Emanuela EvangelIsta: «We want to create a biodiversity corridor in the Amazon»

un pilot project that will serve to protect the Amazon rainforest and at the same time help improve the living conditions of 1,400 farming families. AND Together we plant the future – Develop biodiversity corridors for a more sustainable future, promoted by Sofidel, leader in tissue paper, and Suzano, the world’s largest producer of cellulose pulp. In the field, the Iabs, the Brazilian Institute of Development and Sustainability, and Amazonia onlusthe organization founded by Emanuela Evangelista.

Emanuela Evangelista is an Italian biologist who has lived in the Amazon for more than 20 years. She now participates in the Together we palnt the future project by Sofidel and Suzano for the protection of biodiversity. Photo Raffaello Pellizzon.

Biologist, Emanuela Evangelista fell in love with the Amazon when she was still studying at the University of Rome. «The first trip was with international cooperation. Then there was the degree thesis, and later from the study of endangered mammals I broadened my gaze to the habitat and indigenous populations », she says. Emanuela lives in a wooden stilt house, covered with palm leaves, in a village that has a total of 14 others overlooking a river of 500 km, «few, if we think that the Amazon River is 7000 long». Its area is covered by forest and depopulated, but the Amazon presents very different situations, there is also an urbanized part: “47 million people live in the whole region”, he says, “and more than half are below the threshold of poverty. We have to deal with this situation.”

Emanuela Evangelista: «We need to involve the population in projects»

The area where it operates Together we plant the future it is on the border between the two Brazilian states of Maranhāo and Pará, and is more inhabited than the one where Emanuela lives. «To protect the forest it is necessary to eliminate hunger, which drives people to poaching or aggressive cultivation, which hinders environmental protection“, continues. «But it is necessary to collaborate with those who live there to find the best solutions». In short, no top-down projects, but active bottom-up cooperation. The first step of Together we plant the future is to involve 17 small rural communities, representing 1400 families. The goal is to create biodiversity corridors connecting half a million hectares.

An image of the Amazon

What does it mean? «The Amazon is not only threatened by deforestation, but by environmental degradation», explains the biologist. «It happens when it is exploited in an unsustainable way, and thus it becomes impoverished. In the area where the project will take place, there are fragmented patches of forest interspersed with roads and plantations. The interruption is a problem for animals and plants, which cannot find space and cannot pass through. The jaguar, for example, needs large spaces.

«The corridor we foresee will serve to fill those holes. We will intervene with the farmers of the area by promoting agri-forestry, i.e. with an intervention on the productive forest, for example with native fruit plants such as açaí berries and babassu coconuts and the increase in agricultural productivity in their plots. Each family will see its land reforested in a productive way, and at the same time will become guardians of the forest».

Act together and locally

Emanuela Evangelista in the stilt house where she lives in the Amazon. Photo Riccardo Scibetta.

The project, which has just been presented, will last three years. «After that we will see, we will continue to monitor the situation. The problem is always to create income, to improve people’s quality of life. The beauty of Together we plant the future is precisely in that Together», concludes Emanuela Evangelista. «Because different forces come together, two large private groups, Sofidel and Suzano, the third sector, a research body and local populations. We act locally and we also want to tell the good that is there: in the Amazon there is still a lot of forest and we know how to defend it».