The northern plateau of the state of Santa Catarina is marked by areas of Atlantic Rainforest with preserved water sources. A threat to this ecological balance are timber farms, which, despite legal requirements for reforestation, are attacking the natural diversity of Brazil’s forests with extensive plantations of Pinus pine destined for the furniture trade. This proliferation of pine had a particularly damaging affect on the region’s honey farms, prompting the initiation of the Mandaçaia Project for the sustainable development of the region’s apiculture.
An important step towards altering these irresponsible replanting practices was taken in 1997, when the municipalities of Campo Alegre, São Bento do Sul and Rio Negrinho created the Quiriri Environmental Consortium (a 1999 finalist in the Public Management and Citizenship Program) to preserve the region’s natural resources. The Consortium also welcomed the city of Corupá as a member in 1999. The project has mobilized local governments to create five Environmental Protection Areas, known as APAs, with a total area of 550 square kilometers of protected land.
Once the APAs were created, questions arose over who was responsible to care for the land and whether sustainable economic activity within these areas was allowable. Within this context, the Quiriri Consortium set up a partnership in 2002 with the Apicultural Association of Campo Alegre – APICAMPO, also called Mandaçaia Project. This project again incorporates the three municipalities that belong to the Quiriri Environmental Consortium.
Besides planning sustainable use and preservation of the APAs, the Project seeks to solve a common problem for the region’s beekeepers: the excess of honey farms. Bees fly in a 1.5 kilometer radius in search of pollen. If there are too many hives in the same space, the fight for food means a drop in honey productivity. This happens because, within this region, most honey farms are on small plots of land. The consortium has mapped out the area’s honey farms and begun a pilot project in Campo Alegre. With help from engineers from the Federal University of Paraná, information on each farm and the surrounding land, as well as climatic factors, were inserted into the SIG – Geographical Information System software to pinpoint areas where there were too many honey farms.
As deforestation continued to reduce the diversity and quantity of flowers, the bees’ productivity was also declining. Reforestation with Pinus exacerbated this problem, as this species is inefficient for honey production. A partnership set up with one of the main wood companies in the region, Comfloresta, proved to be the solution: beekeepers are allowed to use the environmental protection areas within the company lands; these areas continue to be rich in native vegetation, which guarantees production of good quality organic honey. In exchange, beekeepers donate two kilos of honey per hive to APICAMPO, and have also accepted the responsibility of inspecting and maintaining the APAs they use for their bee culture.
beekeepers are small family farmers who use honey sales to top up their income. Production is usually insufficient to interest large companies, and farmers often have difficulty adapting their small-scale produce to Health and Sanitation standards. Thus, most producers work within a small market of regular customers who buy directly from their farms. To broaden sales, the apicultural associations of Campo Alegre, Rio Negrinho and São Bento do Sul set up RAMA – the Regional Apicultural Consortium of the Atlantic Rainforest. Joint commerce has allowed large quantities of honey to be sold to the Minamel Company, which has the federal SIF seal as well as organic accreditation. This has opened up a new market for the region’s apicultural products: municipal school meals.
The Mandaçaia Project’s success is due to the active participation of civil society and the program’s beneficiaries, along with regional support given by the Quiriri Consortium, in order to defend sustainable production and environmental protection while at the same time bringing small farmers higher productivity and profits. By protecting the region’s natural resources, the Project benefits not only the honey farmers but the whole population, for whom a better quality of life is inseparable from an ecologically balanced environment.
• By using an ecologically sustainable industry to make environmental protection areas profitable, the member municipalities of the Quiriri Consortium have found a viable way to protect these areas from misuse by logging companies.
• The Mandaçaia Project simultaneously generates increased income for small family farmers and protects the region’s natural resources by encouraging the sustainable use of the Atlantic Rainforest’s protected areas.