An Earth Day Appeal from the Real Lorax
Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Alana Lea, a passionate Change Agent who lives in Brazil, supporting local, organic tree planting projects. To find out more, visit her website, igivetrees.com.
As a lifelong horticulturalist, born in this Atlantic Rainforest, I came home a few years ago after living abroad to see how I might be able to use my skill set to help with rainforest renewal here. The Universe delivered me to the doorstep of a rural association of organic, native tree growers who were having mysterious challenges selling their trees. So I became their customer by starting a small reforestation project in their area.
People who come to our website can sponsor trees that we give to a small local NGO, who in turn gives them to subsistence families who need them. Tree sponsors get gifts of music, the growers and NGO get money, farmers get trees, and I feel like I’m applying my life’s experience to something worthwhile, while we’re making a contribution to halt climate change. And, since we pay for the field maintenance of trees for two years, our trees grow rather than dying of neglect in fields of long grass. (I’ve learned that many trees bought through well-known international planting projects die in the field within months, because they don’t receive ongoing care.)
It was all progressing nicely until recently…
I discovered some missing fragments of information around our non-toxic reforestation challenges here in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. Monsanto’s partnership with Conservation International has created a new trade of seed collection, so that native seed can be mixed with their agricultural seed, and spread in fields for reforestation.
Now this might not sound like such a bad thing, unless you understand that mixing native seed with GMO seed in the same fields where toxic chemicals are applied for the crops is going to result in some very negative outcomes.
And, if you happen to be an organic native tree grower, it can mean the end of your livelihood.
I got some upsetting emails from my growers about something I couldn’t quite understand. It seems that the Forestry Code has recently been changed, and the new rules are making it difficult to impossible for the rural people to continue collecting native seed and operating their small nurseries without a lot of new paperwork and fees. They were already struggling, and the new regulations seem to be overwhelming some of them.
So I started digging a bit to find out what changed, and why. I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of it all, but this much I did learn from a rural magazine and Monsanto’s press releases: In the state of Bahia, people are being hired to collect native seed that is mixed with agricultural seed, spread using machinery to do reforestation at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. They call this new seed mixture of native tree + GMO crop seed “muvuca.”
A small project involving Monsanto, Conservation Internationa, state and local governments and environmental education centers is taking place now, in a small town very close to our network of growers in the Vale do Paraiba. This gives them their first foothold in the area, to replicate a system like the one they are using in Bahia.
So, what can we do about the growing influence of Monsanto through their partnership with CI, sponsoring most of the environmental education in Brazil?
We can support the little organic growers who hope to stay in business, and continue to find people who will pay a fair trade price (I pay roughly 3x what the big NGOs pay, because these nurseries are not being subsidized) for their trees.
As a global community, we can support the small local NGO who gives these trees to people who want to reforest their land without chemicals, and plant trees in harmony with Nature’s cycles. Part of the reach of our work is to support the creation of native seed banks with these people. But right now, they have many challenges to face. Some of them are bound to be legal challenges, to uphold their rights. And for that, money is required.
Will you join me in showing that there is support for David, standing in the shadow of Goliath? The entire planet benefits when we restore this rainforest, full of treasures we’ve yet to discover, and we don’t want these seeds to become anyone’s “intellectual property.” Please sponsor organic trees reforestation through our social enterprise, supporting small local non-profit organizations www.iGiveTrees.com.