“Apremavi’s mission has always been to conserve, protect, and restore the environment. Restoration does not happen without conservation. To restore degraded areas, you need intact forests that provide seeds. So one thing is not disconnected from the other,” Carolina Schäffer, Communications Coordinator for Apremavi.
It is no secret that Brazil is at the center of the deforestation crisis that threatens biodiversity, atmospheric conditions, and the survival of indigenous peoples. At the forefront of the struggle for conservation and restoration is a Brazilian NGO called Apremavi, The Association for the Preservation of the Environment and Life. Its mission is to defend, preserve, and restore ecosystems and cultural values, seeking sustainability in all dimensions and improving the quality of life in the Atlantic Forest and other biomes.
Latina Republic had the opportunity to speak with Carolina Schäffer, the Communications Coordinator for Apremavi and the founders’ daughter. Schäffer recounted the history of Apremavi:
“Apremavi was founded in 1987 in the city of Ibirama. Its founders were living near Indigenous lands and noticed a lot of wood coming out of the indigenous land and decided to protest. After the protest, the group started an NGO to continue working for the environment. So Apremavi was born in the context of denouncing deforestation and (water and river) pollution… At the same time, [the founders] noticed that there weren’t any native plant farmers or anyone to reforest the land, so they went to the forest to collect seeds and, in their backyard, they produced the first native trees.”
Since its beginnings, Apremavi has worked to improve federal environmental policies, created public and private conservation units, started environmental education and training projects, and restored degraded regions by planting more than 8.5 million native trees. An enormous part of the work being done by Apremavi involves the Atlantic forest, which spans the eastern coast of Brazil:
“The Atlantic Forest is one of the most devastated biomes. Of its original cover, less than 7 percent is left today, and most of these areas occur in isolated fragments.” Once covering an area equivalent to 1,315,460 km² and originally extending over 17 states, the Atlantic Forest is one of the richest biomes in the world. Aside from its incredible biodiversity, the forest is a valuable resource for the surrounding communities, as it provides natural services and economic returns for farmers who plant species with a high commercial value,” explains Schäffer.
Apremavi’s work in the Atlantic forest focuses primarily on conserving the Araucaria ecosystem, which Schäffer says “is the most threatened and degraded ecosystem in the Atlantic Forest. Of its original cover, only 3 percent remains.” Currently, Apremavi produces over 200 plant species native to the Atlantic Forest, which serve to restore degraded areas, specifically Permanent Preservation Areas that occur near rivers and springs.
Furthermore, the organization is dedicated to the implementation, management, and planning of Conservation Units (CU), which are meant to conserve the biodiversity of the Atlantic Forest through collaboration between the government and members of the local community. The project entails the formation of consultative councils and management plans for the Mata Preta Ecological Station and the Araucárias National Park.
Recognizing that participatory management from members of the community is essential to conservation efforts, Apremavi aids local farmers in planning their property in ways that take advantage of sustainable agricultural production and protect threatened areas. The Planning and Training in Protected Areas Project aims to contribute to the management of the Federal and State Protected Areas. Another initiative developed by Apremavi for the restoration of the Araucaria population is the “Araucaria Project:”
Apremavi is “trying, right now, to work with companies to mitigate carbon emissions by restoring degraded areas and conserving forests… so [the organization is] looking at restoration as a way to decrease carbon emissions,” describes Schäffer.
Public policy reform is another forum through which Apremavi channels its mission of protecting natural resources across Brazil and in the Atlantic Forest in particular. Since its inception, Apremavi has identified issues, filed reports against environmental crimes, proposed solutions, and worked with public authorities to implement policies that promote the conservation and recovery of Atlantic ecosystems. Apremavi has also aided the state and federal government in land management efforts.
Apremavi monitors debates on environmental legislation in efforts to pass laws in line with its mission, such as the Atlantic Forest Law, the Forest Code, and the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR). Like many environmental NGOs, the organization has faced and continues to face challenges posed by both the government and surrounding community. Schäffer recalls,
“Over the years… there was dialogue [with the government]. We were able to sit at the same table and talk about points we didn’t agree on, points we did agree on, and points we were able to compromise on… Throughout the years, this was always possible, even when we had governments that were more right-wing and not as open to environmental policies… At the time, our founder was invited to work in the Environmental ministry in Brasilia… so we always [organized] projects with different government organizations… and we always participated in CONAMA, which is the National Commission for the Environment. We occupied these spaces and contributed to the debate. However, in the last few years, we’ve noticed that many of these organizations and platforms have been frozen, in a way, and are no longer working in the same way.” Schäffer explains that environmental legislatures are currently applied in very limited capacity, or not at all, which complicates conservation efforts.
Besides challenges posed by the current administration, Apremavi, faced difficulties, especially in its early years. Schäffer tells that in years back, disapproval for their work took on the form of death threats:
“They were fighting against a system that had been degrading for years. However, at a certain point, things changed. The community, perhaps due to the influence of past governments that became more open to dialogue, facilitated that positive change.”
Apremavi has, thus, gained the acceptance and respect of the surrounding community in its efforts to defend Brazil’s Atlantic Forest and other threatened regions. With environmental NGOs like Apremavi at the forefront of the fight against deforestation, there is hope for the diversity of flora and fauna, as well as indigenous peoples native to the region. For Apremavi, a way to join forces with the community is through education, visits and guided tours:
“Besides offering internships, we give talks at schools and universities about the objectives of sustainable development. We also give tours to different groups, like religious groups and families, etc. So, our way of working with the community is through guided visits and educational programs. A lot of our work also depends on contact with small farmers. We restore degraded areas little by little. A lot of times, we also work with farmer associations,” explains Schäffer.
On their site, Apremavi has a form for the community to report an environmental violation. The form goes directly to the Apremavi team.
Before submitting your report:
- Check if the report is true.
- If possible, register the fact with photos.
- Identify the place where the infringement occurred, stating the address.
- If possible, make a report signed by a technician.
- Always base your complaint on environmental legislation.
Clara Rabbani is a rising sophomore at the University of Chicago, majoring in Anthropology with a minor in Urban and Environmental Studies. She is passionate about poetry and is the editor of “The World is Waking Up: Poetry of Resistance from Youth Around The World”. With a Brazilian and Iranian background, she is also fascinated with the diversity of human cultures and their intersection with environmentally sustainable practices. She will be collaborating as the Environmental Writer for Brazil.