José Antonio Bacchin

Ashoka Fellow
São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
Fellow Since 1991


This profile was prepared when José Antonio Bacchin was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1991.
The New Idea
Increasing global awareness of the importance of protecting disappearing rain forest remnants has led the Brazilian government to grant park status to several areas in the Mata Atlantica, Brazil's coastal rain forest. While the granting of this status serves to protect the land, small communities that have for centuries lived off those lands are now at an economic loss.
To protect the people and their culture, and to prevent their becoming hostile to the parks, Jose Antonio is introducing Brazil to ecotourism and recreation on a serious scale. He has already begun training the local communities to establish food services, lodging, and guide services for the growing number of people who he hopes will visit the Mata Atlantica.
Jose Antonio knows that there must be a very rapid and significant increase in the number of ecotourists if there is to be any significant help for the local economy. He also knows that the wrong sort of tourist trade, even with legal park protection, will ultimately destroy both the environment and the sort of ecotourism he is trying to build. Consequently, his energy for the next half decade must be devoted to creating both the right sort of facilities in and around the parks (for example, trails and guides familiar with the trails and local culture) and a rapidly rising flow of the right sort of visitors (for example, older people and students interested in nature.)
If he can create a critical mass of both facilities and visitors, he will be creating something new and important for Brazil. If he can make enough local voters value the parks, the parks will survive. More important in the long run, if he helps conjure up a significant group of Brazilians who use the country's wild places for environmentally compatible recreation, he may be laying the foundations for a truly powerful mass based environmental movement in the future. Each such hiker or fisherman will leave a piece of his or her heart in the forest, and sooner or later they will come together to protect what they love. (America's powerful mass membership groups, Sierra Club, Audubon Society, and National Wildlife Federation, all have their roots in this sort of parkland recreational activity.)
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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