“It would be better if we’d never heard of SPVS in this region,” says a farmer in Guaraqueçaba in southeastern Brazil, referring to Brazilian NGO Sociedade de Pesquisa em Vida Selvagem e Educacao Ambiemental. SPVS is the local organisation that The Nature Conservancy hired to run its carbon project.
On its website, the Nature Conservancy describes the project as a “model project”. TNC boasts about its work with local communities living in the project area. “The Guaraqueçaba Climate Action Project proves that what’s good for nature is also good for people,” TNC explains. Miguel Calmon used to be TNC’s forest carbon director in Latin America. According to him,
“It was very important to the Conservancy to ensure that local people had a stake in keeping the forests around Guaraqueçaba standing. Everyone has to make a living somehow — so if you can’t farm or ranch, how can your family earn money? That’s why we and our partners have involved so many community members in income-generating, sustainable enterprises.”
A short video released this week by FERN consists entirely of interviews with farmers affected by TNC’s carbon project. It opens with a community member explaining that, “This video is to show a bit what we’re doing here and how we think. We don’t want to destroy. We want to preserve.”
One community member talks about being “hemmed in” by SPVS. They were promised work, but “there’s no work”. Another man explains that, in the past,
“No one needed to leave the community in order to find work. Today there’s no work here. If you don’t leave to find work there just isn’t enough to support a family. You have to go to the city, but there’s no work.”
“It’s a very mysterious project,” one woman says. “And we still haven’t seen any results from it.” SPVS does not talk to the community, “just the once when they first arrived”, says one man. Even then, SPVS just wanted to set rules for the villagers.
“There’s no more freedom here”, says one man. “They buy this, buy that, till there’s nowhere for us to go.”
One of the villagers sums up the situation. TNC stands for both The Nature Conservancy and Transnational Corporations – to the community at Guaraqueçaba they are one and the same:
“It’s a game that only has economic aims. It favours the big businesses and the NGOs. They don’t care about the environment, they care about profit, the NGOs as much as the businesses; through carbon credits, they keep polluting, they keep earning more. And it’s the community that pays the price for all of this.”