Expedition to Forest Restoration Projects in the Headwaters of Xingu

On the 4th to 10th of October, 27 people from different entities visited forest restoration projects in the headwaters of Xingu in the state of Mato Grosso, on the invitation by ISA. The restoration projects are results of the Y Ikatu Xingu campaign, aimed at saving the waters of the Xingu River in the Amazon. 'Y Ikatu Xingu' means “good water, clean water of the Xingu” in the local indigenous language Kamaiurá.

The participants, who included representatives from civil society organizations; the Public Ministry; the Mato Grosso State Department of Environment (SEMA); a private forest restoration company, the Grupo André Maggi (agribusiness concern); researchers; students and press, got the chance to see and discuss some of the experiences made so far on restoring forests in Areas of Permanent Preservation (APPs).Area of Permanent Preservation (APP) The APPs are mainly situated along riverbanks and water springs, and the forests in these areas are protected by law. Nevertheless, large areas of APPs in the region are deforested and degraded, and it is the duty of the owners of the land to restore the areas. ISA works with other civil society organizations, public authorities, researchers, large-scale and family farmers, and indigenous and non-indigenous communities to develop sustainable practices in these areas.

The expedition visited medium and large sized properties, as well as agrarian reform settlements where experimental restoration activities take place. The participants were shown how different approaches to restoration have been applied and adapted to the socio-economic profile of the rural workers involved, and the environmental realities they are facing in their local areas. What is common for the different experiments is the direct planting of tree seeds together with annual and perennial species, among them leguminous green manure and agricultural varieties.

Demonstration of ‘Muvuca’ and Mechanised Planting
On the medium and larger properties mechanised planting of seeds have been used, allowing larger areas to be planted in a short time.Mechanised planting with intergral planterThis was demonstrated to the participants of the expedition, using two different sowing machines: one integral planter normally used to plant soy and to introduce fertilizers into the soil, and the other for sowing grass, machines normally found on soy and cattle farms.

They also participated in making the ‘muvucas’ (mix of seeds) introduced to these machines, where seeds from several species were carefully selected and mixed, according to the local conditions.

Agro-forestry
Ricardo Diaz Batista with a lobeira fruit from his own agro-forest
On the smaller properties agro-forestry systems have been applied as an alternative to conventional techniques. These systems require more manual work, but suits small scale farmers who literally can benefit from the fruits of their work by planting edible species for own consumption and even for sale, making the APP recovery an income source. Among the edible species were cassava, maize, pineapple, passion fruit, cashew and several local cerrado (Brazilian savannah) fruits, among them pequi, baru and lobeira.

Natalia Guerin and Ricardo Diaz Batista discussing agro-forestry

Some of the areas visited were carefully evaluated and commented by Ernst Gostch, a precursor in agro-forestry in Brazil. He emphasised the importance of the appropriate composition of seeds, which must be adapted to soil and climate conditions, and gave examples on how to manage agro-forests. He also gave recommendations on how to plan the managing of the areas before planting, which is one of the more challenging tasks.

Seeds and Seedlings
Visit to the nursery in CanaranaThe expedition also included visits to two local nurseries, which are results of the cooperation between ISA and the municipalities of Canarana and São José do Xingu. The nurseries provide seedlings, as well as recommendations for planting and combinations of species to people living in the local communities. They have seed houses and do germination tests as well, complementing the seed network, which has been established the last years to provide seeds to the restoration projects. The network has provided a new income source from the forest for both indigenous people and small-scale farmers. Seed collection is an activity, which has the capacity to grow as more APPs are put into the process of restoration. 1000 hectares of APPs under forest restoration are expected being completed during the commenced rainy season as a result of three years work through the Y Ikatu Xingu campaign.

The direct planting of seeds instead of conventional techniques using seedlings was new for many of the participants, some of who would like to apply the same method in their own work. One challenge is the access to seeds. Some of the participants were inspired to establish seed networks also in the regions where they work.

A variety of seeds in the 'muvuca'

The Y Ikatu Xingu Campaign
The Y Ikatu Xingu Campaign is a response to the changes seen in the Xingu River. The river runs through the heart of the Xingu Indigenous Park (PIX) and north to the main Amazon River, and is known for the wide biological and cultural diversity related to it. The river is the basic livelihood for 10 000 indigenous people from 18 different ethnic groups, 14 of which live in the PIX. The siltation of the river is related to the steady opening of new areas for soy production and cattle ranching in the headwaters of Xingu. Clearing and burning of forests has already resulted in the drying up of several water sources. Some have even disappeared.

After many years working inside the park, ISA extended the work to also include areas outside of it. Uniting groups in society traditionally with diverging environmental views, they have since 2004 worked for a better future for the water of Xingu.

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