Coastal communities and others in ecologically important areas are primary stakeholders of the eco-system. Mangroves, rain forests, and riparian forests are being destroyed at alarming rates.
Unless the local communities are partners in the protection and conservation of these areas, eco-systems risk losing their vital functions including the ability to absorb large quantities of CO2 as a buffer to climate change.
The legacy of Chico Mendes
Brazilian folk hero Chico Mendes left at least one important legacy for mankind, which deserves to be replicated the world over – the law creating reserves for sustainable use. They are called "reservas extrativistas" in Portuguese (extractive reserves or RESEX). Mendes led the Rubber Tappers Union in resisting the pressures of wealthy farmers who were using government land for cattle grazing.
Chico and his companions were defending the thesis that the rainforest is worth more standing up then lying down; that extracting the richness from the forest without destroying it is equal to sustainable development. Mendes was assassinated by land grabbers in December 1988 at his house in Xapuri, in the state of Acre.
Extractive Reserves are part of the Brazilian national system of protected areas. The National System for Conservation Units (SNUC) defines them as a "Protected Area for Sustainable Use by Traditional Populations". The government decree 98.897 of January 30, 1990 signed by President Collor (later impeached) and Environment Minister José Antonio Lutzenberger is the legal basis for extractive reserves and defines RESEX as "territorial space destined to self-sustainable exploration and conservation of renewable natural resources" and establishes that the executive power shall create those reservations in territorial spaces considered of ecologic and social interest.
Ownership vs. stewardship for sustainable use
Traditional populations living in forests, along rivers or coasts can apply to the Instituto Chico Mendes for Conservation of Biodiversity (ICMBio), the government agency responsible for protected areas and conservation of biodiversity, for the creation of a RESEX. After an extensive review of the legitimacy of the community, land or sea rights and their extractive practices, the request is reviewed by government agencies, state governments and is subjected to public hearings in the community before it is submitted to the President of the Republic for signature of the decree.
The government cedes the rights of use of land and sea and the population receives a collective title for land use. This impedes the sale of the land which is federal property, federal laws apply, and law enforcement is of federal nature. The concession guarantees access to land and sea for the future generations of the local community.
Governance: Utilization and legislation
The next step after the decree creating the RESEX is the orientation of the local community and the creation of groups representing all the community's segments – fisherfolk, women, youth, farmers, tourism service providers, commerce, and so on. The groups choose a representative and a substitute to participate in the deliberative council.
This deliberative council is the governing body of the RESEX and the majority (51 percent) of votes belongs to community groups, with external groups from local and state government, NGOs, academia, and neighbouring communities completing the council. Resolutions passed by the deliberative council and sanctioned by the Government become federal law. The manager of the RESEX representing the Federal Government (ICMBio) is the president of the deliberative council.
Once the RESEX is established and ratified, a management plan must be developed for the sustainable use of the RESEX. Enforcement in the RESEX is the responsibility of the Federal Government with community participation. The management plan elaborated by the RESEX community with help from members of the deliberative council and government should be in place within five years from the date of designation, although this has not always been the case.
Carbon credit and payment for environmental services
Carbon credit programs should provide funds to compensate local communities for the environmental services of their RESEX. This adds income from tourism and other traditional productive activities like fishing, hunting, agriculture and arts and handicraft.
Brazil already has legislation which regulates payments for environmental services in RESEX, with the first projects still in experimental phases in the state of Amazonas. Brazilhas great potential for carbon credit programs to benefit local communities, contribute to poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation as well as help mitigate climate change.
Prainha do Canto Verde as a model of sustainable development
This fishing community in the state of Ceará (Northeast Brazil) has become a classic example of resistance against real estate speculation defeating land grabbers in a 25 year battle in the field and in the judicial system, leading to the Superior Tribunal of Justice ruling in favour of the community.
With local and international support and networks Prainha do Canto Verde has developed projects for sustainable fisheries, community-based tourism, organic farming, and other sustainable economic activities. In 2009, the President of the Republic, "Lula" Luis Inácio da Silva, signed the presidential decree creating the RESEX of Prainha do Canto Verde, thus guaranteeing human rights for the community residents. The RESEX of Canto Verde covers 252 km2, of which 610 hectares are terrestrial and the rest is marine. Community residents have begun legislating for sustainable use. For example, before 2009 the regulations for new constructions were voluntary village agreements without any legal basis. In 2011, a modified version of this voluntary agreement was approved by the deliberative council and sanctioned by the government to become federal law, with the Federal Police responsible for its enforcement.
This caused a conflict for land with a member of a wealthy family of the elite of Ceará and owner of a conglomerate of private schools who claims to own over 50 percent of the RESEX territory and is using his political clout to fight the RESEX. He has initiated several law suits against the RESEX and is dividing the community through subversive activities. To no avail – the presence of Mr. Tales Montano Sá Cavalcante in the RESEX is under scrutiny and the Federal Government will appropriate his mansion constructed illegally 20 years ago.
