in September the regular activities of Ecoleaders will be back.

Even with all the current problems of Brazil and in the world, Iracambi never stops with its activities of planting the seeds of future eco-leaders in the heart of the young.

In this trimester we received more than 50 visitor betwen the age of 7 and 21 for activities of environmental sensitizing programs.

To a lot of students, it was the first trip of their lives inside of a forest and all of its wonders.

One of the students will always reside in our memory: Ryan, a bright young kid of 7 years old who knows much more of many adults around. He knew the names of many animals of the Atlantic Rainforest and knew exactly where to find them.

Nevertheless, there was something that Ryan didn't know: the local primate 'Muriqui' is the largest primate of the Americas and lives inside of the forests of Iracambi, as well as the sloth who also lives here which adores to hide under the of leaves of our famous tree 'Emba-uba'...

I could stay hours here telling to you all that happens during these visits. If you want to know more about our stories, reach us and it will be the greatest pleasure to talk you! You are a part of these adventures that happens with us.

Another group that also participated in our Ecoleaders activities with us came from the towns of Ervária and Viçosa. This group was very interesting because it was made of children, teenagers, parents and undergraduate students.

The interactions of this group were incredible and actually quite unusual. Maria Eduarda, a child of 9 year old, took leadership of the Medicinal Plants Trail with such enthusiasm and self-confidence that it seemed that she was used to being in forests her entire life and it was the first forest walk of her life!

The most knowledgeable participant- Dona Betânia told us about her precious knowledge of local medicinal plants and told  stories of her life 40 years ago. She knew a lot about herbal medicine since at that time it was the only health resource that was in place.

Finally, we fell in love with Yara's courage. She is a tennager of 16 years old who has phobia of been in closed forests. She was encouraged by her friends to visit Iracambi to win over her fear. At the end of the visit, Yara came to thank me for helping her lose her fear of such environment and that she actually had an unforgettable experience.

And that' all. We will keep with our mission of "Saving forests and transforming lives", like the ones of Ryan, Maria Eduarda, Betânia and Yara, who participate in the Ecoleaders program and took home lessons of environmental conservation and memories that will never be forgotten.

Playful activities with child of schools
Playful activities with child of schools
Demonstration of the several aspects of the forest
Demonstration of the several aspects of the forest
Walk through the Medicinal Plants Trail
Walk through the Medicinal Plants Trail
Ryan discovering about the monkey 'Muriqui'
Ryan discovering about the monkey 'Muriqui'
Maria Eduarda and her facial expression of forest
Maria Eduarda and her facial expression of forest
Discovering the wonders of the Atlantic Rainforest
Discovering the wonders of the Atlantic Rainforest
Sep 10, 2018

Transforming a small part of the world

Collecting solo with producer Jose
Collecting solo with producer Jose

Dear Rainforest Guardian,

Greetings from the Atlantic Rainforest!

As always we are full of stories to share with you.

Our colleague Fagner who looks after the nursery, recently became a dad! Inspired by Iracambi’s Agroecology project (which works with speciality coffee, a vegetable garden and SAF-Agroforestry Systems) Fagner has decided to leave the nursery and become a full-time coffee farmer. We are very happy for him and wish him all the best in his new venture!

As fate would have it, Régis an Agroecologist who volunteered in Iracambi in 2009, has never forgotten what he lived and learned. He recently returned with a mission: to produce lots of  seedlings to reforest the Serra do Brigadeiro!

Régis, has now become our nursery manager and is doing an excellent job! He has reformed the nursery greenhouse, is developing a seed bank, and is continuing the work of producing and taking care of our beautiful seedlings.

But the good news does not stop there…


Iracambi’s Forest for Water project receives an award!

The Latin America Green Award seeks to showcase 500 of the best projects that stimulate the green economy through regional initiatives. There are 10 categories aligned with the Sustainable Development Objectives (ODS) of Latin America. Iracambi’s Forest for Water project was ranked 30th in the water category!

The award is not only a great achievement, it is confirmation that we are on the right track, working with the community for the conservation and production of water!


We are now finalizing the initial visits to conduct a general diagnostic of the properties and collect soil and water samples for analysis, the demand is enormous!
It has been so encouraging to meet people who are aware of the issue and want to be proactive in water preservation.

Antonio from Ervália wants to reforest a very large area and told us why:

"When I was younger, my father did not care much about water, now that the farm is in my hands, I want to protect our most precious resource: water. After the crisis we experienced in 2014/2015 we can see the importance of this natural resource! Without it family farming, animals, plants would simply not exist".

