Black Jaguar Foundation is working with local landowners to create the world’s largest biodiversity corridor. Regenerating and protecting such an area requires long-term vision and a unique approach.
The Araguaia River stretches for 2600 km across Brazil, from north to south. The river connects the Cerrado savanna with the Amazon rainforest and flows through private land, national parks and indigenous reserves. The Araguaia River connects to tributaries, back waters and includes a 100,000 hectare flooded forest. It is a key biodiversity zone – home to jaguars, giant otters and the Amazon river dolphin. Yet in the last decades, 90% of the unprotected area along the Araguaia river has been deforested. This both drastically reduces biodiversity habitat while disrupting rain patterns – impacting local communities, causing drought after drought.
Black Jaguar Foundation (BJF), a Dutch-Brazilian NGO, is part of an ecological restoration movement to create a 40 km wide biodiversity corridor along the Araguaia river. That amounts to an area of 10.4 million ha. Creating the Araguaia biodiversity corridor will preserve water sources, improve biodiversity habitat, mitigate climate change and provide new income streams for local communities. This initiative requires a long-term vision – BJF expects the project to be completed by 2040, and will monitor areas for up to 20 years.
Creating a mosaic biodiversity corridor
The core strategy of BJF is to partner with landowners along the river to regenerate degraded areas of land. The aim is to create a “mosaic” biodiversity corridor, connecting areas of restored land. Brazilian law provides the framework for the Araguaia Biodiversity Corridor. Brazil’s Forest Code states that landowners must protect up to 80% of the natural vegetation across the Amazon region and 20% in the Cerrado. BJF estimates that there are 13,000 landowners with degraded land along the Araguaia river. By supporting these landowners to restore their land and fulfil the Forest Code, the world’s largest biodiversity corridor can become reality.
Yet that requires restoring up to 1 million hectares. Restoring such an area represents 8% of Brazil’s recovery target for reforestation laid out in the Paris agreement. That would mean growing over 1.7 billion native trees over the next 50 years – which will capture 321 million tons of carbon while creating up to 24,000 jobs.
Providing support to adhere to the Forest Code
To support landowners to adhere to the Forest Code, BJF covers the expense of restoration next to the technical support. Including mapping, biodiversity planning, the maintenance and monitoring of the restoration work. BJF also provides education and information to farmers while creating a community around the restoration work. The restoration work is already leading to local employment: the recent construction of a large-scale nursery combined with this season’s planting has created over 100 new jobs. Essential employment for people that have been left without work due to agribusiness automatization. At the same time BJF supports woman in key positions, to show that they can make the difference and be the local inspirational leaders.
Farmers as the heroes
BJF believes in a positive approach, whereby famers can be the heroes again, the regenerators and protectors of their land. After so much negative news on Brazil, deforestation, forest fires and farmers being blamed, BJF takes a can-do-mentality in which action is taken to preserve what’s still left and restore the areas required together with these farmers.
The Araguaia Biodiversity Corridor is a project with a long-time frame. Over the next 5 years, BJF is focusing and consolidating on the ecological restoration of 60,000 ha (approximately 10 million native trees) in Santana do Araguaia together with 40 farmers. They will collaboratively learn and build knowledge, while creating a restoration community around compliance with the Forest Code. These lessons will then be scaled along the Araguaia River over the next decades and create an impressive restoration initiative.
Feature image credit: Eider Oliveira