“Amapá is the most preserved state of Brazil—we are focused on preserving the forest, but also on developing our state.”
What sounds like a line from the governor or state secretary of Amapá was actually a statement by Luis Ferreira, a taxi driver in Macapá, the state capital, as he gave our small group a sightseeing tour of the city. During our press campaign to promote the sixth anniversary of the Amapá Conservation Corridor, it became clear that the average person in Amapá is both aware of the importance of conservation and interested in using natural resources to generate income.
Efforts to combine conservation and development are not new in Amapá; since 2001, CI has provided the state with both financial and technical support. In 2003, the creation of the Amapá Biodiversity Corridor was announced during the World Parks Conference in Durban, South Africa. The corridor is now composed of 12 protected areas and five indigenous lands, totaling approximately 10 million hectares (almost 25 million acres).
BLOG: Groundbreaking Conservation and Development in Amapá
The corridor concept is more than just the creation of new protected areas or biodiversity expeditions that reveal new species; it also brings new opportunities for the people of Amapá.
The creation of the Graduate Program in Tropical Biodiversity (PPGBIO, in Portuguese) is one of them. Begun in 2006, it is the only graduate program in Amapá that offers Master’s and Ph.D. degrees. CI is one of the program’s founding institutions, and it remains an important partner.
As Amapá strives to create a new development model, it is essential to generate local capacity and expertise for the study and management of its biodiversity and ecosystems. The PPGBIO is an important step towards that goal because it provides scientific knowledge in the region’s various ecosystems and protected areas in three important lines of research: biodiversity identification and behavior; conservation management; and sustainable use of natural resources.
Breaking New Ground
"Amapá is the most preserved state of Brazil—we are focused on preserving the forest, but also on developing our state.” - Luis Ferreria
So far, 20 students have graduated from the program. Helenilza Cunha, program director, says that the knowledge gained from the students’ dissertations will aid the decision-making process at federal, state and municipal levels. It will also generate information that can help communities living near and within protected areas—such as extractive reserves—and will inform plans for new projects such as the construction of dams, agricultural development and mines, among others.
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This initiative is building capacity for the state’s needs. Ricardo Ferreira is a teacher in the Macapá public school system. He is also a student in PPGBIO, studying an insect (subfamily Triatominae) that carries the parasite causing Chagas disease—an often-fatal infection that affects millions of people in Central and South America. Ferreira’s graduate courses opened his mind to a whole new set of opportunities. “Now I intend to study disease vectors, and I want to be an expert in medical entomology, a field that has no specialists in Amapá. Because of my research, I have already been called to help in the identification of [insect] samples.”
An Ambitious Agenda
In essence, the Amapá Biodiversity Corridor is a management tool used by the state government to promote sustainable development in the region. This initiative is based on three main strategies:
- the creation of protected areas (including those for sustainable extraction)
- the development of a legal and institutional framework in order to adapt the current governance system to the new development model, and
- capacity-building through education programs like the PPGBIO and the State University (which offers undergraduate degrees).
All of these strategies are having direct impacts on the local communities. As the state of Amapá continues to lead the way for conservation efforts in Brazil and around the world, many more success stories are sure to follow.
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