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Uma Exploração de Comunidades Sustentáveis na América Latina.

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Floresta Viva: Promoting a Regenerative Forest Economy in Serra Grande, Bahia

Posted on August, 02 2017

Over the past 6 months we’ve been settling into our new territory of Serra Grande, Bahia, making friends, building community, and getting to know the area as we work on our book and edit other materials from Común Tierra. As we explore the area, we want to share some of our experiences with you, so over the next few weeks we’ll be publishing a series of profiles of some of the ecological projects and communities in the area.


Floresta Viva

To tell the story of Floresta Viva (Living Forest), we have to start with a little bit of (modern) history and geography of the region. Serra Grande is just about halfway between Ilheus and Itacaré, a region that has been recognized as having the third greatest biodiversity in the whole world. The local ecosystem is a remainder of Mata Atlantica (Atlantic Forest), which before European invastion covered large swaths of coastal and southern Brasil.

The area has been through several economic boom-bust cycles featuring native wood extraction, sugarcane and cacao production, and today is know as the Cacao Coast (Costa do Cacao). Since 1993 the region is part of a large APA, Area of Environmental Protection, which covers roughly 60,000 km2. Despite the natural beauty of the region, the area remained well off the beaten track of mainstream tourism until a new highway was paved in 1997.

Knowing that changes were coming to the area with the coming road access, a group of activists brainstormed ways to protect the area from unsustainable development and environmental degradation. Working with the state government, one fruit of those efforts was the creation of the Serra do Conduru State Park (PESC) in 1997, which ensured that over 9000 hectares would be preserved.


Waterfalls in the Serra do Conduru State Park

Promoting a Regenerative Forest Economy

Prior to the creation of the park, most local peasants survived by logging the forests or burning land for agriculture. Floresta Viva recognized that ecological preservation was directly tied to promoting alternative economic opportunities, so they went to work to create new economic models that weren’t based on these activities, both of which were now illegal within the protected area. In 2000 Floresta Viva trained 60 local families in agro-ecology and eco-tourism to provide alternative livelihoods that didn’t degenerate the forests and local ecosystems. With the success of these early programs, Floresta Viva has taken on many projects over the years to promote sustainable livelihoods in the region while helping to regenerate the land within and surrounding the state park.

This work has led to the creation of the Esperanza Conduru Ecological Corridor, which includes the PESC as well as other protected areas. The aim of the Ecological Corridor is to plan bioregional strategies for water management and treatment and the protection of biodiversity. The group also monitors policy development in the region, participating when appropriate in public forums and debate.


The Floresta Viva nursery produces native species for reforestation


Today Floresta Viva cultivates a large nursery full of native plants, reproducing over 115 species which are used in reforestation efforts on both public and private lands. The organization has catalogued local species and documented their different uses, allowing them to train locals in recognizing native plants, as well as how to cultivate and use them. These courses and actions, dubbed ‘Escola da Floresta’ or Forest School, are slowly building the capacity of the community to develop a sustainable forest economy.

More recently, the center has hosted several courses and trainings on natural building:

Above: Building in progress. Below: A workshop on low-impact construction methods.


Future Plans

Floresta Viva hopes to develop the 2 ha center into a botanical garden highlighting the native fauna, preserving and producing seeds, and educating the public about the importance of biodiversity. One of the long-term goals of the botanical garden is to ‘invade’ the town itself, planting native species along the streets and plazas of Serra Grande, converting the whole area into an educational landscape.

We enjoyed our visit with Floresta Viva, and are grateful for their efforts working towards a regenerative economy over the last 20 years. We hope to be able to accompany a reforestation action soon.

If you want to know more about Floresta Viva, you can visit their website and follow them on Facebook.

Look for more profiles on local projects coming soon!

Take care – Ryan + Leticia

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