dinsdag 26 februari 2013

The Cerrado a very beautiful region


Monday the 19th of February I took a plane from Rio de Janeiro to Cuiaba.
In Cuiaba I met Fabio Nolasco, a professor tropical agronomic systems, agroecology, tropical rooting and agroforestry. He teaches at the Federal University of Mato Grosso.
He lives in Cuiaba, but has an ecocenter near Chapada dos Guimarães, called 'Ákórá' (= 'For my children'; in the local Bororo language).

I had the opportunity to stay for some days at Ákórá and to explore his ecocentre.
Later on this week I went to visite the endemic (= local original) vegetation and natural beauty of the 'Cerrado' region.
Since my arrival in Cuiaba I only have been speaking Portugees (and Portuñol), because I really want to learn the language and people here mostely only speak Portuguese. At his ecocentre as you can see on the pictures everything was very basic, sleeping in a tent under a straw roof, an ecological toilet and very well improvised shower, but also with fridge and electricity. No cellphone connection, no internet. So living according to nature. And I tasted a big variety of Árórá's products: banans, maniok, maracuja (passionfruit), guarana, acerola, cane sugar, advocado, mamão (papaya), mango, ... 

Time for some interresting and important information:

Brazil is the biggest country of Latin-America. In Brazil you can divide 3 big natural regions:
- Amazon forest, in the north of Brazil, a large region with a very old tropicalforest.
- Cerrado, in the centre of the country, only this region lays on a plateau, a tropical savanne.
- Pantanal, a swampy region in the south-west of the country and quiet well preserved natural recourses. Mato Grosso is the central state in Brazil where these 3 different natural regions meet eachother.

At the coast sides their are some small remaining parts of the oceanic tropical forests.

 This week I explored the Cerrado region around Cuiaba, capital city of the state of Mato Grosso (=MG). Later on my trip in Brazil I will visit the Pantanal and the Amazon Forest.

The Cerrado is falsely called savanne, because it's a region with and enorm biodiversity in types of vegetation and animals. It's a region whitch knows some months of rain and others of very hot dry season. But the endemic vegetation is very much adapted to this climate. However the red soil is very sandy and fragile and comparable with the soil of the Amazon region.
So remove the endemic vegetation and it turns very quick into an eroded irreversible desert.
But the ground of the Cerrado region accommodates one of the biggest lasting fossil fresh water resources still existing.

What is happening in Brazil as in other countries, it's a country with the possibility of becoming one of the new world leading economic countries (as China and India).
So the gouvernement is pinched between to major topics: 
a) preserving the very divers and important natural resources knowing that the whole world is watching over their shoulders and 
b) exploring and expanding it's economy as much as possible.

Brazil's economic agricultural main activities are massive meat production for Latin-America, and export to Europe and the U.S.A. Brazil together with Argentina are quiet the biggest producers of meat on a world scale. The other main activities in Brazil are soy and cane sugar production. Soy for cattle feed in Brazil and Europe and for lot's of different other applications (food and other products). And cane sugar for nutritional consumption and for making cheap fuel for cars, for making Brazil less dependant of expensive U.S.A. oil.

For this production they kneed to go somewhere. So they 'are forced(?)' to keep cutting down big parts of the Amazon forest and Cerrado for their production. Big farms are installed with lot's of acres for cattle and soy or cane sugar in massive monoculture. After some years the ground is dried out and contaminated (pesticides and chemical fertilizers) and they have to move on, leaving a polluted desert behind. In a store in Chapada I made an astonishing picture of all the different fruitjuices where they are now starting to put soy inside.

The grains this big farms use are comming from some few multinationals like Monsanto and some others that are close to overruling the mundial agricultural system. They are producing genetically modified grains that nead to be treated with lot's of pesticides and fertilizers Monsanto produces. They are also incorporated to different governements and in Universities for agricultural engineers and put pressure to farmercompanies to make massive production according to their 'laws'.

Next to these few big and powerfull farmer compagnies 'fazendas' (4500 in MG), there are a lot more small family farms trying to live and survive from diverse and traditional argicultural activities (170.000 agricultura familiar in MG).

Fabio Nolasco wants to show people with his ecocentro (Ákórá) how you can live from long term and integrated farming, using permaculture and agroforestry and working with tropical plants that are more adapted to the climate and don't kneed to use pesticides. Fabio has worked out a clever system for pumping groundwater up the surface and distribution it to his plants. Like this the plants also have water during dry season.