In focus groups and hearings of fishers of the community and neighbouring communities, fishing regulations within the RESEX are currently being negotiated (April 2012). Once consensus is reached the resolution will be voted by the deliberative council and become federal fisheries and conservation law for the RESEX. The proposal for this RESEX initially excludes motor vessels as a precautionary measure to safeguard marine stocks until stock assessments are available and scientific data is made available to support management decisions. Neighbouring communities using sail craft and sustainable fishing gear will be granted special fishing permits.
Fishers are criticizing the lack of enforcement at sea against poachers of the valuable lobster resource. The community is ready to participate in a UNEP project for sustainable production and consumption which will lead to the certification of the lobster catches from the RESEX. Prainha do Canto Verde has been a pioneer in fisheries certification since a pre-assessment along the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) principles and certification criteria was carried out in 2000.
The RESEX has already brought many advantages to the local population and helps them guarantee human rights of access to land and marine resources and self-determination. Special credit lines and projects for economic development are available to local residents.
Fishers ask for more efficient management and enforcement of the RESEX by the responsible government agency. This is needed to accelerate the implementation of the RESEX and to complete the management plan by June 2014 – the year of the FIFA Soccer World Cup in Brazil.
Flaws in Brazil´s RESEX and lack of leadership by President Dilma Rousseff
The use of protected areas, be it for integral protection or for sustainable use, is one of the keys to sustainable development. Countries have been slow in living up to their commitments from the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburgten years ago. Brazil, even though with an exemplary legislation and reserves for sustainable use, needs to do more to expand the number of RESEX and other marine protected areas to protect an area of ten percent of the marine territory as established in the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), and make sure they are properly implemented, with management plans in place to avoid a system of "paper parks". There is a need to accelerate the implementation of protected areas with resilience towards climate change with plans for mitigation and tools for local economic development. The ICMBio is in dire need of institutional strengthening, qualified human resources and sufficient financial resources to operate. The implementation of many reserves is lagging due to lack of managers with a socio-economic science background and lack of skills for conflict resolution (Gerhardinger, 2011).
The upcoming conference on sustainable development Rio+20 would have been a great opportunity to present RESEX as a solution to sustainable forms of governance for replication around the world, but President Dilma Rousseff has shown a lack of environmental stewardship and leadership. Since she took office in January 2011, no new RESEX have been created and even worse; existing protected areas, especially in the Amazon, have been reduced in size to please local politicians and agro-businesses.
Environmental legislation is constantly being weakened by executive orders and parliamentary initiatives to favour short-term economic benefits over sustainability. This leaves us with a bleak outlook for the "green economy" that should come out of Rio+20.
René Schärer works with communities in the fishing villageof Prainhado Canto Verde in the north-eastern state of Ceará, Brazil, supporting local development, environmentally and socially responsible tourism and fighting land speculation. He is a founding member of the NGO Instituto Terramar, Brazil, and the Philanthropic Association Amigos da Prainha do Canto Verde, Switzerland.
Eco-Tourism – Great Potential for Economic Development in Extractive Reserves
Prainha do Canto Verde pioneered community tourism in Brazilwhen the residents started to explore the activity in an organized fashion in 1998. Women, men and adolescents provide tourism services in guesthouses, restaurants, or by offering transfers, excursions, and eco-trails with local guides. Community and school infrastructure is used to organise meetings with groups from schools and universities, and exchange visits from protected areas from around the country.
Service groups provide coffee breaks and look after the meeting room facilities where all necessary equipment – television, video and data show – is available and community groups talk about the village history.
Other residents use their talents for arts and handicrafts which are sold at the local fair trade shop together with natural products from the village and other communities from the state of Ceará which joined in the community tourism and fair trade networks.
The TUCUM tourism network already has 12 members along the 574 km coastline of the state of Ceará. Six fair trade outlets of the Bodega Network are consolidating their marketing effort and planning to sell online soon. Other people benefitting from the demand of tourists for healthy food are local farmers.
The great advantage of community tourism is that nobody depends on the tourism revenue for survival, so the people can live with the low season. Income from tourism, arts and handicrafts, family agriculture and computer and communication services complement income from the principal activities like fishing, hunting, foresting, and agriculture depending on the eco-system where the community is located.
Since the community of Prainha do Canto Verde has joined Extractive Reserves in 2009, it has drawn attention to the potential of eco-tourism. Prainha do Canto Verde receives over 1,200 tourists per year with 3,105 overnights distributed in five guesthouses.
Several groups from other protected areas from all over Brazilhave already visited Prainha and the case study has been presented in workshops joining hundreds of people from RESEX and other protected areas. We hope that Instituto Chico Mendes will join forces with the Ministry of Tourism to develop this promising segment of tourism to promote economic development, nature conservation and meaningful, sustainable poverty reduction.