Today’s Solutions: October 26, 2021

In the Amazon, more land is cleared for cattle than anything else. It’s easy enough to clear – chop down a few trees, light a few fires. But restoring the forest? Bringing back life and the greenness? That is far, far harder.

But that’s exactly what scientists at the Experimental Active Forest Centre (CEFA) in Brazil is doing. It is a research and development centre where farming within the forest, or agroforestry, is the focus. And it is part of a growing movement for sustainable agriculture in Brazil that has taken on a new urgency with the coronavirus pandemic, as scientists warn that the climate crisis and land development heighten the chances of another deadly virus jumping from animals to humans.

The founder of CEFA, Eugenio Scannavino Netto, has spent three decades in the rainforest working on Amazon solutions. In 1987, he founded the non-profit Health and Happiness Project, known by its Portuguese initials PSA (Projeto Saúde e Alegria), in nearby Alter do Chão. The group helps sustainable community development while providing health and education services for remote communities using a hospital boat and clowns. Last year it was judged one of the 100 best NGOs in Brazil.

The centre’s aims are ambitious but equally practical: 40,000 seedlings from its nursery will be donated to local communities to reforest areas in the reserve cut down and burned for cattle or traditional farming. These include pau-brasil, grown to be sold as wood; urucum, whose seeds are traditionally used as body paint by the Amazon’s indigenous peoples and sold for colourant in lipstick; and pau-rosa, whose leaves are used in perfume.

“The culture here is slash and burn, and we’re trying to change that,” Scannavino Netto says.

Changing the culture is not easy—and the government has been an obstacle rather than a supporter of the movement in recent years. But now with the coronavirus pandemic, farmers themselves see they have more reason to change. As the Netflix series Pandemic revealed, scientists and researchers have found thousands of other zoonotic diseases like the new coronavirus and fear that another virus could jump to human beings, like avian and swine flu or Mers.

In March, Scannavino Netto argued in Brazil’s Folha de S.Paulo newspaper that the monocultures of modern agriculture were destroying everything from biodiversity to insects that serve as “bioregulators”. Cutting down the Amazon changes animal behaviour and heightens the risk of another, much more lethal virus jumping to humans.

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

6 Foods for eye health that aren’t carrots

These days, many of us spend a lot of time straining our eyes by staring at screens. Unfortunately, cutting back on screen time may be difficult, especially if work demands that we work on our ... Read More

This wooden steak knife is three times stronger than steel

Scientists from the University of Maryland may have discovered a more eco-friendly alternative to ceramics and stainless steel for our knives and nails by figuring out how to chemically alter wood so that it can ... Read More

Newly discovered properties of cannabis could help prevent seizures

Cannabis has been used to battle against disease throughout history, with the component cannabidiol (CBD) becoming an accepted treatment for many disorders including epilepsy, anxiety, and more. However, cannabis contains many other cannabinoids which have ... Read More

Candy to costumes: 6 ways to make your Halloween more sustainable

Halloween is just around the corner, and many families are excited to celebrate the holiday in full force for the first time in two years. Last year we shared how to sustainably dispose of post-holiday ... Read More

These crafty activists flock together and stitch canaries for climate change

Over the past few months, residents in the UK would have had the chance to spot more than 70 “flocks” of UK crafters that have been gathering across the nation as a way to encourage ... Read More

The future of eco-friendly laundry detergent is in dissolvable sheets

While laundry pods are supposed to be biodegradable, wastewater treatment plants often don’t have the capacity to create the necessary conditions to dissolve them. As a result, the material in question (polyvinyl alcohol) typically ends ... Read More