Médio Juruá

Example of collective mobilization for conservation

Médio Juruá

Example of collective mobilization for conservation

Life, courage and future in Médio Juruá: where sustainability is conceived by collective hands

By: Raissa Testahy

5 to 6 days by boat, more than 700 km from the capital of Amazonas, we found Carauari, the mother municipality of the Médio Juruá territory – an area of preserved tropical forest and extremely rich in biodiversity.

The territory is bathed by the Juruá River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon River, which originates in Peru. There we find two conservation units, the Resex and the RDS. Both are the result of a lot of class struggle, awareness and, above all, unity between the riverside population and indigenous peoples. To tell this story, let's go back to the 80s.  

Just like in the backlands of Bahia (told in the story of Coopercuc), the Basic Education Movements (MEB) linked to the Catholic Church play an essential role in clarifying what was happening there - and everything started to change.  

In the 1970s, residents did not have the freedom to plant or fish and were forced to purchase food from shacks run by the so-called “bossers”, with whom they had endless debts. Through the meetings and classes taught by MEB, many understood that they were being exploited and, thus, the leaders were born as a form of resistance.  

One of them was Manoel Cunha, a rubber tapper and the last of his generation to live in this regime of semi-slavery. He realized that, united, they could transform that work system that only benefited a few and that needed to leave "from the clutches of the bosses". With a lot of struggle for community empowerment, reprisals and challenges, the community realized that they needed to take ownership of the territory.  

Manoel Cunha Photo: Bruno Kelly

It was only then, in 1997, that the Middle Juruá Extractive Reserve (Resex), in the central region of Amazonas, where more than 2,600 people live. Manoel, who has been the ICMBio manager at Resex since 2016, proudly states that not a drop of blood was shed during the process. The bosses left the area with the strength of community organization and the residents finally took control of the management of the territory. 

However, the protected area did not include the entire Middle Juruá territory, only the left bank of the river. After many articulations, in 2005 the Uacari Sustainable Development Reserve (RDS), state conservation unit, located on the right bank of the Juruá waters.  

"I say I'm a co-manager, because everyone works with management. Everything that is done is done together. The only thing that divides is the river. The problems are the same. The relatives are the same. The two [managers] work together (Resex and RDS). We understand that if we don't have a partnership we won't go anywhere", highlights Gilberto Olavo, manager of RDS Uacari for over 13 years. 

Gilberto Olavo Photo: Bruno Kelly

"The most valuable thing we have in Médio Juruá is community organization"

After articulations and struggles by rubber tappers, the communities realized that there was a need to create strategies to market the communities' production fairly and valuing their ways of life. 

In this sense, the ASPROC (Association of Rural Producers of Carauari), as an organization that could support rural producers in the municipality in generating income and guaranteeing rights. 

Promoting citizenship for riverside communities, the association has been operating in the territory for over 30 years and represents approximately 800 families from 55 riverside communities.   

According to the organization's website, ASPROC, through participatory management with the social organization of communities, achieves economic and social development in the region, enabling the co-management of natural resources of great socio-cultural importance through the development of chains value of socio-biodiversity, as is the case of sustainable management of arapaima and the rubber chain. 

In this socioeconomic arrangement, other organizations also contribute to the management of oilseeds, açaí and other species in the region, such as AMARU, CODAEMJ, AMECSARA, ASMAMJ and AMAB.

Owners of the land, the forest, the river

The Deni are among the indigenous peoples of the Juruá and Purus river region who also suffered from rubber exploitation in the region. The people waited for decades until their territorial rights were guaranteed. In 2003, they achieved official demarcation of the lands.  

In 2006, ASPODEX (Association of the Deni People of the Xeruã River) was created, which represents approximately 1000 indigenous people living in five villages located in the municipality of Itamarati, in Médio Juruá (AM).  

The association works to guarantee the rights guaranteed to indigenous peoples, such as access to public health and education services appropriate to their sociocultural realities. In partnership with village leaders, it also coordinates community activities for territorial protection, environmental conservation and income generation, such as the sustainable management and commercialization of pirarucu and oilseeds. 

ASPODEX is one of the implementers of the Juruá Médio Territory Program (PTMJ). Do the Deni people have an increasingly stronger participation with riverside communities to strengthen production chains and territorial management", comments Ronnayana Silva, coordinator of Territorial Programs at Sitawi.  

Recent years have been marked by setbacks and attacks on forest people in Brazil. The "Terra Arrasada" study, released in 2023, pointed out that "institutional fragility" it worsened during the Bolsonaro government, leading to record destruction of the Amazon forest caused by illegal mining.  

In 2022, mining ferries also arrived in Médio Juruá. “It was the first time in history that a mining ferry entered the Juruá River region. These were difficult times, but we didn't stop fighting", says Manoel.   

The arrival of PTMJ

In 2014, Natura and Coca-Cola joined several associations, government environmental protection bodies and leaders from different communities riverside areas of the Middle Juruá in an integrated process for the creation of a territorial development plan, based on a participatory diagnosis added to results of the Social Progress Index (IPS Community). 

In this scenario, Sitawi was invited to coordinate the development of a proposal to be presented to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

This is how, in 2017, the Middle Juruá Territory Program (PTMJ). During the 1th phase of the program, between 2017 and 2021, the initiative developed an action plan for the region, which involved a broad base of stakeholders to expand the scale and impact of conservation and development initiatives in the social, environmental and economic dimensions. Check out the partners for each phase below:   

Now the program is in the 3rd year of its 2nd phase and has a positive impact on the region's population, promoting social mobilization and income generation.  

?It was the first program where these production chains were worked on as a whole, in a transversal and synchronized way. And the result was scary good. Thank God right? Did we manage to advance too much and still bring what we call social", highlights Manoel.  

