REGUA and the Fatorelli family signed the deeds to the Lagoinha valley on 14th January 2018, at long last completed this delicate land purchase. The Rainforest Trust has not only been totally supportive but also very generous and patient, helping us to maintain the calm and vigour required during the entire period of negotiation. This has been one of the most complex and delicate land deals we have been engaged in, but through gentle persistence we managed to secure the property at an affordable value. I still feel fairly faint with the completion of this ultra-sensitive land purchase.
The story behind the scenes is really of soap opera magnitude. The Fatorelli property has a title that extends over the entire Lagoinha valley and this valley is located between two adjacent tracts of Atlantic Forest. Since the 1940s the property has been occupied by 40 tenant farmers working and living off the land. They have simple houses and undertake slash and burn agriculture causing serious habitat damage, some still hunt and the impact on the valley’s biodiversity is severe and one in conflict with REGUA’s objectives.
Over recent years farmers’ interests have declined and many wish to leave the valley and follow their family, moving to the nearby towns.
Tenant rights in Brazil are transferable and outsiders can buy plots on which to build second homes, attracting opportunistic local city dwellers to the area. The construction of second houses attracts others and ultimately poses a problem for the long term conservation aims of the Guapiaçu watershed along with many other areas of the world.
Limited energy and vehicle access are two factors that have helped reduce the threat locally up to now, but the availability of cheap plots and desire for second homes can abruptly change the scenario. This has been seen in the more accessible areas around the village of Guapiaçu in just the last decade.
Following the successful World Land Trust sponsored ‘Matumbo Gap’ land purchase, REGUA has addressed this issue, sought support and reached fair agreements to compensate those occupying the land and enabling them to vacate their properties. This gives REGUA the opportunity to protect the forest and allow it to recover.
REGUA is home to 11 species classified by the IUCN as Threatened – Brown-backed Parrotlet, White-necked Hawk, Golden-tailed Parrotlet, White-bearded Antshrike, Salvadori’s Antwren, Fork-tailed Tody-Tyrant, Russet-winged Spadebill, Bare-throated Bellbird, Black-backed Tanager, Buffy-fronted and Temminck’s Seedeaters are all classified as Vulnerable. A further 26 species at REGUA are classified as Near-Threatened further 28 bird species at REGUA are classified as near-threatened. In addition it is home to several troops of Southern Woolly Spider Monkey or Muriqui Brachyteles arachnoides South America’s largest and rarest primate classified as endangered. Many of these species are decreasing in number giving more urgency to the purchase and protection of the remaining Atlantic Forest.
In theory reserves and parks should not have houses or people living within their limits, but when protected areas are established with tenant farmers already living within, the Government prefers to avoid confrontation and circumnavigates issues permitting tenants to continue their lives and activities on site until they are ready to move.
Tenant farmers are protected by law yet do not have deeds with which to prove ownership. By openly negotiating with the families, explaining the aims and arriving at favourable agreements, the Fatorelli case is felt to be a key success story for the conservation movement in this country.
REGUA’s new full time ranger will regularly walk the Lagoinha valley and REGUA will continue to offer opportunities to those wishing to change their home for one closer to their families. The REGUA reserve continues to expand and guarantee an immense forested corridor to benefit its fauna and flora diversity. This is triumph for the conservation world and shows that sensitive conflict areas occupied by humans can be solved.