The Trocano Araretama is a rainforest conservation project in Borba, Brazil, that focuses on social, biodiversity and carbon benefits. Community visits engage the local population in the project and are a great opportunity for two way communication. Here, Seán Greif recounts visiting communities on the Upper Madeira over three days in January 2014.
Day 6 and 7: It was still early when I awoke to the bright light of the low sun straining through the mosquito net. The only sound was the gasps of the pink dolphins as they broke through the glistening mirror of the river surface. My eyes strained as they adjusted to the view, focusing to distinguish the reflection of the jungle from the real thing. After a breakfast of fresh fruit, generously given to us in the communities the day before, the engine roared into life again.
We were heading to São Joaquim, the community where our pilot project is based, but our first stop was at a fruit farm run by Edilson. Edilson is the largest producer of oranges in Borba, with a house high on the river banks looking across his plantation out over the river and Mandi Island. He proudly showed us around his plantation. He pointed out how some of the lime and orange trees were suffering from an infection, and Goiano gave him some direction on how to avoid further damage to his crop. He explained that he sells his oranges outside of Borba as well, to the markets of Manicoré, Autazes and even Manaus.
On the boat again, we head for São Jaoquim, arriving a little after lunchtime. We received a warm welcome and I was eager to get as much information about the community as possible. I saw how they treated their drinking water, visited the school and football pitch, I was shown the problems with the electricity generator, and we took to the jungle to see the manioc and passion fruit plantations. After a long day we took to our hammocks again, having organised a community workshop for the coming morning.
The sun rises directly opposite São Joaquim, turning the community a golden pink in the early morning. We prepared for the workshop as the community was waking up. We could hear households making breakfast, the happy children excited at a new day and the dawn chorus of Amazonia. When everyone had gathered around, we began our community workshop. We started by introducing the project, explaining why we were visiting and what the objectives of the project are. We answered questions, doubts and suggestions that the community had.
After the initial part of the workshop, we began teasing out the communities necessities. This can often be quite challenging to establish, as people all over the would tend to accept the status quo as the norm, and are often unaware that some ordinary daily activities are dangerous or damaging to their health or quality of life.
We learnt that the method of water treatment and sanitation could be easily improved using modern technology provided by the project. We also found out that education for the children of the community provided them with a lifeline to stay in the community, and was important not only for their development, but also as an integral part of the social fabric of the community. We gained many insights into the reality of community life, and our team in Dublin are currently immersed in providing realistic and viable solutions for the necessities that were clarified at this workshop.
The workshop lasted six hours, with the only break coming from a fierce rain storm that forced the relocation of the workshop to the community social centre, where it continued under the clapping and battering of the torrential rain above. Our two days in São Joaquim gave us an unparalleled insight into the reality on the ground in an Amazonian community. We bade farewell to the waving children, watching the community until it was absorbed into the jungle by the distance. We were on the river again, for our last day of community visits.
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