Collecting seeds and harvesting good practices in the Brazilian Cerrado
In the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and more specifically in the north of the Alto Rio Pardo, seeding is a traditional activity that acknowledges a basic need. “Everything here needs water,” says Fabrícia, a young farmer from Montezuma, a municipality situated in an area between the Cerrado biome and Brazil’s semiarid region
Besides the urgency of preserving the biome and conserving their water, the 120 traditional communities of the region have also faced growing threats of land expropriation. Witness to this situation, the Pequizeiro Montezuma, a tree over 500 years old whose size is measured by the embrace of three people, has been left in the middle of an area devastated by deforestation. In 2014, faced with the double danger of land and ecosystem loss, the inhabitants of Alto Rio Pardo managed to mobilize and create a sustainable development reserve covering 38,000 hectares that is now setting examples for best practices.
Since 2017, concerned about the reserve’s degradation(estimated at 20%), the inhabitants of the region have organized and recovered their biome by collecting, sowing and even selling seeds on a scale never seen before in Brazil. The activities are carried out collectively with the help of 33 traditional communities called “geraizeiros” and mainly with young and old people who exchange knowledge and receive training related to restoration techniques on their lands.
The results are outstanding. “Today the proper use of this territory is a great achievement,” shared Nondas, a forest engineer and promoter of the youth group of Coletores de Sementes do Cerrado (Cerrado seed collectors). More than ten thousand hectares are already mapped, which contributes to the organization and monthly monitoring of the area’s restoration. The group also has four demonstrative reforestation units that were seeded by the local communities and serve as a “window display” or a showcase for knowledge dissemination, in accordance with the soil and semi-arid conditions.
Throughout the year, both the young and elderly learn how to collect, conserve and use seeds properly. By doing this, they ensure successful planting and germination in the rainy season when everyone comes together for sowing. The seeds collected are from typical semi-arid trees such as capim, jatobá, lobeira or pequi and are planted in the most appropriate area of the reserve according to their characteristics. Once reforested, the group continues to enrich the restored areas with fruit-bearing trees and medicinal herbs, among other plants. These measures aim to train and empower the new generations,as well as to promote local employment alternatives to counteract the rural exodus. Women’s participation is essential in group activities: women used to focus on seed collecting, but nowadays they participate in all areas and even outnumber men.
Beyond the biome recovery concern, the activities of the group of collectors inspire much joy and bring the communities closer together. “No way you can be sad while collecting seeds,” Fabrícia told us while explaining that music is also a part of the project and that a musician from the region wrote some songs about the restoration work carried out. The group’s activities also generate income and quality of life, although it is clear to Nondas that “the income generated from the seeds has to be a means, not an end. The end must be the ecosystem, water, life and people’s recovery”.
Today, Fabrícia and Nondas dream of restoring their Cerrado, but also of sharing their knowledge by creating a reference centre that would serve as a space where “you learn by doing it”. A space for knowledge sharing on conservation that would include not only activities for collecting and planting seeds, but also for the recovery of knowledge regarding local crafts and cuisine that could even lead to ecotourism. Faced with the increasing degradation of the forests and natural areas of our planet, this group of seed collectors from the Brazilian Cerrado is having the courage to go against the current, looking for ways to accelerate the restoration of their lands and reverse the process. Many have spoken of the importance of carrying out these actions. They don’t just talk. They do it.
Do you want to know more about the Grupo de Coletores de Semestes do Cerrado? Access their page on Instagram.