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TravelLocal Fund for Good: interview with the Foundation for Amazon Sustainability


As part of our commitment to being a force for good in the travel industry, in 2023 we set up the TravelLocal Fund For Good. This fund will be distributed to charities around the world that are doing crucial work to alleviate challenges like environmental degradation, wildlife conservation, and access to clean drinking water. One of these is the Foundation for Amazon Sustainability, or FAS, whose mission is to aid the sustainable development of the Brazilian Amazon by helping improve the quality of life of its local communities.

We speak to Vinícius Mafra and Christina Tarrisse, part of the Philanthropy and International Fundraising team at FAS, for their insight into the foundation’s ongoing initiatives, success stories, and the challenges which the population living in the deep Brazilian Amazon face on a daily basis.

Anavilhanas archipelago, flooded Amazon forest in Negro River, Amazonas, Brazil

For our readers, could you please summarise FAS: who are you and what projects do you work on?

The Foundation for Amazon Sustainability is an institution that works on sustainable development projects in the Amazon. We’ve been operating for 16 years, and focus specifically on communities who live in the forest. In this sense we are a bit different from other institutions, which focus more directly on the matter of nature conservation. At FAS, we focus primarily on working with the people, and through this we can also help preserve nature in the Brazilian Amazon. In 16 years of work we have reached about 80,000 people and about 21,000 families, across 16 protected areas of the Brazilian Amazon. We have also seen a 40% decrease in deforestation.

Our projects focus on different themes such as health, environmental conservation, income generation, and empowering local people. We can help make people believe that they do have a chance for change, and are being seen.

What main challenges do people living in the Brazilian Amazon face?

We can talk about this for days! At FAS, we work with traditional, riverside and indigenous communities, each facing different challenges. On a bigger scale, one of these is climate change: last year, the Amazon experienced a huge drought problem, and the rivers ran completely dry. This was a problem for the local communities who need the rivers for transport and food security, and who became isolated because of it. They also deal with threats of illegal mining, land grabbing and more, showing the complex side of our work in the Amazon.

Can you tell us more about particular projects that have made a significant impact on the local communities?

We have many! We run a community entrepreneurship programme through which we can explore sustainable tourism projects and preserve the local area. I think these kinds of projects are really cool and stand out, because through them we’re also empowering the locals to develop their source of income. We have examples of very successful people who started working with us years ago, and who are now very successful in their communities, even developing community-based tourism activities.

Do you have any examples of these success stories to share with us?

We’ve worked with a man named Roberto, who comes from a family of loggers and now has one of the most successful enterprises from our programme. It’s very prosperous; he’s even available on travel booking sites, for you to visit his project and even have him take you for trekking and alligator tours. What’s interesting is that the surrounding communities are also beginning to develop similar enterprises, and forming a network. This means that through the programme, we’re bringing income generation to many more communities.

Nearly dry bed of the Tapajos river in Santarem, Brazil, during the Amazonian drought in the second half of 2023

How do you work with the local communities to ensure these projects properly cater to their needs?

First of all, we listen to them to understand their aims and what they think is best for the community. The local people understand their land better than anyone; they have a lot of specific knowledge about it, as well as their own solutions to their problems. So, we have an active hearing session with them where we listen and work with them, to identify projects that will tend to their needs. You can be very unsuccessful if you don’t do this kind of listening and talking.

What are some big projects from 2023 that you’re proud of?

One big project I liked personally, was the creation of the Climate Alliance. As I mentioned, the Amazon faced a massive drought especially at the end of 2023, so we invited many new, current and former partners to form an alliance and help the communities. We worked with 800 communities in the deep Amazon! It was an incredible experience. We definitely helped mitigate some problems the communities were facing. In 2023, we also won awards that showed recognition for our work, which was a big achievement for us.

What goals do you hope to achieve in 2024?

The list is endless, especially because of the drought problem last year. We’re trying to work on more climate change adaptation projects, because we understand that now, we have to find ways to help the communities adapt to the effects of climate change. We’re dealing with an injustice, because these people did little to cause the problem but are suffering more because of it. We also have many international events happening in Brazil this and next year, such as the G20 forum, which we’re focusing some efforts on.

How can people help support FAS going forward?

About two years ago, we won an open-call proposal to go from 16 protected areas in the state of Amazonas, the biggest state in the Brazilian Amazon, to 28. That was a big leap for us and cost us a lot! Our work is so important because it’s empowering people in the Amazon to keep their territory alive – the only reason we still have the Amazon is because they are there. You can help us by donating to the institution and giving us the means to keep growing. There are 10 million people living in the Brazilian Amazon (or 30 million if you include the cities); we haven’t yet reached 100,000 people, but in the next 16 years, we sure want to double if not triple this number.

Community houses by the river near Belem, Brazil

Make it happen

TravelLocal’s donation to FAS has been designated to support health-focused projects, and is contributing to the extension of internet access in the Amazon. If you’re looking for ways to support the foundation yourself, please visit their website or get in touch with them directly. You’re also welcome to chat to them about visiting their projects on-site and exploring their hard work to help local communities thrive.

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