• The Final Journey – Visiting the hidden corners of our REDD+ project

    The Trocano Araretama is a rainforest conservation project in Borba, Brazil, that focuses on social, biodiversity and carbon benefits. Here, Seán Greif recounts his final journey in the project area in January, to the isolated BR-319 highway, in the Western region of the Trocano Araretama project.

    Day 11: Brazil is full of paradoxes. Any country of such size & diversity is full of contradictions, and the BR-319 highway is one such example. The road links the two major Amazonian cities of Porto Velho & Manaus, and was envisaged to be one of the main transport & communication arteries of the region. However, the reality is something completely different. Indigenous reserves, environmental arguments and the sheer remoteness of the road have taken their toll on the BR-319. The Amazon is reclaiming it as its own, despite continued efforts to maintain it. Floods wash away huge sections of asphalt, landslides leave gaping wounds, and the green tentacles of the jungle claw back the margins.

    BR-319

    A section of the roadside that was damaged by flooding. Photo: Seán Greif/CGV

    This makes the BR-319 an exciting place. Adrenaline junkies set out in 4×4 convoys to travel the week’s trip down the full length of the road. A great mystery hangs over the road, as so few have travelled it. Even in Borba, or any of the municipalities carved by the road, the local population know little about it, its accessibility or the reality for those living along the highway. For the municipality of Borba, the BR-319 is a forgotten corner at the very edge of the furthest borders.

    And it is precisely this isolation & mystery that makes this region such an important area to visit, to understand, and to engage for the success of the project. The isolation meant this was one part of the journey I would have to do by myself. It would be the first time of the trip I would be completely alone, with no help from any of our local partners. It was a daunting task, but at the same time, an exhilarating one. This was an area where the risk of deforestation and incursion on the local rainforest was high, and an area where we had little information on the locals’ living conditions.

    I arranged for a taxi to meet me at the road leading to Autazes town. After loading my stuff into the car I got in, and the driver took off. Neither of us had actually been down the road before, but we had both heard a litany of conflicting rumours about the conditions that lay ahead of us. In the beginning, the road itself was in good condition, and I noted that there was considerable deforestation in this area. But after passing the town of Carreiro, the surroundings started changing rapidly. I felt a giddy, nervous excitement building as I got closer and closer to my destination. I didn’t know if we would make it, or if the road even reached the project, but my optimism was growing as I watched the kilometres drop behind us on the odometer.

    Vila Tupana, Trocano Araretama

    The condition of the road deteriorated as the journey went on. Photo: Seán Greif/CGV

    And then the taxi pulled int0 Vila Tupana, a community just outside the project borders. We crossed over the bridge and there was an instant change in the surroundings. Houses became more sporadic, and the pockmarked asphalt began to fade into a dusty mud road. Here, the jungle was lush, green, and encroaching on the road. We went as far as we could, until conditions became too poor to continue. We had travelled over halfway along the stretch of road inside the project area. When we decided we should turn back, we stopped outside a house at the furthest point we had reached.

    In this house, I met Edilson, a local landowner originally from Rondonia, a neighbouring Amazonian state. He invited me in and told me about life on the highway. He explained that the area has been almost completely forgotten, and has become little more than an anomaly caught in limbo between four municipalities. He spoke of months where the rainy season cuts off communication, and children cannot attend school. Malaria is also rife in the area, and the isolation further complicates health issues. We talked for about an hour as he showed me around his land, but then I decided it best to get back on the road. There was a smell of rain in the air, and we knew that even a shower would turn the road into a mud bath that would trap me there for the night.

    Trocano Araretama Project

    Edilson and his family. Photo: Seán Greif/CGV

    We set off, and as I gazed back towards Edilson’s home, the memories of all my recent adventures washed over me, and I realised how much I had learnt and how intimately I now knew one of the most beautiful & secluded places on Earth. The trip had been a great success and left both Celestial Green Ventures and the local population eager and enthusiastic for the future of Projeto Trocano Araretama.

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