The Iracambi Research Centre is located in one of the world’s most important and threatened ecosystems: Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest.
Here they welcome students, researchers and volunteers of all ages and backgrounds – from Brazil and beyond – to help them tackle some of today’s thorniest issues: climate change, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
Their diverse community of change-makers generates an exhilarating cross-fertilisation of ideas not easily achieved in traditional silo-ed forms of learning. Together they reflect, exchange knowledge and experience, develop and test solutions, and persevere until they’ve figured out what works.
And then they share it with the world.
Students and Interns
After the departure of Els, our previous Volunteer Coordinator, Guilherme took over the reins and looked after Jurre and Erik who put substantial muscle power into the biological wastewater system designed by the Ball State team on their visit here in May. He was joined by Felipe and Carlos, interns from the Federal Tech Institute, who helped him design customized reforestation projects for ten local farm families, together with nursery manager Toni. Gui, and his two feline friends, kept the home fires burning and the lights on while directors Robin and Binka were off on a sabbatical in Northeast Asia. Days after Robin’s return to Brazil, we were delighted to welcome Imran, our new communications coordinator and fundraiser. Since our incoming volunteer coordinator was prevented, at the eleventh hour, from joining us, Imran cheerfully assumed yet another portfolio. Welcome, Imran! Welcome, too, to funding coordinator Janet who simply loves spreadsheets, and to intern Tom from Belgium.
Young Eco-Leaders of the Brazilian Rainforest
The project aims at encouraging and equipping young Eco-Leaders to get involved with local environmental issues – one of which is a proposed bauxite mining project. In early July we attended a big meeting in Belisário, which, to our surprise was attended by five employees from the mining company – along with several of our Eco Leaders. Community members present made it clear that mining is not coherent with the plans we have for our region – which is an important Atlantic Rainforest refuge, a valuable watershed, and an area of family farming. Despite community opposition, the mining company is still eyeing the area.
Water for the Atlantic Rainforest
Just to give you an idea of what this project is doing, here is an extract from our blog “Tomorrow we`ll visit our first local producer eager to reforest part of his lands. This is a special case, as this farmer already works with a large variety of fruit trees. The big issue is that he plants all of them conventionally, using lots of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and thus contaminating his water sources. Our chance to help him reforest is also our chance to build an agroforestry system including fruit trees – and prove to him that it actually works.”
Two events of note. First, a visit from Global Giving, our longstanding partners in fundraising. And second – hot news from the Peer Awards for Excellence. You may remember that we made our presentation there in mid-June, and had to wait until September to learn the outcome – judged by our fellow participants. To our immense surprise and delight we learned that we tied with another entry in a dead heat for overall Grand Winner! A tremendous round of applause please, for those who worked on this: Els and Binka who created the original proposal (with help from Mark Sobczyk in Ireland and Juliet in Zimbabwe,) and Gus, who made the presentation.
Iracambi was There
In July, director Binka traveled to Tokyo where she was able to present in a number of different venues including Sophia and Seisin Universities, a Peace Boat Study Session, a rainforest lecture in the old Dutch Trading Post on Hirado Island, and – what may have >been the nicest venue yet for a rainforest presentation – a forest amphitheater on Mount Takeo. Thanks to her hosts at Peace Boat Binka was also able, some weeks later, to present at a North East Asia Regional Peace Meeting in Ulan Baatar, Mongolia. From Mongolia to the United States. Iracambi is the only Brazilian member of the Organization of Biological Field Stations, but we don’t usually manage to get to their annual meetings. Happily, this year’s meeting was held when Binka was in the US attending a conference and board meeting of Partners of the Americas in Portland, Oregon. From Portland it was a short hop to Colorado, which, (thanks to friends at Partners of the Americas,) has become our home away from home. Due to a generous travel grant from OBFS Binka was able to go to the Rocky Mountains Biological Laboratory, where she spent a highly enjoyable and instructive few days in the company of many fellow field station staff and directors. Thank you, OBFS! In the meantime, back in the jungle, Director Robin had donned his backpack and hiking boots and trekked to Curitiba to join the Brazilian Congress on Protected Areas, Among the illuminati addressing the Congress were Senator Marina Silva, former Presidential Candidate and Minister for the Environment, Russell Mittermeier, founder president of Conservation International, Fernando Meirelles, film director (City of God and The Constant Gardener), George (Snow Leopard) Schaller of the NY Zoo, and Maria Teresa Pádua, President of the Brazilian Environmental Protection Institute (IBAMA) at the time when the National System of Conservation Units was set up.
Today only 8% of the Atlantic Rainforest remains. The result of this is catastrophic. Cities run out of water, farmland degrades, and rural areas are plunged into poverty.
Fifteen years ago, their neighbour Adão had cut most of his forest.
His spring ran dry.
His coffee failed.
With their support he reforested, and today his spring flows, his coffee thrives and he has become a committed conservationist.
Working together with the local community, Iracambi sees forests restored and farmlands flourishing. People discover the confidence and skills to create their own practical, replicable and sustainable solutions. Everyone benefits.
At Iracambi they study forests, plant trees, listen to local communities and leverage socio-economic change. But they also create unlikely yet fruitful partnerships, whose alchemy and serendipity yields extraordinary results. Political scientists join forces with farm families and IT technicians work with botanists. They are constantly conceiving, developing and testing ideas together, and learning by doing.
They meet in the rainforest and they meet in cyberspace, where biologists from Britain bounce off their resident scientists, and disruptive thinkers from America trade practical tips with Brazilian agro-ecologists. And the outcome? Great people, stimulating ideas and innovative solutions that turbo-charge transformative change.
At Iracambi they seek holistic solutions that bring social good and sound economics into the equation of caring for the planet.
They’ve discovered that great learning takes place when people from different backgrounds collaborate over a shared passion, get dirt under their fingernails, try, fail, and try again. They understand that no one model of education or development works for everyone, everywhere, but when people leave their comfort zone and dare to make mistakes, amazing things happen.
They’re making a big impact on a small budget, and today our global diaspora spans the world, saving forests and changing lives.