The Green Initiative, a brazilian non-profit socio-environmental organization, allocated funds that the Swiss Re Foundation provided in response to the new coronavirus pandemic to partners in three different regions. The teams will receive about four thousand dollars each to continue working, and to increase their financial security in the face of the economic recession caused by the disease.
In the Serra da Mantiqueira, a region that has housed most of the forest restoration projects of The Green Initiative, it is the Grupo Dispersores that will receive the investment. With it, they’ll be able to buy seedlings and continue monitoring the areas being restored, located around the rich network of basins that are born or pass through the mountains, which then serve to supply water and energy to thousands of inhabitants of the Southeast region - the most populated - of Brazil.
The main impact of the pandemic for the Dispersores was on the environmental education work they carried out with public schools in the region. As social isolation is still the only effective measure against the spread of the virus, this year they did not receive visits from any groups at the institution's seedling nursery. The work, however, did not stop. “The production of native seedlings needs daily care”, justifies Evandro Negrão, project coordinator at Grupo Dispersores. Regarding the donation, he shares that it came at a good time because, without it, at least two people who work in the nursery would have to be laid off. "Now we can maintain the staff for a while, and in the meantime, we pull in other sources of funds", he adds.
Another region of great environmental importance in Brazil is the Vale do Ribeira, the largest continuous remnant of Atlantic Rainforest in the country. There, the resource went to the an association of residents and family farmers of the Rio Vermelho community and will be used in the acquisition of equipment for seed storage and fruit processing, especially that of cambuci tree and jussara palm, native species which already have a structured niche market. Arnaldo Pedroso, one of the farmers, reports that, without adequate equipment, the loss of production is great. “They are species that have to be taken care of because the fruits are sensitive. In a day or two after maturing you can no longer use them”, he says.
The Ribeira region is also marked by social vulnerability, with cities that are among the lowest in the Human Development Indexes in the state of São Paulo. Arnaldo says that, although none of his workmates contracted COVID-19, they felt the impact on their mental health, as it was a situation that no one expected. Many had to resort to the Emergency Aid provided by the Brazilian government and, like thousands of Brazilians, had problems receiving the payments. According to a study by the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, farmers are among the professionals most affected by the aid, with an average income increase of almost 60% compared to the pre-pandemic period, which highlights the importance of income distribution programs for the category.
Instituto Pró-Terra, a partner of The Green Initiative in restoration projects in the Piracicaba River basin and adjacent areas, is the third institution to receive Swiss-Re resources. For them, the pandemic has stopped growth plans. The idea was to hire ten more people to join the current team of 20 “forest planters”, as defined by Guilherme Moya, president of Pró-Terra, in addition to moving the headquarters to a larger place. Like the Dispersores, they also had to suspend environmental education activities and are studying the best way to continue remotely.
At Pró-Terra, the adaptation to continuing the fieldwork has already been implemented. In addition to the relay at the office, 15-day shifts have been established for the forest planters, during which time they stay at the farms, thus reducing the risk of contamination. They also increased the number of cars used for commuting, which meant a greater expense with transportation. The proceeds received will be used to cover these extra costs, as well as for the purchase of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as masks and alcohol.
“During these challenging times it's crucial that we come together and help each other” says a spokesperson for Swiss Re. The employees of the multi-national company elected The Green Initiative as Charity of the Year, aligned with one of the Swiss Re Foundation's focus areas, Natural and Climate Risk Management. In addition to the emergency response fund for COVID-19, the company also directly financed the restoration of 40.000 m² of Atlantic Rainforest in the Mantiqueira region, which will be planted in the next rainy season.