Another advocate of water preservation is Dona Maria from the Ancorado community, in Rosário da Limeira:

"in 2014/2015 our spring dried up! My brothers had to walk 3/4 miles with a wheelbarrow to collect drinking water and water to wash my crochet to sell at the market. Many of our neighbors made artesian wells, but we did not want that. We decided to plant some trees around the spring, and the spring returned and never dried up again! Since then we take as much care as possible to protect the spring, because we learnt the hard way the challenges a lack of water bring".

It is amazing to share and partake in these moments of difficulty, strength, perseverance, success and relief when a spring is restored. It really is a priceless achievement!


The partnership with DEMSUR is surpassing our expectations!
In addition to analyzing the waters of each farmer, they are donating 50 concrete fence posts to 14 producers who have not yet fenced their water spring. In return, we have met, analyzed and selected 5 producers in the region of Muriaé Sanitary Landfill, where DEMSUR carry out their main activity.

So far we have analyzed 4 water samples from 30 springs, and the results are proving to be very interesting and informative! I look forward to sharing the analyses and results when we are finished!


On 08/31/2018 to 01/09/2018, Iracambi as part of the Rede Nós de Água network, organized a "Planting for Water" course with our neighbors and friends from the Franciscan Village in Belisário, a district of Muriaé.

There were 20-22 participants from various locations, Rosário da Limeira, Belisário, Viçosa, São Paulo, Araponga, among others. We held a theoretical class on the 31st on the distribution and dynamics of water on the planet, water basins (concepts, interpretation and reading), the water cycle, water related legislation, key issues and challenges related to water, and concepts and techniques of planting for water. We also looked at the implementation of fixed water structures (dry boxes, spring boxes, level curves) and green manure and rural sanitation technologies (evapotranspiration tank, biodigester, septic tank, dry toilet).

After that, we identified the water basin where we were located, which is the Paraíba do Sul River Basin, Muriaé River sub-basin, in the Fumaça River micro basin.

We conducted a diagnosis of the entire village, looking at the condition of the tops of the surrounding hills, identifying the location of the springs and whether they were fenced or not, whether there was adequate rural sanitation, the condition of the pasture etc… We worked on two fronts: one of them was leveling a degraded pasture and planting vegetables and another was to start building a dry toilet!

After this intensive experience, our goal for 2019 is to develop the project further! We want to plant trees, and develop partnerships to assist us with items such as septic tanks, spring boxes, dams, along with other techniques of production, storage and water quality! There is no point in producing water of poor quality, just as there is no point thinking only about the quality and forgetting that it is the forests that "produce" water!


After the hearings held by the Commission, we learned of an Operating License that covers the municipality of Rosário da Limeira, and part of this area is APA (Environmental Protection Area), where mining is prohibited. We are currently looking for ways to revoke the license.

On 08/20/2018 we also held a meeting with the community of Ancorado in Rosario da Limeira explaining the progress of mining here in the region and the news of the Operating License. W continue to listen to what the community wants and develop strategies of how we will react to this news that makes mining an ever increasing threat in our lives!

In addition, the Commission for Combating Mining in the Buffer Zone of the Serra do Brigadeiro, together with the Southeast Minas Gerais Federal Institute and the Federal University of Viçosa on 08/27/2018 we held the third workshop on the social mapping of Belisário. The objective of the workshops is to build up a picture of our resources: waterfalls, springs, houses, animals, family farming, hiking, events, churches, among many other things instead of the empty maps that the mining company work with!


Dear friends, THANK YOU for believing in our work and doing your part for a better world!
You are the ones who give us support and motivation to continue. Together we work just like the forest ants, because when each one performs his part, anywhere in the world, TOGETHER, we make a positive difference in the life of each Maria and Antonio in each of the four corners of our amazing planet.

With love,
Arielle, Luiz, the farming families and Mother Nature!

Visit at Jose's farm
Visit at Jose's farm
Soil collection with producer Joao
Soil collection with producer Joao
Reflection with Maria about the lack of water
Reflection with Maria about the lack of water
Analysis of the 04 collection of water
Analysis of the 04 collection of water
Antonio talking about the importance of water
Antonio talking about the importance of water
Antonio showing his dry spring
Antonio showing his dry spring
Collecting water from Nelson's spring
Collecting water from Nelson's spring
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.



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

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