For more information, Wervel vzw published a book: 'Legal!', published in Dutch and Portuguese. Here he also talks about Fabio N.

It's been a very intense week meeting so much interesting and socially and ecologically engaged people. 
Thanks to Luc Vankrunkelsven for the interesting contacts and to Fabio Nolasco for his unlimited hospitality.

See you guys later!

Here some foto's from Chapada dos Guimarães, Ákórá and the Cerrado region:

Chapada dos Guimarães



maandag 18 februari 2013

A world on slippers

Bom dia a tudos,

I'm writing you for the first time from Brazil (Rio de Janeiro).
I have been here for a week now and this afternoon I 'm flying to Cuiaba in the centre of the country.

When I arrived on monday the city was overcrouded. Everywhere people dressed out (or half naked) for carnaval. I dropped my bages in the hostel and we went out with a bunch of people to the streets evenry where people where partying, there were 'blocos' (= carnavalparades) organised in every corner of the city. Every year there are some 2,5 million people comming to Rio for celebrating Carnaval. So it's 'quiet' a big thing...

My first impressions, the teperature is always around 35°C at daytime and not lower than 25°C at night, the biggest brand in Rio is 'Havaianas', almost everybody is wearing slippers. At every corner of the street you can drink an instant made juice made from all the different tropical fruits Brazil has to offer.
The city is not as tidy as the commercials movies are showing and there is lot's of poverty. So you really are in a different continent.

Rio would have about a 10 million inhabitants, that's like the whole of Belgium and there are 1000 favella's.
Favella's that's what the poor neighbourhoods in the cities in Bazil are called. Only two of them where lately passified by the police (in preparation of the Olympic's taking place in 2016 in Rio), al the others are still rulled by gangs 'structuring' social life in their neighbourhood.

Rio is a very expensive city, it attracts very poor and very rich people. The beauty of the area is undescribable. You have to see it. Rio is surrounded by hill's, islands, beaches, some remaining tropical Atlantic forest (before almost the whole Brazilian coast was covered by these forests).

I did some turistic highlights en some beaches, but the water is often very durty, and certainly after carnaval.

I met some great people at my first hostel (Santa Mix) near metrostation Gloria. We had a barbecue on the roof and went out togheter and we even created a little band! The owner of the hostel who started the hostel only in decembre 2012, has a lot of instruments in the basement some we jammed a lot after my arrival.

I already did a lot of km around the city by foot but in fact it is to hot to walk for long distances in summertime.

I met Fabio Torres de Melo, a Brazilian friend who lived all his youth in Belgium and only went back to Brazil 2 years ago. He got to know the woman of his life there and is living a less stressing life than he had in Belgium. Here in Brazil life is a bit slower, and sun sun sun. That must change a lot. Peolpe in Belgium and lot's of other different countries have a big lack of vitamines D (from sunlight).

I try as much as I can to speak Potuguees, I it's still very difficult, but we will overcome!

This afternoon I 'll fly from one of the most visited tourist spots on earth, to a lot less known spot (Cuiaba) and I will stay near to Chapada dos Guimarães at Ákórá, there is a really beautiful natural reserve on the edge of the Pantanal (tropical swamp area / natural reserve) and the Cerrado (the Brazilian savanna). More info and stories later. Ákórá is a private property of a professore of university experimenting with eco-agriculture, and teachting the students about it. How to do agriculture with using indigenous plant. More about this later.

Até logo,



maandag 4 februari 2013

Welcome to my travel diary

Welcome to my travel-storyboard.
I'm leaving Belgium on Monday 11 February 2013.
The plan is to stay for three months in Brazil and to travel from south to north. Next I'll go for 3 months to Peru.
In Brazil my goal is to visit different agricultural projects and natural regions (Pantanal, Cerrado, Amazone Forest). I also want to meet people working on agricultural projects which take care of the serrounding biodiversity and environment. One week, I'll companion Luc Vankrunkelsven (WERVEL) while he is visiting different environmental organisations, a farmers congress and more.

The second part of my visite to Brazil, I will be travelling in the north part, visiting different places because of their interesting cultural matrimonium. At the end of my trip in Brasil I will visite a small part of the amazone forest in the serroundings of Belem.

 In Peru I will first go to Cusco to do some volunteer work for one month 
with Oyé Lena and afterwards I will be travelling around.
I hope you'll enjoy my stories!