Carbon project brings sustainable hope to remote tract of Amazon
Juma Reserve, Brazil (AFP) Oct 22, 2008
Juma Reserve, in the heart of Brazil's vast Amazon forest, stands as an example of the perils weighing on the world's largest tropical woodland.
Illegal loggers are tearing down the green canopy, and residents in this, one of the most remote zones on Earth, live in extreme poverty.
But the situation is changing, thanks to a pioneer carbon project organized by the government of Amazonas state with collaboration from the US-based international hotel chain Marriott.
The reserve is the first place in Brazil to be certified by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance, a partnership between corporations, non-governmental organizations and researchers that aims to establish initiatives promoting sustainable development while protecting the environment.
Maria Edines Goncalves, who walked six hours through the jungle with her six children by her side to reach a community where the project was launched on Friday, is representative of the locals the project aims to help.
In her pocket, she carried a letter signed by the 12 families in her tiny village asking for three necessities: a school; equipment to mill tapioca flour from the manioc, or cassava, shrub; and an electricity generator.
"This is the first time someone from the government has come out here," Goncalves said.
The Juma Reserve project's goal is to improves the lives of the 322 families living in the area, located 300 kilometers (200 miles) south of the city of Manaus and accessible only by boat.
The reserve was declared in 2006 in an effort to slow deforestation which took off after a small road was built to facilitate the movements of the loggers and clandestine gold prospectors.
"Four years ago, there were six illegal wood mills operating here. The owners turned up with a lot of money and threatened to evict the inhabitants," said Father Ramiro, a Spanish priest who has lived in the area for 25 years.
He added that he had received death threats for standing up for the locals.
Ramiro said that turning half a million hectares into a reserve had helped a little to diminish destruction of the forest.
Virgilio Viana, the director of the Durable Amazonas Foundation that overseas public and private finances used in state conservation efforts, emphasized the usefulness of the carbon project.
"We are creating an economic instrument to ensure the preservation of the forest while recognizing the ecological services made by the people living in it," he said.
The Marriott group is to make its contribution by asking clients in each of its 3,000 hotels around the world to donate a dollar to Juma's conservation and help the locals, who get by on fruit harvests and tapioca production.
The donations are a sort of "carbon tax" designed to offset the 32 kilograms of carbon dioxide produced in the hotels each night.
Brazil is the fourth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. However, unlike in advanced economies, the source is not industry but rather from the fires set to clear Amazon woodland.
The state of Amazonas is the best preserved in the country, keeping 98 percent of its original vegetation.
But according to the Durable Amazonas Foundation, there is no reason for complacency: by 2050 the state will have lost a third of its forest if destruction continues at the current rate.
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Paris, France (ESA) Oct 22, 2008
How best to map 'boreal' or northern forest with spaceborne radar is the focus of an ESA campaign currently underway in northern Sweden. By answering this question, the campaign addresses one of the key objectives of the candidate Earth Explorer BIOMASS mission.
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