By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The +Unidos Group (or “Mais Unidos” meaning “more united”) is already known for its international development work with disadvantaged Brazilians, but the group will now be helping preserve biodiversity in the Amazon by joining the “Governance in Environmental Frontiers” biodiversity project run by USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and run by Aliança da Terra, a Civil Society Organization of Public Interest.
The project’s mission is to bring governance and incentives to those living in the Amazon region – in Mato Grosso and Pará states – to help preserve the rainforest and educate people as to the importance of protecting the area’s unique biodiversity.
The news means that the 100+ American companies established in Brazil which currently form the partnership with the +Unidos group – from American Airlines to Xerox – and any new company forging ties with the group, will have the opportunity to contribute to and be a partner of the project.
The Governance in Environmental Frontiers project is calling this Brazil’s best chance to save the area, saying that historically the law has not been enough to put a stop to deforestation. The emphasis is on how the forest needs to be valued, with transparency key to guaranteeing incentives promised to producers who deserve them end up in the right hands.
The USAID biodiversity project has been running since October 2010 and has already trained over 225 people, including over fifty from indigenous communities. It is estimated that the private sector will invest R$200,000 per year to help map and record over 180 properties, combat one hundred fire spots, and directly benefit 2,500 people.
Alex Araújo, Partnership Development Officer for USAID, said that although the program relies on voluntarily participation on the part of the farmers in the Amazon regions, they are coming forward to take part: “The farmers realize that it’s a good thing to do. Studies have proven that fewer fires are now taking place on land that has been mapped and registered under the project.”
“Some of the farmers also grow soy beans, and they are further incentivized by certain partner companies buying up their harvests in exchange for better environmental practices – particularly companies like ADM which are now paying much more attention to the region,” he added.
Araújo says that some companies buying certified products from producers in the areas are also now on board – only buying from registered producers who have been certified as using environmentally-sound techniques, in compliance with Brazilian laws and the best environmental practices.
+Unidos also has a partner professional training program, +Oportunidades, which aims to teach English to young people from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds within Rio de Janeiro in order to increase their opportunities for employment.
A recent report published by the project covers the progress in the third quarter (July, August, September) showing the continued progress after the completion of their successful first year.
Some 693 disadvantaged sixteen to 29-year-old Brazilians were on the program between July and September this year, and 395 have completed the course. Since the program started a number of these young people have been called forward for employment selection processes by Rio companies and some have been hired.
More information about the project can be found at www.maisunidos.org.