• Taking to the water: the journey home – Trocano Araretama Project

    Trocano Araretama is a rainforest conservation project in Borba, Brazil, that focuses on social, biodiversity & 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 7 – Part 2: Once the São Joaquim community disappeared from view, we sat down for lunch on the boat. The dense jungle passed by much quicker now, as the current was in our favour for the first time, gently coaxing us downriver. We wound our way through the maze of islands downstream of São Joaquim, until we came to the other bank of the broad Madeira River. Since it is so wide, we decided that we would focus on visiting & monitoring one side at a time. We were now traveling along the Southern Bank, which, although part of the same river, is more developed & populated than the Northern Bank.

    Ponta Alegre

    Members of the Ponta Alegre Community. Photo: Seán Greif/CGV

    The weather had deteriorated since the early morning, and a storm had begun to form overhead. The swells in the river grew more & more as the wind whipped rain around the boat. It was with great relief that we tied up against the bank at Ponta Alegre community, and disembarked for a bit of respite from the weather. Ponta Alegre is a large community, with about 34 families living there. While there, we spoke with Linhares, president of that region’s Producers’ Association, which is made up of 142 farmers from Ponta Alegre and surrounding communities.

    The community is thriving, and has a school with an IT room, with internet provided by satellite. Their electricity is supplied by a large municipal generator. Their main source of income is fishing and rural production, but locals spoke of the need for technical agricultural assistance to increase the yield. Once the storm had started to settle down, we hopped back on the boat and got on our way.

    Ponta Alegre

    Visible effects of erosion on the Madeira River. Photo: Seán Greif/CGV

    Our last stop before Borba was at Awarazinho, a small community at the mouth of the Awara River. Here we saw how the river had eroded the banks to the extent that the entire community had moved back about 50 metres. Seeing the amount of annual erosion was startling, but we didn’t have a chance to explore the area more, as the oncoming darkness was putting us under pressure to return to Borba. Navigating the Madeira at night is a risky task, as floating logs can be obscured and deal a lot of damage if hit. But we managed to manoeuvre our way safely through the water, and soon saw Borba in the distance. While its warm glow was a welcome sight, it was sad to call an end to such a great and exciting trip.

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