Leveraging Guarani Knowhow For Reforestation

A Guarani man walks through a cleared patch of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest that the local Indigenous community is trying to reforest. DIEGO HERCULANO / NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES

Thanks to Jill Langlois and Yale e360:

How Indigenous People Are Restoring Brazil’s Atlantic Forest

The Guarani Mbya people are working to restore the once-vast Atlantic Forest, which has been largely lost to development. Gaining official tenure of their lands, they hope, will boost their efforts, which range from planting native trees to reintroducing pollinators.

It was 2016 when Jurandir Jekupe noticed the bees were gone.

Their nests were once common in Yvy Porã, the Guarani Mbya village where Jekupe grew up and still lives. But now the uruçu, a species known for its honey, had all but vanished, and sightings of the jataí, a species sacred to the Guarani Mbya, were rare.

“Bees are very sensitive,” says Jekupe, a leader in his Indigenous community. “They’re like a thermometer for the forest. If they disappear, you know there’s something wrong.”

Yvy Porã is one of six villages that make up the Jaraguá Indigenous Territory. It lies just 12 miles northwest of downtown São Paulo and is surrounded by the concrete of working-class neighborhoods. But this small forested area is part of a much larger whole — Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, a domain that covers almost 35,000 square miles, running along more than 1,800 miles of the Atlantic Coast, sweeping across 17 Brazilian states, and dipping into Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Logging of this forest — still considered the second largest rainforest in Brazil — began in the early 16th century as land was cleared for timber and mines and then, in the 19th century, for coffee plantations, beef, sugar, firewood, and charcoal. Today, developers continue to clear the Atlantic Forest for housing, as the populations of São Paulo — currently home to 12.4 million people — and Rio de Janeiro explode.

As the forest has fallen, so have populations of native bees. And without the pollination they provide, the forest that remains — in places like Yvy Porã — has struggled to survive.

So the Guarani Mbya decided to do something about it.

A nomadic people, they often travel to other villages within the forest, visiting family and exchanging information. On a trip in 2016, residents of Yvy Porã learned that villagers in the state of Espírito Santo, which had also lost its native bees, had started buying bees, raising them in wooden hives, and reintroducing them to their land. The Guarani Mbya decided to bring the idea back with them to São Paulo.

And it worked.

Read the whole article here.

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