SOS Mata Atlantica: Protecting the Atlantic Rainforest

Mario Mantovanni, SOS Mata Atlantica

The Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest is located alongside the Brazilian Atlantic coast. It covers 17 of the 27 Brazilian States and 3429 of the 5500 Brazilian cities, but does not have any connection with the Amazon Rainforest. The Atlantic Rainforest has suffered for a long time, as it has been deforested by various economic cycles.

Since the arrival of the Portuguese in the year 1500, the Brazilian economy has been linked to its natural resources (native tree logging, cattle, coffee, sugarcane, minerals), causing severe deforestation, land degradation and suppression of vegetation alongside riverbanks. Government incentives supported deforestation until the 1980s. Intense urbanisation – currently almost 90 per cent of the Brazilian population lives in cities – has created additional pressure on the forests. Overall, deforestation has caused notable micro- and macroclimate changes in Brazil.

Currently the forests near the cities continue to be in peril due to the expansion of the urban population. On the other hand, various agricultural activities – plantations in particular – are helping to restore the forests by complying with environmental laws.

SOS Mata Atlantica is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that is active in the conservation of Brazil’s most threatened forests and associated coastal and marine environments. The organisation’s objectives are linked to the restoration and renovation of the Atlantic Rainforest. The goal is to reforest 12 million hectares of forests, including plantations. SOS Mata Atlantica operates without government incentives, surviving with the help of private donations and specific programmes linked to reforestation.

SOS Mata Atlantica collaborates in the development of federal and local programmes. The organisation is intensely active in the Brazilian Congress by lobbying and discussing new laws and projects to avoid deforestation. Just recently it has influenced, among other things, the creation of municipal reforestation plans. These projects are structured in a non-punitive way.

Until recently, the deforestation laws focused only on what was prohibited. Now they are structured to involve the whole society in a dialogue on how to avoid deforestation and preserve the existing forests.

One important step in the process is the certification of tree plantations. Brazilian companies such as Veracel – a joint venture between Stora Enso and Fibria – as well as Klabin are benchmarks in this area. As a unique example, Veracel has extended certification to all its tree farmers.

What Veracel is doing as a company sets a good example on how to proceed: transparency in its actions, dialogue with stakeholders, public hearings, helping local small farmers with new agricultural technologies – and last but not least, rainforest restoration and landscape planning. This kind of action is a good example – even on a global level – of what can be achieved in a large country with a long history of environmental challenges.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mario Mantovanni is the Director of Public Affairs of SOS Mata Atlantica, a NGO dedicated to the recovery and restoration of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest (www.sosma.org.br and www.facebook.com/SOSMataAtlantica/).

Mario is active in the environmental movement in Brazil and member of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Environmental Chamber.