The Xixuaú Xiparina region is an area of unbroken pristine rainforest. It is managed by the people who live in it, who originally joined together to form an Association, with the dual aims of protecting the rainforest and ensuring the survival of the small, traditional communities who depend upon it.
The Associationís first action was the establishment of an informal protected area on the Xixuaú and Xiparina rivers by pooling land rights from the local inhabitants and incorporating them into the Association. The Xixuaú Xiparina area (178,000 hectares) supports 22 families in the state of Roraima, about 500 kilometres northwest of Manaus.
Following a long campaign by the local communities, the Xixuaú Xiparina region is about to be formally protected and increased to around 600,000 hectares, with Brazilian Government approval, forming the Lower Rio Branco - Jauaperi Extractivist Reserve (known as a Resex). The area of the future Resex is currently home to about 900 people. The Amazon Charitable Trust aims to help make it the first profitable extractivist reserve in Roraima State.
An Extractivist Reserve (Resex) is an area used by traditional communities, whose livelihoods are based on small scale extractive activities (such as harvesting rubber and Brazil nuts) and subsistence agriculture. The key aims of a Resex are to protect the livelihoods and culture of these communities and ensure the sustainable natural resource use in the protected area.
The Xixuaú-Xiparina region covers 178,000 hectares of forests, undamaged by human activity. It is located 50 km south of the Equator, on the border between the Brazilian States of Roraima and Amazonas, along the Jauaperi River (a tributary of the vast Rio Negro, which joins the Amazon River). The Lower Rio Branco-Jauaperi Extractivist Reserve (Resex) will be one of the conservation units that link together to form the Central Amazonian Ecological Corridor, designated by the UN/IUCN. This aims to protect a continuous area of high ecological importance reaching across the Brazilian Amazon from the border with Peru to Guyana. The Resex will therefore play a strategic role in larger national efforts to preserve the Amazon rainforest. Many animals that are endangered across the region are frequently seen in the reserve, including Giant Otters: a recent scientific study recorded 43 mammal species within the area.
Over the past few decades the traditional inhabitants of many rainforest communities from across the Amazon have abandoned their homes in search of better living conditions. They move to the slums of the nearest cities, where they face poverty and hardship due to lack of education and skills. This is frequently a problem for the rainforest itself, as the traditional inhabitants are the foremost guardians of the forest. Their exodus has led to destruction of the natural environment, as commercial, large scale fishing fleets, loggers, hunters and ranchers move in. In contrast, the Xixuaú-Xiparina region is a model of conservation and small-scale sustainable economic activity, acting as a magnet for the region. This has reversed the trend, drawing in a small number of families who return from the urban slums to their traditional lands, committed to preservation of the forest.
Today, the Xixuaú-Xiparina region is under the management and protection of a Co-operative (CoopXixuaú). This was formed by the local inhabitants of the region in February 2010, in response to the need for a legally established social entreprise focused on continued conservation of the area and sustainable living for the local inhabitants. Previously under the Association the community successfully built a school, a health post, a fresh-water supply and connected to the world with a solar-powered satellite internet connection. New economic opportunities like eco-tourism, film-hosting, forest product enterprises were introduced and traditional 'maloca' huts for eco-tourists were constructed, all helping create sustainable livelihoods within the rainforest. The local people all own the land in the reserve jointly and share the proceeds from economic activity. This means that they all benefit from protection of the forest and defend it together, as key to their familiesí local culture, education, economic and physical health. The CoopXixuaú is based in the community of Xixuaú, but is working to involve the neighboring communities along the Rio Jauaperi, who also support the creation of a Resex.
The CoopXixuaú believes that while only the local people are in a position to offer protection to the forest, the support of government agencies is vital to ensure a permanent solution to the threats that the area faces. The CoopXixuaú and local and national NGOs are therefore actively working to strengthen the protection of the Xixuaú-Xiparina region, and expand it as a legally defined conservation area: the Lower Rio Branco-Jauaperi Extractivist Reserve (Resex). The Resex will be a conservation unit that ensures permanent rights of residency to the families living in the forest and guarantees them the right to manage natural resources in carefully defined, sustainable ways, in order to generate income and improve their quality of life.
The Lower Rio Branco - Jauaperi Extractivist Reserve will involve 10 traditional communities spread over an area of 600,000 hectares along both sides of Jauaperi River, in the states of Amazonas and Roraima and including the Xixuaú-Xiparina area. The process of designating the Resex is being carried out with the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment. Its creation has been approved at every level of Brazilian Government and now simply awaits a Presidential Decree in order to come into effect. The campaign to accelerate its signature by the Brazilian president has received support from several local organisations including the Jauaperi River Artisans Association (Associação dos Artesãos do Rio Jauaperi), Vitória Amazônica Foundation (Fundação Vitória Amazônica), Social-Environmental Institute (Instituto Socioambiental), National Rubber Tappers Council (Conselho Nacional dos Seringueiros) and WWF-Brasil.
The expansion of both the protected area and the number of communities included in it represents a big challenge for the CoopXixuaú and local partners: more work, more human resources and more income will be needed in order to extend to the whole region the same standard of living achieved by the inhabitants of the Xixuaú community.
At the Amazon Charitable Trust we love our supporters to visit the Xixuaú-Xiparina. The Xixuaú community is always delighted to welcome visitors. For many people, discovering the remote world of the Jauaperi River is the experience of a lifetime: whether paddling gently through the flooded forest or relaxing on pristine sandy beaches when the rivers recede, you will find a magical hidden world waiting for you.