WWF-Brazil’s Venturi concurs that landowners are key catalysts. He emphasizes that engaging local stakeholders from the very beginning is vital to ensuring that the people who live in the landscape, who are impacted most by the work, are the ones who own it.
“It’s an approach that comes from the bottom up,” says Venturi. “That is a story of hope. You bring people together who want to help the forest recover.”
One of those people is Ellen Souza Pinto Fontana, a fifth-generation coffee farmer in Mogi Guaçu. The acres she is restoring will connect to areas of existing forest on her land—forest she credits with her farm’s wealth of water and relative lack of pests and diseases. “I imagine that everything will live together well,” she says, “the crop and forest together. I think this balance is good for the business, good for the family, and good for our soul.”
Fontana wants her daughter, now three years old, to have a prosperous future on the land that has served her family for generations. Moreover, she says, “living in a balance between coffee production and the environment provides a benefit not only for our family but for all the other people who will enjoy these resources.”
The restored forest on Fontana’s land will bridge to another fragment of land belonging to José Fernandes, her neighbor and fellow project participant. Together, their restoration efforts will connect an expanse of forest covering nearly 500 acres.
Fernandes is the owner of Colina dos Sonhos (Hill of Dreams), a resort priding itself on environmental sustainability. He thinks of the Raízes project as an opportunity to contribute to a better country and world. But he also expects an economic return.
“We really believe that with this type of project we will be able to improve the quality of tourism locally,” Fernandes says. “Because one of the big goals of tourist activities here in this area is to observe wildlife.” And here, he says, “you can’t do tourism without conservation.”