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Amazon Day 2016: from above and below


It’s that time of year again – when the kids go back to school after the long summer break. September 5 also happens to be Amazon Day in Brazil. Perhaps many of us first learned something about the Amazon from enthusiastic teachers at primary school. Perhaps we learned about it being the world’s largest rainforest and river, and the fact that there is an amazing exuberance of life from the forest floor all the way up to the canopy including those gigantic trees that manage to tower over the rest (known as emergents).  Perhaps we heard about some of the threats that the Amazon faces: deforestation for ranching and agriculture, illegal logging, damming of the rivers, etc.

Happy Amazon Day
For us, Amazon Day is a moment to celebrate the beauty and importance of this vast natural treasure, and to reflect on how our work is helping, thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

It’s a year ago that our Sky Rainforest Rescue campaign with Sky came to an end. Over six years we received £9.5 million in support of our Amazon work – what an incredible response this was! This has allowed us to continue our work over this past year, building on what we had already achieved. You can read all about the outcomes of Sky Rainforest Rescue (PDF).  The aim of Sky Rainforest Rescue was to help safeguard one billion trees in the Amazon, and our flagship project is in Acre state, in the Brazilian Amazon.

Sky Rainforest Rescue one year on

Below is an update of our progress over the last year, from work that has been enabled by Sky Rainforest Rescue.

  • Schools. While the Amazon is on the curriculum for many primary schools here in the UK, children living there don’t always receive the information they need to learn how to live sustainably with the forest and its resources. We are working with Feijo county in Acre to include environmental education in the curriculum, building on our positive results with teacher training and developing educational materials tailored to the local context.
School children learn about soils in the Amazon. ©Greg Armfield WWF-UK.School children learn about soils in the Amazon. ©Greg Armfield WWF-UK.
  • Wild rubber. You may have come across our work with rubber tappers before; if not check out this earlier wild rubber blog. Rubber trees are native to the Amazon and harvesting their latex is a way for local people to make a living without cutting down trees. Having opened new markets and improved incomes from the production of wild rubber, the task now is to scale this up to new families and new markets. So to do this we took wild rubber to an international rubber fair in Sao Paolo, where new market leads were found and are being followed up on.
WWF stand at the international rubber fair ©WWF-BrazilWWF stand at the international rubber fair ©WWF-Brazil
  • Acai superberry. Our work with this superberry that grows wild in the rainforest is hampered by the safety issues around harvesters having to climb to the top of tall palm trees. This blog explains this in more detail. So we have been busy innovating, and we have made good progress on a piece of kit that will help overcome this challenge. Our next step is to venture into the world of impact investment, to help the local cooperative to buy the equipment it needs to access new markets.
  • Arapaima fish. We have expanded our work on sustainable fishing of the giant arapaima (or pirarucu) fish to new lakes in the Kaxinawa indigenous territory. Our best practice guide on fish management has been translated into the Kaxinawa language, in a publication which also captures indigenous knowledge on the species and their own beautiful illustrations. To recognise this community’s progress, we put forward fisherman Robenir Kaxinawa to be one of the Olympic torch bearers in Rio Branco, capital of Acre state. Check out the blog on Robenir.
Sustainable fishing of arapaima. ©Silvio MargaridoSustainable fishing of arapaima. ©Silvio Margarido
  • Influencing policy. Progress is being made on influencing how Brazil’s forest law – known as the Forest Code – is regulated in Acre state to include the positive experiences from the land certification scheme that we have been supporting in Acre. At the national level, since the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement WWF-Brazil has joined other environmental NGOs in the ‘Ratify Now!’ campaign. A major step forward is the recent ratification of the Climate Agreement by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Agreement will now be passed to the President, who has the power to sign it into domestic law.
  • Amazonas State. Similar to our work in Acre state, we have been working at landscape scale in the county of Apui. We initiated work here with cattle ranchers, to improve practices and assist ranchers in complying with Brazil’s Forest Code. The work is now scaling-up, with the aim of creating a state Forest District to cover 15 million hectares which would concentrate sustainable forestry production, to offer an economic alternative to the current rural strategy based on deforestation and ranching.
  • Colombia. The construction of paved roads in the Amazon has been a major driver of deforestation. Part of our work in the Colombian Amazon has been to improve road development, to demonstrate how stronger social and environmental safeguards can be included. One road is known locally as the “trampoline of death” due to the number of accidents from navigating its bends and precipices. When this road was planned to be rerouted, we began working to influence the process. As a result of our work here, Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development has asked for WWF’s technical support to jointly build the Green Infrastructure Guidelines (roads, railways and other types of infrastructure) that this ministry plan to develop together with the Ministry of Transport. This could have a positive outcome at the national scale.

Your support is important to help continue this vital work. Adopting a jaguar is an excellent and engaging way to support us.

And finally, to help celebrate Amazon Day, check out this cool video– filmed using a drone that is used to assist in conservation efforts – that shows some of the beauty and the challenges in Brazil’s Amazon and Cerrado regions.

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