The Social highlighted by Manoel is the work on empowering young people, strengthening community organization and empowering women in all production processes. Ronna Silva highlights that all of PTMJ's work is aligned with local organizations: "My work considers, in a very horizontal way, the perspective of local partners to value their ways of life and strengthen the territory"?.  

?Did PTMJ bring transformation and explosion? highlights Lucinete Viana, Philanthropy Management analyst at Sitawi, PTMJ revolutionized the way of living in Médio Juruá.

Lucinete lived in the Médio Juruá reserve and at the age of 13 she had to move to Carauari with her whole family to study, as there was no high school in the reserve. She still lives in Carauari today and graduated in administration, working at Sitawi since 2018, directly with PTMJ.    

Excited, she says that she noticed a more empowered and safe community (especially women), more effective communication due to the advancement of technology in the region and the conservation of ecosystems that were being devastated (such as the pirarucus lakes and the beaches of the chelonians).   

Being a woman in Médio Juruá

Until now, this trajectory of struggle and perseverance for the territory has been told and carried out by men.

“The history of Médio Juruá is very beautiful, but it does not give women visibility. While the men were meeting to plan how we could live better in the territory, the women were at home taking care of the family. Do they consider that women are not part of this story, but they were playing a very important part in taking care of the family so that men could meet", highlights Rosangela Cunha, president of ASMAMJ (Association of Agroextractivist Women of Médio Juruá). 

ASMAMJ was created in 2004, when women came together and decided to organize themselves as a group to empower themselves and grow. The association's main activities include actions for women's well-being and health, training for skills development, and strengthening biobusiness production hubs in the region

The actions to bring income are called production hubs – biocosmetics, biojewelry with scales, andiroba oil and essential oil.  

In partnership with the Juruá Institute, GIZ and Natura, ASMAMJ published in 2022 the study entitled Gender and Youth Diagnosis in Middle Juruá Value Chains which presents the particularities of men, women and youth in local value chains.

Rosângela states that there is a huge difference between past and current generations, with the empowerment of women in the region and the deconstruction of machismo. "I am very proud of my culture and my ancestry, but I do not reproduce the machismo that has always existed in my family", highlights.

Rosângela Cunha - president of ASMAMJ

According to the president of the association, the arrival of PTMJ had a very positive impact during the reactivation of ASMAMJ, as it allowed them to establish production hubs, which boosted income generation.

Watch the documentary Seiva Bruta

For the future, Rosangela wants ASMAMJ to grow as an association and achieve benefits that directly impact women. “I want women to have financial autonomy, to make their dreams come true, to be objective in what they want,” she highlights.

Youth, present!

Youth from Médio Juruá - Photo: Bruno Kelly

"Talking about the future is emotional, before we couldn't talk about the future. Who would have imagined that the son of a riverside dweller would go to college within the conservation unit? May we always continue with this view that it is possible to live with the harmony of nature in a sustainable way" Raimundo Cunha, president of AMECSARA (Association of Extractive Residents of the São Raimundo Community). 

The Association emerged in 2006 from the need that the São Raimundo community saw in organizing itself to claim its rights. AMECSARA works on projects aimed at supporting the strengthening of non-timber production chains, environmental conservation, community organization, contributing to strengthening actions to improve environmental quality, income generation and, mainly, the social organization of people and communities in the region. region.

Raiumundo Cunha has been president of AMECSARA for 8 years and started in the social movement at a very young age, at 11 years old. In addition to being a brigade member for ICMBIO and trained as a volunteer environmental agent, working to raise awareness throughout the Médio Juruá, together with the managers of conservation units in the fight against illegal fishing. 

Raimundo Cunha - president of AMECSARA

As soon as he became president, he saw that youth did not have an association that represented them. So, in addition to the representation of residents, it brought youth leadership, environmental education and the conservation of turtles.  

Both Manoel and Gilberto, managers of the conservation units, want young people to continue empowering themselves and that tomorrow and beyond they will be occupying more spaces. "Communities are leadership factories. We are working on this strong introduction of young people into leadership. Tomorrow they are the ones here. They are the ones who are the president of ASPROC, in the management of Resex", highlights Manoel. 

Through initiatives such as Young Protagonists and Young Multipliers, young people really became interested in Médio Juruá and in being present in these discussion spaces.  

Another action is "Youth who educates Youth", which transforms young people's vision regarding work in the territory's schools. Teaching classes on the creation of conservation units and the history of Médio Juruá, so that children grow up sensitive to the protection of forests.

Ribeirinhos and chelonians: all for amazon turtles

For 40 years, chelonians have been monitored by communities in Médio Juruá. Community members guard the eggs to protect them from predators and malicious hunters. But what are these turtles that we talk about so much? 

Every year, hundreds of residents of the two conservation units gather at the Ecological Gymkhana for the release of the turtles. The work is carried out between the months of June and November, when the females spawn on the banks of the Juruá River. This entire period is monitored by community members and monitors, who count and protect the pits and eggs each year, in addition to keeping an eye on the trays installed on the beaches, meadows and ravines in the region. 

The trays are spread across the two Conservation Units, 14 in RDS Uacari, managed by Sema, and five in Resex, managed by the federal government, through the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio)

Many hands

To strengthen dialogue between different organizations and generate greater achievements for the population of Médio Juruá, in 2010, the Médio Juruá Territory Forum (TMJ Forum). The results achieved by community-based conservation are the result of collective work.  

“We have strong cooperation in the assemblies and in the Forum. We have a joint way of doing things: we don't compete for space, we work together, that's why things work out?, highlights Raiumundo, president of AMECSARA.

the impact

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