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Saving a river, month 4

Posted on Posted in Blog, Year Of Charity

2016 is my year of charity. I’ll donate part of my income for good causes, every month another one. Then I blog about the impact. Here is what I support in April.

  • This quarter I focus on South America.
  • First stop is Brazil where a river is in trouble.

São Francisco always lived in the shadow of his bigger brother. Everyone talks about the bigger one: he brings more fish, is larger, is more impressive. Only São Francisco’s friends care for him. When he gets beaten up or is in trouble, they are there for him.
The name of the big brother is Amazon the biggest river of Brazil. São Francisco is the name of the little brother, it’s the 3rd biggest river in Brazil. Culturally, the São Francisco is the Nile of Brazil, their Mississippi, their Ganges. It represents Brazilian history and identity, a place of extremes of climate and geography. A third of it’s population depends on it. But São Francisco is in trouble.

São Francisco is in trouble

Recent economic development in the São Francisco River basin in Brazil has brought major benefits to its primarily urban population. The price, however, has been high. Pollution and land degradation threaten not only natural habitats, but also people’s livelihoods, water supplies and health.
Urban sewage, industrial effluents and agrochemicals (mainly in irrigated areas) have seriously polluted some of the major tributaries of the São Francisco River. The region’s traditional fishery is in decline and reports of conflicts over competing uses of water are becoming more frequent as the quality and quantity of the available supply decreases. There is also a drastic reduction of water in dry periods. Moreover, land degradation is undermining the region’s rich biodiversity of both plants and animals and is adversely affecting agricultural production.

Minas Gerais, Brazil

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The river basin degrades

Large areas along the river suffer from land degradation. This is a process in which the land is affected by a combination of human-induced processes such as agriculture, commercial actives and pollution. It is a harmful change to the environment that can be seen through a loss of vegetative cover and soil nutrients as well as the disappearance of a range of species or reduction of an ecosystems complexity.
The people living at São Francisco have always been exposed to difficult times such as drought and floods. But todays combination of human-related of problems are affecting everyone around it as it means a decline in the productive capacity of the land and the river itself.

Local solutions to recover the river basin

The land degradation, pollution and decline in biodiversity can be countered. Pur Projet partnered with Nordesta Association. Their co-operation has the following objectives:

  1. Regenerate degraded areas.
  2. Maintain and increase biodiversity.
  3. Improve water quality and quantity in the river and it’s sources.
  4. Help local farmers.
Nordesta, Brazil (Credits: Maxime Riché)
Taking care of Seedlings. Nordesta, Brazil
Credits: Maxime Riché

Plant for the planet

The Association runs a plant nursery that can provide thousands of seedlings and store millions of seeds. One of the most important projects is the “Plant for the planet” program: brining back plants and trees is a crucial step to help with their goals.
It enhances soil quality and prevents erosion. Roots keep soil in place and prevent it from being swept away. This reduces loss of land and keeps moisture trapped for longer. The plants also act as natural filters for water that helps improving the water quality. Covering large areas with biomass helps maintaining biodiversity and allows the reintegration of animal species, e. g. the manned wolf, diving ducks, monkeys and others.
Another initiative is working together with small and medium sized farmers. They offer parts of their land to have trees planted wich helps their land to improve and attract local wildlife. Beehives and the accompanying not only diversifies farmer’s incomes but also increases agricultural yields through pollination. Nordesta can also help with increasing standards to pass certification for organic farming as well as complying with Brazil’s environmental law.

Impact & Results

Pur Projet & Nordets can show results:

  • over 400.000 trees planted.
  • recover degraded areas and plenty of water sources.
  • worked with hundreds of farmers.
  • restored habitats to preserve wildlife.
Taking care of plants, Mexico (Credits: PUR Projet/Christian Lamontagne)
Taking care of plants, Mexico
Credits: PUR Projet/Christian Lamontagne

Who is behind those organisations?

Nordesta Reforestation & Education association was founded in Geneva in 1985. They launched many programs aimed at the socio-economical development and are successfully offering education and professional training around local environmental issues. Today Nordesta runs local plant nurseries that attract more and more locals wishing to reforest their area. Nordesta can provide them the know-how and technical assistance needed to be successful.

Pur Projet was founded in 2008 with the goal to address climate issues through regeneration and preservation of ecosystems. They mainly develop “insetting” activities, aiming to offset socio-environmental impacts caused by companies locally. So far dozens of projects have helped to regenerate, revitalise and preserve ecosystems in partnership with disadvantaged communities.

Together the Nordesta association and Pur Projet work on improving the situation in the São Francisco river basin.

Receipt for mil leaves’ donation to PUR PROJET
Receipt for mil leaves’ donation to PUR PROJET


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