Instituto Juruá celebrates 6 years of working in alliance with forest people in the Mid-Juruá

Riverside communities lead innovative projects that promote environmental conservation and transform lives in the Amazon.

By Andressa Scabin
Translated by Laiane Lessa

Six years ago a team of researchers who carried out their research activities in the Mid-Juruá, decided to make a dream come true. This dream was nurtured by an increasingly strong partnership and trust with local leadership. These leaders, who made history in the socio-environmental movement in the region, sought partners to help them in the fight for biodiversity conservation and improvement of the quality of life of the forest people.

That is how Instituto Juruá was born, through a desire of its founders and local leadership from the Mid-Juruá to create an organization able to combine academic knowledge, built by scientific research carried out in the region, with traditional knowledge accumulated by generations of residents who have lived and still live in a deep and interdependent relationship with this territory.

The challenges to consolidate this dream were huge! Briefly after the foundation of Instituto Juruá, we began planning the action line and ways to acquire resources to put these ideas into practice, but the whole world was devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic “threw cold water” on our plans preventing us from maintaining our physical presence in the territory. However, the increasing internet access in some communities allowed us to continue via virtual communication, which made it possible to conduct some activities remotely. 

We used this time to strengthen our communication and invested our energy in the elaboration of projects and internal training. In November 2021, with our team and residents of the Mid-Juruá all vaccinated, we departed in a huge expedition of recovery. A highly symbolic expedition, in which we carried out various activities, with the majority of our team back in the field. This moment was extremely important for us to renew our energies and plans along with our partners of Instituto Juruá.

After that, our team continued to grow. New important projects were approved, we put into practice many of the training we had done, in order to strengthen our organization. An important milestone in the consolidation of the organization was the creation of programs within our four main areas of operation: 1 Scientific Research; 2 Education and Training; 3 Territorial Governance and Socio-bioeconomy; 4 Protected Areas and Social Justice.

Our Scientific Research program has trained over 30 people through final course projects, master’s thesis and doctoral dissertations, resulting in the publication of 44 peer-reviewed articles, which had been quoted by 1260 other works. The Volunteer Program, now in its seventh cycle, has received over 80 volunteers from 16 Brazilian states and 2 other countries. 

The Scientist of the Forest program has involved approximately 40 local residents in research activities and has offered training courses to approximately 100 community teachers and provided a practical course in Conservation Biology to 20 students. Furthermore, the Community Strengthening program has supported 12 local organizations and promoted 8 courses for over 235 people. The activities of the Territorial Governance and Socio-bioeconomy front have contributed to fishery management, community protection, monitoring, and the sustainable use of around 190 lakes and 27 beaches, through the joint work of forest communities and grassroots organizations that lead the efforts. The Protected Area and Social Justice area is the newest line of action of Instituto Juruá and currently aims to co-construct with local communities and government, a conceptual model of private conservation areas and community-based sustainable use. 

Although we know that all these numbers illustrate the positive impact that our actions have promoted in the territories, it is the testimonials from those who have been on this journey for years (even before this dream became a reality) that show the potential for transforming the lives of the people who make this story happen.

“Despite all the challenges, working at Juruá allows me to do what I like, and it has been very gratifying. I have made many friends along this river, and we have always had the support of community residents when we had issues with our boat. I have always done my best to guarantee that everyone returns safely to their families”, said Almir Nascimento, Logistic Coordinator at Instituto Juruá and Captain of Hyleia for 17 years.

“I have learned to live and value every place as a unique one, each new Juruá’s curve, new friendships and sometimes tough situations, but it is part of the construction of this dream, these struggles, these accomplishments are  gratifying. The Hyleia is my second home, and is wonderful sharing this journey with every collaborator who has been here and left their contribution of gratitude with love and empathy”, said Antônia Raimunda, tenderly known as Tonha, Logistics Assistant, Research Assistant, and Manager of IJ Store in Carauari.

Currently, our team consists of 24 people. However, in reality, this family is much larger when we include the various volunteers, associated researchers, consultants, supporters as well as all the companions from the Juruá River and other Amazon basins for which we are extending our actions. What has encouraged us in this journey is that our team is diversifying and becoming more Amazonian. We want to take advantage of the privilege we have of having a young and energetic organization to give visibility to the efforts and achievements of the forest people in order to make them the protagonists of the future we want for the Amazon.

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