Environmental News from South America:
- Mato Grosso’s Cerrado forest in Brazil is supposed to be protected with set asides when logged for new croplands and pastures. However, farms often get away with protecting less than they’re supposed to.
- In the village of Ripá, Indigenous Xavante people make expeditions for harvesting fruit with seeds for replanting forests, helping to repair some of the damage and supplement their income.
- Ripá and another two dozen Indigenous communities in Mato Grosso sell their harvest to Rede de Sementes do Xingu (RSX), a wholesaler that, since 2007, has sold or given away enough seeds to replant 74 square kilometers (about 29 square miles) of degraded land.
- This story was produced with support from the Pulitzer Center.
RIPÁ, Brazil — One muggy morning last December, eight women and their chief drove out of the Indigenous Xavante village of Ripá across a forested savanna in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. After a few miles, the road petered out. They walked on in single file through the knee-high grass.
They got little shade from the savanna’s slight trees, but the fervor of their mission helped them press on through the heat.
“Listen to me carefully,” the daughter of the chief of Ripá, Neusa Rehim’Watsi’õ Xavante, told us. “The love we feel for the plants and the seeds make us walk under the scorching sun without complaint.”
Most of the 20,000 surviving Xavante people live in the Cerrado, a patchwork of spindly forest and wooded grassland, covering 40% of the western Brazilian state. Drier and less dense than the Amazon forest to the north, the Cerrado has its own exotic flora and fauna. Conservation biologists call it the most biologically rich savanna in the world; researchers report that five percent of the world’s plant and animal species live there.
Yet, during the past several decades, loggers have cut down huge swaths of Mato Grosso’s forest, turning 12% of Cerrado into pastures and croplands.