Dear Atlantic Forest Champions,
It’s raining like crazy in the rainforest and that’s why we’ve been working overtime this quarter!
By mid October it was already time to start buying our organic fertilizer. It was easy to get the lime, but organic fertilizer from chicken houses was another story! Apart from sending the truck along the wrong road (because we usually get around by motorbike) we stayed up late figuring out the right road and then we had to put it all into sacks - which was a bit of a nightmare, especially since it smells really, really bad. But, if you grit your teeth and keep smiling, things work out, don’t they?
We paid fifty visits to prospective farms, and chose thirty, based on interest and need. And the seven hundred fence posts donated by the local water and sanitation company were distributed to thirteen farmers who needed to fence off their springs.
After doing the soil analyses we learned that all the soils on these properties are degraded and not easily infiltrated. We applied lime to correct the acidity in the soil, and the fertilizer from the chicken houses which is rich in nitrogen, lime, phosphorus and magnesium - all essential elements for good plant growth. This organic material is essential to improve the structure of the soil, its capacity to retain water, and to help the proliferation of micro-organisms and worms. We used around half a kilo of chicken fertilizer for each tree, and different quantities of lime depending on the soil analysis.
And this weekend we finished taking water samples, really interested in finding out the results. But we’re pretty sure the water quality is bad and we’ve already planned how to fix it!
Even in the pouring rain the planting doesn’t stop - lots of learning from one another, story telling, laughter, and like all country folk in this state, lots of coffee and cake at the end of the day. As for our volunteer coordinator Lisa - she even fell into a (shallow) well!
In the farms where the fencing has been done and the soil and water analyses we moved onto the next stage of the project with the help of Marcos, Vanderson and Gabriel, who helped getting ready for planting. Luiz and I delivered the seedlings and then it was time to move ahead.
As part of our outreach program we managed to get twelve schoolkids to help outm and together we planted five hundred seedlings on Antonio’s farm. And of course had coffee and cake to celebrate.... Later we visited a different school and recruited another team of twelve who joined us after school to plant trees to protect water resources in the town. And this week we signed up a group of seventeen from another school to add weight to our team!
First we give a quick practical lesson about our forest biome - some of the students don’t even know they live in the Atlantic Forest! - talk about the importance of water and the droughts of 2014/15, explain what is the water catchment area and why it’s important to reforest it. And we’ve been happily surprised by the energy of these kids. They always show up, climb up steep hillsides to plant trees and don’t seem to get discouraged. They’re real warriors! (We’re thinking of taking them on a hike up Graminha Mountain as a surprise - but don’t tell them!)
So we’re really happy and grateful, because, as well as helping families that have been really short of water, and families that wanted to reforest in order to avoid future water shortages, we’re also helping schoolchildren learn to love nature. We’re sure that whatever they do in life they’ll be environmentalists. And it’s great for the kids and the farmers to get together - they all learn a lot. Which is an added bonus, and something we never expected.
So we’ve managed to finish platning on half the properties, and we plan to finish them all by the end of the month so as to give the seedlings the best possible chance during the rainy season which goes on till the end of March/April. And we’d like to send a big THANK YOU to each one of you for your help, because without you we wouldn’t have this project. And together we’re planting trees, restoring the forest and inspiring the next generation. Thank you, thank you! You are the real angels of the forest.
With much love,
Arielle, Luiz, schoolchildren of Limeira, Belisario and Ervália, local farmers and, of course, Mother Nature. (The family is growing, right?)
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…
GREEN AWARDS LATIN AMERICA
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!
PLANTING FOR WATER COURSE
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!
MINING IN ROSÄRIO DA LIMEIRA
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!
WITHOUT YOU, NOTHING WOULD BE POSSIBLE!
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.
Arielle, Luiz, the farming families and Mother Nature!
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.
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:
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 (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.
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!
Are you curious to know what happened in the forest at the end of beginning of another year?
In addition to the end of spring and the arrival of summer, with its sudden rains, we finished delivering the seedlings, a journey with many adventures and discoveries!
To begin the journey, we helped Fagner separate the various types of seedlings!
We had: Pata de Vaca, Sangue D’ Dragão (which is being studied as a healing plant by the Federal University of Viçosa), Jussara (under threat of extinction due to cutting down of palms), Mango, Guava, Embaúba, 4 types of Ingas, Ipês, and Quaresmeira, among others. It’s always interesting to separate the seedlings and learn how to identify more plants in their initial phases of growth.
In all, we had 67 different species of trees, most native to the Atlantic Forest with a few other fruit-bearing trees that are useful in reforestation.
A total of 4,131 seedlings were donated to 23 landowners in the communities of Rosário da Limeira, Belisário and Ervália! All of these towns make up part of the buffer zone of the Serra do Brigadeiro State Park.
If you want to look at the project’s complete report for more information about the trees we planted, the landowners that we worked with, and the challenges that we faced, click here.
We began our deliveries in Rosário da Limeira, MG, where the Secretary of Agriculture provided us with a pickup truck, and we were able to do all 8 deliveries in one day.
