fast little loans
Juma Reserve, Brazil - Juma Reserve, in the heart of Brazil's vast Amazon forest, stands as an example of the perils weighing on the world's largest tropical woodland.
Illegal loggers are tearing down the green canopy, and residents in one of the most remote zones on Earth live in extreme poverty.
But the situation is changing, thanks to a pioneer carbon project organised by the government of Amazonas state, with collaboration from the US-based hotel chain Marriott.
The reserve is the first place in Brazil to be certified by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance, a partnership between corporations, non-governmental organisations and researchers that aims to establish initiatives promoting sustainable development while protecting the environment.
Maria Edines Goncalves, who walked six hours through the jungle with her six children by her side to reach a community where the project was launched last Friday, is representative of the locals the project aims to help.
In her pocket she carried a letter signed by the 12 families in her village asking for three necessities: a school; equipment to mill tapioca flour from the manioc, or cassava, shrub; and an electricity generator.
"This is the first time someone from the government has come out here," Goncalves said.
The Juma Reserve project's goal is to improve the lives of the 322 families living in the area, located about 300km south of the city of Manaus and accessible only by boat.
The reserve was declared in 2006 in an effort to slow deforestation, which took off after a road was built to facilitate the movements of the loggers and clandestine gold prospectors.
"Four years ago there were six illegal wood mills operating here. The owners turned up with a lot of money and threatened to evict the inhabitants," said Father Ramiro, a Spanish priest, who has lived in the area for 25 years.
He added that he had received death threats for standing up for the locals.
Ramiro said that turning half-a-million hectares into a reserve had helped a little to diminish destruction of the forest.
Virgilio Viana, the director of the Durable Amazonas Foundation, which oversees public and private finances used in state conservation efforts, emphasised the usefulness of the carbon project.
"We are creating an economic instrument to ensure the preservation of the forest while recognising the ecological services made by the people living in it," he said.
The Marriott group is to make its contribution by asking clients in each of its 3 000 hotels around the world to donate a dollar to Juma's conservation and to help the locals, who get by on fruit harvests and tapioca production.
The donations are a sort of "carbon tax" designed to offset the 32kg of carbon dioxide produced in the hotels each night.
Brazil is the fourth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. However, unlike in advanced economies, the source is not industry but rather from the fires set to clear Amazon woodland. - Sapa-AFP