ANSWER FROM AMAZONIA ASSOCIATION (CHRIS CLARK): Tom you raise interesting and understandable questions which on my part
require quite a lengthy response.
Some further information can be seen at www.amazonia.org
I first came here in 1984 as a traveler looking to see some of the Amazon. One of the first places I visited was the Rio Jauaperi. Between then and 1990 I returned every year and visited different parts of the Amazon, but always revisited the Jauaperi. I got to know the people from here and one day in 1990 they asked me if I couldn’t help them as they had no health service or education system for their children. We discussed ways of doing this and hit on the idea of creating the Amazon Association. The idea was to preserve a part of their area which was particularly rich in exchange for looking for funding to improve their standard of living. We all became members of the association and the locals sold their land holdings to it. Since then we have extended the reserve to cover 178.000 hectares and since 2001 we have been working with the Environment Ministry to enlarge the area all the way to where the Rio Jauaperi joins the Rio Negro and also up the parallel Rio Branco. This area is becoming the Reserva Extractivista do Baixo Rio Branco~Rio Jauaperi. It is in its final stages of implementation and I am in constant contact with Marina Silva and Carlos Vicente, the environmment minister and her vice, both in personal meetings and through a mutual friend who tells me that the decree now only awaits the signature of president Lula to become effective.
This is being financed by the ARPA programe, Amazon Region Protected Areas of the G7 Pilot Project for the Amazon. Our area falls into the planned Central Amazonian Ecological Corridor being financed by the world bank. Our partners in this project are IBAMA, the Brazilian Environment Institute, CNPT, The National Centre for Traditional Populations and the Roraima Rural workers Union, as well as the local communities which will become part of the new reserve.
We are basically a local brazilian organisation but thanks to international contacts the Amazon Association now also exists in Italy and Denmark. Our area is protected by the local people who are the owners and beneficiaries. The payback is having one of the most intact and biodiversity rich parts of the Amazon where film makers (most recently the Cousteau Society), photographers, researchers and supporters come to work and see the area and the people. Our aim is now to extend the benefits enjoyed by the people here to the other villages which will become part of the new Extractivist reserve, leaving them as owners and guardians of the forest so that the less intact areas outside of ours can return to a state similar to here.
We have been doing this for fifteen years now and believe we are on the right track.
Of course we also have an accountant in Manaus and one in Italy but perhaps for the Amazon Fund project we should establish separate accounting once it effectively starts up.
Clearly we are not discussing purchase of land, but sponsorship for its preservation, given to the local people who continue to own the land through our association, the deal with the Brazilian government or Amazon Fund Brazil. They must work and guarantee its protection and our experience demonstrates that given decent standards of living they are very happy to do that.