San Rafael, December 2012
The current situation
For years now San Rafael has been stuck in an intermediate, transitional stage - a preliminary step towards becoming a national park. According to the law this means that there is a ban on forest clearing which applies to the whole of the protected area. However, violations of this ban seem to go largely unpunished. This presents us with enormous difficulties as far as the monitoring of the area is concerned. Recent times have seen huge clearings of the Paraguayan forests, especially in Chaco. Huge areas of forest are being cleared on a daily basis in order to grow soya or to keep herds of cattle. Paraguay's unique natural spaces are in extreme danger and they can only be saved if their protection is supported by means of public money. In April of the coming year there are set to be presidential elections in Paraguay and we are hoping for a change of government - to one which recognises its responsibility for the country's natural world and is prepared to introduce more extensive measures aimed at protecting the environment and also ensure a more resolute prosecution of violations of these measures.
Pro Cosara gives lessons on environmental awareness in 21 schools in the surrounding area.
Pro Cosara provided several courses this year at 21 schools in the San Rafael region. The lessons were aimed at raising environmental awareness. The emphasis this year was on the twin subjects of the forest and water. This involved a close look at Paraguay's different forest ecosystems, their ecological characteristics, and the specific variety of trees to be found in each one. Together with the pupils we were then able to learn about the significant role the forests play in the process of groundwater recharge. In order to provide the pupils with more than simply the theory, we were able to put many of the things we learned into practice on the school grounds: The pupils planted almost 3000 trees! Furthermore, some of the pupils were able to accompany Pro Cosara and experience themselves the lush forest vegetation and the clean streams of the nature reserve at first hand.
Our smallholder and reforestation projects are finding their feet.
Our smallholder and reforestation projects are also showing promise. As in the past they are still aimed at increasing the variety of crops grown by smallholders. This involves offering those farmers who are located on the edge of the nature reserve a viable alternative to soya - one which is more sustainable and which offers long-term prospects. Over the past year, in many of the surrounding villages, extensive tree-planting activities were carried out with our support - which led to the planting of 50,000 trees. Even the tree nurseries we set up in the villages are becoming well established.
Several scientific studies carried out this year in San Rafael
San Rafael has also shown its relevance in terms of scientific investigation. In the past months the cooperation with various universities has been intensified. For the coming year several studies are set to be completed in San Rafael, which should see various botanical and zoological papers published related to the abundance of plants and animals in San Rafael. For example, as part of one thesis, the levels of ground water contamination will be investigated and determined. Over the course of the past year the results of some of the scientific investigations which took place in San Rafael were presented at various international congresses in Peru, Argentina and Spain.
The task of monitoring in San Rafael remains fraught with difficulties
In order to monitor activity in the nature reserve we have placed a large emphasis on surveillance flights in recent times. Should we see evidence of forest clearing or logging, the coordinates are immediately passed on to the environmental authorities, who are obliged to follow this up. If this fails to happen, we contact and inform the press. Due to the increasing prominence of the nature reserve - a result largely of our cooperation with other environmental organisations and scientific institutes - it is now possible to create public pressure from many angles. Even if at present the time and energy spent on certain other activities is increasing, the observation and monitoring of the forest still forms a crucial part of our activities. This is the only way of protecting the last remaining intact areas of the Upper Paraná Atlantic rain forest. And we need your help! Every donation is an enormous help on the way to protecting San Rafael!
Many thanks in advance for your support!