After this, we did the deliveries to Belisário with the Irakombi (Iracambi’s van). Luiz, our do-it-all handyman, adapted the van for delivering the seedlings, using bamboo and wood to fit more seedlings without damaging them. It ended up fitting over 450 seedlings per trip!
During our adventure, we met many new, amazing people. One of these was Luiz, who told us many stories about his farm and the work he was doing to recover his water sources. He is a very wise man.
We also went to Dé, a producer who did a planting in 2016 as well! He was planting rice, something we hadn’t seen in quite a long time! Do you know the best place to plant rice?...the swamp!
We also visited Toninho and Maria José, who have a beautiful home! It was the first year of partnering with them. They ordered 520 seedlings, which made us so happy! They also made us a delicious meal! We will work hard to restore their spring.
Another family that made its mark on me was that of Edivaldo. Actually a tiny village of 8 families, they do incredible agroecology work without the use of pesticides. They are a great example! I couldn’t believe that something like this existed so close to us!
But the news doesn’t stop there! We also visited our friend Lourdes Calais and planted 200 trees with the help of five volunteers to restore their second spring.
It was a day of getting our hands dirty, literally! As always, we were received with hugs, coffee, delicious food, and work! Smiles, holes, happiness, seedlings, jokes, sun, earth, sweat, tiredness...a lot of work! And how gratifying to see the seedlings that we planted in previous years growing and full of life! Nothing compares to seeing our hard work beginning to pay off.
Lourdes and Faustino always take us on a tour and show us all of the work they’ve put in over the past 15 years! 33 years ago, there was no water on their property. (That's right, believe me!).
Since they moved to the site, they have committed to planting trees and making several small ponds, which capture rainwater and infiltrate it into the soil,. This helps to avoid erosion, and increases the water table supply, making healthier, stronger water sources. Where once they lacked water, today they are able to raise fish!!!
Using all of these strategies, they were able to recover a spring that had dried up! Today, we are working together on a second one. All of us at Iracambi are proud to say that we have been part of this beautiful story since 2015!
Unfortunately, as in life, everything is not flowers...We were summoned by a friend to visit a place where an environmental crime is taking place right before our eyes. The farm is located in a rural area near Belisario, on a property that was previously owned by Mr. Joaquim Rodrigues.
Look at this absurdity!
The State Forestry Institute, the State Park of the Serra do Brigadeiro and even the Environmental Police have already been notified, but deforestation was still ongoing. A group of 22 people, including several from Iracambi, went to find out more information and pressure local organizations into action. The tractor was removed at dawn, and we immediately sent a complaint to the Environmental Police.
What a contradiction!! While we were planting trees, nearby thousands were being cut down! It’s very sad to see something like this…
Reflecting upon this, I realized: It’s not just enough to mourn, we have to fight!
Whether by protesting, planting more trees, or sharing ideas, everyone should help however they can!
You, our dear friend, are doing your part! You are helping us to plant more water and fight back against the incalculable actions of third-parties,
If not for you, none of this would be possible.
To close, it has been a wonderful journey filled with wisdom, love, learning, and ending in success! It caused us to reflect more and see that happiness is truly in the simple things. We saw as well that when everyone does their part, we can make a better world.
Like Ghandi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
We are very THANKFUL.
From Iracambi, Belisário, Rosário da Limeira, Ervália, the Serra do Brigadeiro State Park, the Atlantic Forest, and Brazil: An immense thank you for all of the support given! You are a hero in the Atlantic Forest of Minas Gerais!
Dear friends and supporters,
What an amazing year - and what a lot we have achieved together! Thanks to you we've been able to expand ouur forest nursery, deliver thousands of seedlings, make dozens of new friends, watch young forests flourish, and see dried out springs running again.
Of course we've had our ups and downs: just this past week when we were delivering seedlings, our Kombi broke down on a muddy road in the back of beyond. Then it came on to rain like you wouldn't believe. So of course we all got soaked to the skin, and covered in mud. But you can always laugh about these small disasters afterwards, right? And it all worked out in the end. We managed to get the Kombi going and when we got to the first farm, which belongs to our friend Ramon, we had such a warm welcome that we forgot all our troubles!
Ramon is a new friend. He lives across the mountains, and when he heard about our Forests4Water program he was determined to join. He has worked with us throughout the year on planning, mapping, and selecting the variety of trees to be planted. And he's always ready with a cup of coffee and a slice of cornbread when we make it to his property Here's what he told us.
"When I bought my farm I didn't think twice about reforesting it. It's become more urgent than ever to plant trees to protect and restore our springs, and it was a lucky day for me when I heard about Iracambi's work. You guys were with me from the start, and I want to thank everyone involved in the project. I pray that ever more people come to understand that what we do today will affect future generations.
I believe that the world is changed one deed at a time and that every day we can make large changes."
With your help we are changing the world one deed at a time, one tree at a time. So here's a big rainforest thank you and may you have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season.
with love and all things wonderful for this season and for the New Year,
Arielle, José, Luiz and the folks at Iracambi
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