Q&A: Preserving Native Plants in Brazil

PADF's ConBio program fosters environmental conservation in the municipality of Campo Largo, Paraná, in Southern Brazil. Funded by the Caterpillar Foundation, ConBio works with Brazilian conservation organization Sociedade de Pesquisa em Vida Selvagem e Educação Ambiental (SPVS), to increase to the number of green areas managed with sound environmental practices and empower citizens to become actively engaged in their protection. PADF's Luisa Villegas, program director for South America, visited Campo Largo Brazil to see the ConBio program in action. She spoke with a local farmer, Conrado Muller, about his experience with the program.

Why are you interested in conservation? Why is it important?

I have always liked nature, and I think there needs to be interest in recovering native species in order for us to preserve and maintain our forest in the region. That way we ensure that our children, our grandchildren, people in the future, will know what the Araucaria tree is and understand the importance of our forest.

How does preservation impact the entire community?

There are many property owners in rural areas that do not have their vegetation preserved. So I think if everyone does their small part, we can achieve a more balanced environment. The general population has to be aware, just as the politicians, in order to put some order in this issue.

Can you tell us about your experience with ConBio?

I found this experience of participating with ConBio very valuable.  I have learned a lot, speaking with [technicians] like Felipe, Pablo, and everyone in SPVS and Chauã, about the importance of preserving our biome. I learned a lot about native species, many species that I had no knowledge of, and many native ornamental plants that produce beautiful flowers that are not even known. There are some species that are somewhat forgotten, that people don’t recognize or have never seen, and when they learn that they are from here people admire their beauty and think it is definitely worth it to plant them here. So they end up rescuing some of these species that were otherwise forgotten. I think that is very cool. 

What happened when they came here and spoke with you?

Initially, the first time [the ConBio team] came to the forest there were a lot of exotic species, and the area was very degraded. They commented that the process would be difficult, that we would have to do a lot of management, and we would have to cut [some exotic species], but I decided to face the challenge and now after some time we are starting to see the restoration. We know that in the long run, in 20 or 30 years, it will be very beautiful and there is no rush. Every day we are witnessing it become increasingly beautiful, and they are following along with this and also enjoying the results.

How do you see the relationship between the water shortages in Sao Paulo, and what you are doing here?

I think by taking care of the environment now, we will not allow it to reach the critical state that they allowed it to reach.  If they had been concerned about the environmental situation 40 or 50 years earlier, what is happening now would not be happening. When we see aerial images on the TV of the rivers in Sao Paulo, without any forest or preservation areas...they did not take care of it. I think that we, the rest of Brazil, can look to Sao Paulo as an example and start taking care of the situation before it’s too late.

How do you imagine it will look 20 years from now?

I imagine it will be a very nice forest to stroll through. I want to build a bench and put it there to be able to observe the nature peacefully and enjoy it. I hope the river is still well preserved and I hope it is very beautiful.

I think it is very important and definitively worth it for people to seek out SPVS or people from ConBio and invite them to their property. They are great people who can significantly aid in environmental restoration. They are knowledgeable about our region and the different species that should be planted.