The target landscape selected for the implementation of COMDEKS activities in Brazil is a 40.600 hectare portion of the Upper Jequitinhonha Valley. The valley is located in the semi-arid region of northern Minas Gerais, a state in the southeast of the country. Surrounded by an 800 meter plateau and intersected by rolling hills running through the center, the topography of the valley creates a stunning landscape. However, due to inappropriate land management practices and impacts from surrounding large scale eucalyptus plantations, the region is facing increasing pressure through depletion of water resources, soil degradation, and loss of regional biodiversity. The resulting water scarcity and loss of agricultural productivity have exacerbated poverty in the region. Socioeconomic conditions in the local communities are deteriorating, characterized by poor infrastructure and basic services as well as rural exodus.
The Jequitinhonha Valley can be spatially classified into two main categories: the highlands, hosting a concentration of eucalyptus plantations, and the central area where most of the communities are situated. Within the landscape, land use consists of 11.00% agriculture, mostly through farming and pastures, and 3.70% of the land is dedicated to eucalyptus plantations. 27.709% of land in the target landscape is classified as a “degraded area,” characterized by exposed and eroded soil. The remaining area is remnant and recovering vegetation, comprised of steep plateau edges, hillsides, gullies, gallery forests and disturbed areas that are in the process of recovering. However, field visits to the area revealed, that much of the vegetation classified as area in recovery is actually still quite degraded.
Much of the loss in biodiversity and degradation of the landscape is attributable to unsustainable practices surrounding the eucalyptus monocultures, which were installed in the 1970. Environmental impacts in the region include the suppression of native vegetation, as well as a reduction in water availability. These consequences have been intensified by the intensification of livestock and agricultural activities, as well as historical charcoal logging in the region.
The area selected as the target for COMDEKS activities in Brazil encompasses 14 rural communities within the Veredinha and Turmalina municipalities. The primary access route to the target landscape is through the northern stretch of the BR367 federal highway or state highway MG 308, both of which are paved. However, the communities are only accessible through hilly dirt roads which become increasingly difficult to traverse through the rainy season. As a result, the communities remain largely isolated.
Although forestry, and particularly eucalyptus production, plays a significant role in the local economy, poverty is still endemic in the region. The community faces pressure from water scarcity, prolonged droughts, and low agricultural productivity. These factors, coupled with the low level of public and private investments, poor infrastructure and basic services, contribute to exacerbating poverty and rural exodus.
In order to assess the condition of the target landscape and identify a local intervention strategy, a baseline assessment was conducted. The assessment involved an analysis of previous studies and project appraisals, a compilation of local statistical data, generation of landscape level maps, and a field survey focused on biophysical aspects of the region. Finally, a two day participatory workshop was held in order to mobilize and involve community members in the creation of a landscape strategy focused on developing sustainable production practices in the Upper Jequitinhonha Valley. Stakeholders and representatives from 11 communities participated in focus group discussions as well as a scoring exercise of 20 indicators of resilience developed through the Satoyama Initiative. Additional indicators used at the landscape and/or project level were also included. The participants in the workshop set priorities for interventions based on the socio-environmental vulnerabilities which they determined to be most relevant.
The overall long term objective of the COMDEKS Landscape Strategy in Brazil is to sustainably manage the landscapes of the Upper Jequitinhonha Valley, develop viable and ecologically sound production strategies in the region, and enhance the resilience of the ecosystem. This strategy includes four outcomes:
- Increase the quantity and quality of water available to farmers through the adoption of integrated water resource management systems
- Implementation of sustainable farming and land management techniques, that enable improvements in soils, recovery of degraded areas, and conservation of native vegetation connecting farming systems
- Improvement of livelihoods through increased income, food security and market access
- Strengthening of community organizations and collective for participatory natural resource management through agreements on land use at the community and landscape leve
The COMDEKS project seeks to bring about community development, learning, and knowledge sharing by making small grants available to community organizations to help them maintain more resilient socio-ecological production landscapes. The types of community projects that will be supported by the COMDEKS Jequitinhonha Valley initiative include activities supporting integrated water resource management systems, including the implementation of wastewater treatment systems and construction of small scale reservoirs, containment basis and cisterns, protection of springs. Additionally, support will be given to projects focused on the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, for example through the implementation of demonstration plots with sylvo-pastoral and agroforestry farming system, support for activities related to the use and processing of products made out of Cerrado plants, and creation of bee keeping operation. Other types of projects might focus on production and cultural activities geared towards youth, on the creation and dissemination of educational materials, or on the creation of training courses and capacity building workshops in administrative and financial management related to land-use planning in the target landscape.
The COMDEKS Country Programme Landscape Strategy for Brazil can be downloaded here.
Ms. Isabel Figueiredo
Country Programme Manager
Small Grants Programme Brazil GEF/UNDP
Instituto Sociedade, População e Natureza – ISPN
tel: + 55 61 3327 8085
SCLN 202, Bloco B, Salas 101-104, Brasília, Distrito Federal 70832-525