We are an organization, which supports the preservation of the last remaining remnants of Atlantic Forest in South East Paraguay. The organization was founded in 1997 by residents, who with some trepidation have observed how the virgin forest is inexorably being destroyed in their midst. In particular, the soy-boom, which started in the 70s, but also the clearing of pastures for cattle grazing and logging is responsible for allowing the Atlantic Forest to shrink to approximately 7 % of its original size.
The core area of Pro Cosara's work is the approximately 73,000 hectares (180,000 acres) San Rafael Reserve (for more information on the reserve please refer to San Rafael).
Our work covers the monitoring of the forest, the purchase of forest areas, the development of sustainable land use in the surrounding area and environmental education.
The most important conservation measure is the monitoring of the park, which is performed by a six person park monitoring troop. During their daily patrols, they detect clearing, wood thievery, poaching or other prohibited forest utilization. All our park rangers are trained in forest firefighting to be able to quickly intervene in fires in the sanctuary and surrounding areas. In addition, we organize routine firefighting courses for area residents.
Thanks to the WWF a microlight plane has been available for our use since 2005, to carry out surveillance flights. This has significantly improved the situation: forest fires, clearings and illegal wood storage can now be identified more quickly and reliably.
- Purchase of Forest Areas and Reforestation
The purchase of forest areas in the reserve is important, because a large share of the area is still privately owned and some owners, in spite of the official ban, are interested in exploiting their forests for economic gain. Pro Cosara endeavors to purchase these areas to ensure the best possible forest conservation.
In conjunction with WWF, projects are underway for the reforestation of areas outside the sanctuary.
- Promotion of Sustainable Land Utilization
We are attempting to develop alternatives to conventional soy cultivation for the small farmers in the area. Projects are being pursued for the promotion of biological cultivation and the support of alternative product marketing.
- Environmental Education and Public Relations
One of our other important tasks is environmental education at schools in the surrounding communities and in the small farmer communities to promote environmental consciousness for the forest. Our public relations is utilized to attempt to attain acceptance and awareness for the sanctuary among the population and government institutions.
Pro Cosara is one of five non-governmental organizations in Paraguay that make up the San Rafael Conservation Alliance. Together, with Guyra’s technical assistance, which includes satellite image interpretation used for better monitoring and control, the legal expertise of IDEA, and the private land management strategies of NATURAL Land Trust, the alliance looks for resources to purchase property within the reserve.
Since its inception in 1997, Pro Cosara has received technical and economic support from international environmental organizations including the WWF, The Nature Conservancy, and AVINA. Their assistance helps make Pro Cosara's work possible.
Additionally, Pro Cosara receives support from Peace Corps Paraguay and numerous scientists conducting biodiversity studies in the reserve. Other contributions and assistance are provided by local businesses and private donors.