This post was written by Carl Salk, part of the AGENTS project team.
The Amazonian Governance to Enable Transformations to Sustainability (AGENTS) project team held their first co-production meeting in Belém, Brazil, followed by a series of visits to rural communities across five municipalities in the northeast of Pará state. The goal of the workshop was to elicit experiences of transitions to sustainability from a diverse array of stakeholders, including social movement leaders, researchers, union leaders and farmers as part of the project’s transdisciplinary co-generation model. The workshop ended with a participatory mapping exercise where participants shared knowledge of promising initiatives for more sustainable land use in Pará.
The workshop was followed by collective field visits to five municipalities where the AGENTS team witnessed community initiatives sustainably producing, processing and commercializing forest and agroforestry products. This region hosts a rich mosaic of land users and land use systems at all scales, including extensive areas of smallholder acai fruit agroforestry management, small and large scale oil palm plantations, pasture, intensive agroforestry and shifting cultivation. It has an array of programmes, from individual to state levels, aiming to reconcile agricultural production with forest conservation and restoration.
One of the most striking examples emerging at the workshop was the personal story of a farmer and community leader from an Afro-Brazilian settlement in Pará. Just four years ago, he had learned from an experienced agroforester in a nearby municipality the basics of managing fallow areas toward agroforest-based farming. He uses a mix of native and exotic trees producing fruits, oilseeds, latex and other products. Other residents of his settlement were skeptical of turning away from the shifting manioc cultivation practiced in the area for generations. But their skepticism melted away when they saw the diversified and sustained returns that were possible.
The community has already seen a demographic shift, with former residents moving back from cities and young residents learning and expanding agroforestry-based production. The AGENTS team is now working to assimilate data from experiences of local people to produce maps for the communities visited and also for the Amazon region as a whole showing that such positive changes are already under way. In the next phases of the project, the team will examine the connections between such “pockets of solutions” and the potential for linking and strengthening them to influence transformative change in the region.