San Rafael, December 2015
PRO COSARA is increasing its network
This year has witnessed the establishment of cooperation and alliances with several other environmental initiatives. Working together allows an exchange of knowledge and experience, and also enables us to pool our strengths and complement each other. In this way we can use the resources we have available to us more effectively.
In April of this year a new project was started as part of the United Nations' environmental programme. It allows us to develop further many of the initiatives which we have already started. This project is being carried out with the aid of the Small Grants Programme (Programa de Pequeñas donaciones, PPD). This programme supports various environmental measures in 128 different countries. The support of sustainable rural development and local environmental initiatives is an effective way to act against environmental destruction and climate change. Regular cross-institutional discussion and planning meetings take place with all of the relevant state and private institutions.
A project for the duration of three years was approved via the "Fondo del Bosque tropical", a charitable Paraguayan association active in campaigning for the preservation of biodiversity and the sustainable development of, in particular, the border areas of tropical forests. The goal is to initiate various measures aimed at improving biodiversity on the edge of San Rafael. Amongst other things, the planting of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is going to be actively encouraged. The leaves of this indigenous evergreen shrub provide the basis for Mate (tea). Experts will pass on the necessary knowledge regarding planting, cultivation and harvesting, and the sale of the harvest is guaranteed by the regional Mate producer "El Mirador". This offers several smallholders on the edge of the reserve new prospects and also reduces the probability or necessity of the forest being cleared. We are even receiving support from the Swiss embassy in Paraguay. They are financing several training and educational measures for people living in the surrounding area of the reserve. This allows us to continue and expand our work with smallholders. The model enterprises which were established with the support of the Ministry for agriculture and livestock can be expanded and there will also be, in future, various offers of training in the areas of agricultural farming and forestry as well as in the keeping of livestock.
Our cooperation with the "A todo pulmon" initiative ("At the top of one's voice") is continuing, and is aimed at creating a transnational forest corridor along stretches of water. This year 10,000 trees were once again planted in an extensive reforestation drive. The trees came from tree nurseries founded with our help and support and were planted in and around several communities, mainly next to water and in wetlands. There has also been further cooperation with the "Proyecto Katupyry Territorio 1" initiative, which is a project aimed at creating sustainable rural development. The project wants to improve the management of the surface area, at the same time fighting poverty among the rural population. This project is receiving significant support from the Ministry for agriculture and livestock, as well as the Ministry for finance. PRO COSARA is organising, as part of this, various training and educational measures in the areas of waste management and recycling as well as sustainable cultivation methods.
Frequent monitoring flights and cooperation with the environmental authorities
The work aimed at monitoring the reserve remains an important part of our job. We regularly take to the air in our ultra-light aeroplane in order to monitor the area and protect San Rafael's forest working closely together with the state Park wardens of SEAM - Secretaría del Ambiente and also the Paraguayan environmental authorities and police. Unfortunately we encounter a lot of crime related to the theft of timber and illegal forest clearing. Due to the expansion of mobile phone networks in the area over the past few years, it is becoming increasingly difficult to catch culprits in the act. Extensive, well thought out warning systems are in place and those responsible for the damage are often well out of sight by the time any attempt can be made to apprehend them. State prosecutors also have the difficulty of not being able to follow up crimes where there are no names of any suspected culprits.
Over 10,000 signatures handed over to the parliament
Via the initiative "Tu Firma Vale un Parque National“ ("Your signature is worth as much as a National Park") PRO COSARA managed to collect over 10,000 signatures up to April 2015 which were then handed over to the Paraguayan parliament. With the support of the heads of the district authorities of Itapua and Caazapá, in which the reserve lies, we hope to increase pressure on the parliament and finally achieve National Park status for San Rafael, and the protection which goes with it.
Environmental educational programmes increasingly popular
A core area of our work remains the environmental education in schools and at our visitor centre in the area. Several hundred pupils and their teachers were informed about and had training in the matters of the environment. The main emphasis was again on the roll of the forest in our ecosystem, climate change - its causes and the accompanying effects, as well as our handling of resources and how we deal with waste. As part of the process we have continued to further develop and expand our lesson material. The interest of the local population in the region of the Atlantic Forest in the activities of Pro Cosara is growing and we experience an increasing openness towards our work.
So, dear friends of the Atlantic Forest, you can see that we are really putting effort in and pooling our resources so that, together with other organisations and initiatives, we can truly take on responsibility for the natural world our own living environment. The protection of our environment is something which concerns us all, and it's only going to be possible to alter and achieve anything long term by working together. Please help us to achieve this!