- Learning Network
Challenges · Agroforestry · Food Security · Livelihoods
Cassava, Maize, Soy
The upper watershed of the Jejui River, Biosphere Reserve Bosque Mbaracayu, is located in the department of Canindeyu, Paraguay, along the border of the Brazilian drylands. What was originally a large area of Atlantic Forest in the Alto Parana of the Amazon region of Brazil has been greatly modified and fragmented for livestock pastures. More recently the area has been converted to large-scale cultivation of agricultural commodities. The landscape has two distinct types of land ownership: vast areas that originally belonged to the Brazilian state and are now owned by large anonymous investment groups, and a second group of campesino smallholders who survive in extreme poverty. They include diverse ethnic groups, the majority of whom have been swept up in a spiraling acculturation that has very recently had a strong negative impact on forest areas. The smallholders subsist on and sell the surplus of traditional crops like cassava and maize while the large producers sell soy, corn, sunflower, etc. at industrial scales in addition to some products of extensive livestock production.
I am a Colombian biologist, with permanent residency in Paraguay for the past 13 years. I have experience working in rural communities and with conservation biology, with an emphasis in design, planning and management of protected areas. For the past several years, I have been working with a ecosystem focus as an alternative to protected area conservation, in order to construct an interconnected matrix of these areas. Currently, I serve as the Manager of Research and Conservation, trying to apply a focus on ecosystems and environmental services to the research and conservation processes that we undertake in our team of nine people.Danilo Arturo Salas Dueñas Research and Conservation Manager, Fundación Moisés Bertoni
By law producers with more than 200 ha must conserve 25% of the original surface, but it is not the same for smallholders. Some conservation of forest fragments with smallholders has been achieved through a vision for corridors to improve interconnectedness. At the same time methods to enrich the forest with native species of commercial value, like Yerba Mate, have been implemented. Similarly, the private conservation of 64000 ha of contiguous forest, which makes it the largest continuous area of this ecosystem type in Paraguay, is allowing the indigenous Aché to continue their hunting and gathering lifestyle with traditional equipment.
During its 25 years of work in the region, the initiative has built and strengthened diverse spaces for collaboration between communities, from community-based committees and organizations of complex groups such as the management committee for the zone with representation from diverse social and cultural institutions. Examples include a mancomunidad of five municipalities that provides political advocacy and the very recent creation of an Educational Center where groups of young women use the last three years of their secondary education to complete a certificate program as Environmental Technicians which allows them to incorporate environmentally beneficial elements into production practices.