On Friday, June 1st, the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP), the Institute for Society, Population and Nature (ISPN), the host institution of GEF SGP, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) hosted a field visit for journalists to highlight and share the experience of the GEF SGP in the sustainable use of biodiversity in the Cerrado region in the context of the upcoming Rio+20 conference of Sustainable Development.
The site visit started in the communities of Colony I, Padre Bernardo and Goiás, which are located about 80 km from Brasília, where the journalists of the Brazilian television channels Canal Futura, Canal Rural, TV Globo, Portal Ecodebate, and Ecoagência, as well as Neide Rigo from the blog Come-se and Ronia Alves from Brasília no Prato were able to explore the project region on foot and visit an SGP Project. This project has helped 13 families to improve the sustainable use and management of the Cerrado, as well as their production systems for organic farming as a strategy to preserve biodiversity, avoid deforestation and increase their income.
During the visit, Wátila, a member of the local community and a student of the University of Brasília, showed the organic products (angicos, muricis, araticuns, macadelas, pequis, jatobás, mangabas, and gabirobas) generated through the project and stated: "Today, thanks to the support of SGP, 80% of the area of the settlement is protected and the rest is used consciously so mother nature can take its normal cycle."
As part of the implementation of the project, the community received training in agroforestry, permaculture, organic fertilizing and water resource management. The women from Sabor do Cerrado Group received training to strengthen product marketing, cooking and catering. As a result, the project started the transition from organic production to a more complex sustainable production system, adding value to the products and providing catering services through a well‐equipped industrial kitchen.
In terms of biodiversity, the production of organic products from either vegetables or native species offered a sustainable alternative to deforestation, avoiding pollution from fertilizers and pesticides and its negative effects in native biodiversity and water resources. The use of better soil management techniques adapted to the local environmental conditions have significantly improved soil conditions and reduced land degradation. The consideration of water resources and availability in the production process has created awareness and equipped the community with better water management skills.
This settlement is now an example of successful on the ground solutions to sustainable organic production and biodiversity conservation, and is frequently visited by government representatives, schools, universities and consumers.
When the journalists returned from the field visit, they were offered hibiscus iced tea and "jabuticaba" juice as well as a lunch prepared from local products by Sabor do Cerrado together with the chef of the Slow Food Movement, Marilde Cavaletti. Before lunch, Rose Claire Veloso Robeiro from Sabor do Cerrado explained the history of this group: "Sabor do Cerrado was formed by 12 women who began making biscuits to be sold at food fairs along with organic products from the local farms." Since then, they started partnerships with SGP in Brazil, which enabled them to acquire important equipment such as freezers and refrigerators, and collaborate with "Central do Cerrado", which organizes events where products from the Cerrado are served.
After lunch, the group of journalists visited the "Central do Cerrado" in Sobradinho where the journalists learned more about the sustainable production of local biodiversity based products supported by SGP including jams of pequi, jellies, and honey; soap, moisturizing creams, and shampoos produced by the Pacari Network; and handicrafts made by indigenous groups from the Cerrado.
The visit concluded with a brief presentation led by Donald Sawyer, the former National Coordinator of SGP Brazil, of the overall results of SGP in Brazil, and a discussion about the future of sustainable development and Rio+20. As a souvenir, each journalist received a basket with local honey, "pacari" soap and pequi, and baru nuts.