The recovery and conservation of the forests and flows of life – water, soil, fauna, flora, human beings and their businesses – in the Pratigi Environmental Protection Area (EPA) located in Southern Bahia Lowlands. This has been the main activity promoted over the past 10 years of operation of the Land Conservation Organization (OCT), the institution that works to strengthen the region’s environmental capital.
“Our objective is to develop a practical model that promotes the appropriate treatment of nature’s elements,” said Joaquim Cardoso, President of the OCT Deliberative Council. “This means establishing safe ways of promoting sustainability,” he said.
The institution – which is part of the Southern Bahia Lowlands Environmental Protection Area Mosaic Integrated and Sustainable Development Program (PDIS), supported by the Odebrecht Foundation – has promoted three initiatives through the Environmental Services Cooperative Alliance (ACSA) that guide and reiterate its mission.
One of the initiatives is deforestation avoided, which proposes to raise the awareness of local communities about the importance of caring for and maintaining trees. In this way, the rural farmer, who receives technical orientations and is compensated annually, is encouraged to provide environmental services. The goal is 77,000 hectares conserved until 2016.
The second action encourages reforestation. A total of 50 hectares of forest have already been restored with the planting of 75,000 seedlings, allowing for the recovery of 25 water sources. The third is geared toward the promotion of Agroforest Systems – a way of planting that integrates agriculture with the forest, based on the natural maintenance of the trees and different cultivations – and forestry, the planting of legal wood for sale.
These three activities contribute toward the installation of Ecological Corridors, a project that aims to connect fragments of Atlantic Forest, extending from Bahia to Espírito Santo.
OCT operates in the Papuã-Pratigi Corridor, in the municipalities of Piraí do Norte, Nilo Peçanha, Ituberá, Igrapiúna and Ibirapitanga. “The operations face the challenge of facilitating the adoption of practices that restore ecosystems and allow for ecologically balanced production systems that contribute toward conservation in a global fashion,” said Volney Fernandes, Integrating Coordinator at ACSA.
André Catixa, leader of the Lagoa Santa Association, a quilombola (descendants of former slaves) community from the municipality of Ituberá, emphasizes that “the purpose is to care for the green.” “We joined forces with OCT and we have achieved success with the reforestation actions,” said Catixa. “Furthermore, this activity helps generate jobs and income for the residents.”
The Bahia State Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Bahia State Department of the Environment, Agrarian Development Coordination, BioAtlântica Institute, M. Libânio Group, Brazilian Fund for Biodiversity, Oi Telecomunicações, rural producers and local families are some of the initiative’s partners, together with the institutions associated with PDIS.
The organization also coordinates two other actions in the region together with the Brazilian Federal Government and Bahia State Government, respectively: The Cooperative Energy Alliance and Parque da Cidadania Road (EPC).
The first consists of reactivating five Small Hydroelectric Plants (PCH) that exist in Southern Bahia Lowlands to supply clean and renewable energy to the population. The initiative will also promote the protection and recovery of the water sources and riparian forests, creating a virtuous cycle in which the water generates energy, allowing for reforestation, which in turn will increase the flow of the rivers, producing more energy. The technical projects have already been concluded and the project is currently in the fundraising phase.
Extending 150 km, EPC cuts four municipalities, which are Ibirapitanga, Piraí do Norte, Ituberá and Igrapiúna, and connects BR-101 to BA-001 and its branches. The road constitutes the basic infrastructure for communication and the generation of wealth and allows for the transportation of people and raw materials.
The paving work, which began in 2010, uses materials that limit the vehicles’ speed, are easy to maintain, have a longer useful life and reduce the soil’s water tightness. A total of 17 km of roads have already been constructed. When it is ready, EPC will be administered by the community through the Pratigi EPA Guardian Association.