Ronaldo Lima de Oliveira
Fellow Since 1995
This profile was prepared when Ronaldo Lima de Oliveira was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Brazil's extractive reserves are now facing a critical situation. Created and legally protected under a law inspired by Chico Mendes' struggle, the reserves are in danger of foundering because of the absence of effective patterns for forest use that combine forest conservation and sustainable ecological conditions with adequate livelihoods for the local population. If a model of viable sustainable development is not soon offered to the forest communities, the reserves will be transformed into economically inactive areas, abandoned both by their current residents and by the government, as has already occurred in other ecological reserves created by the governmental initiatives. The abandoned areas would then be prime candidates for occupation by predatory farmers, who would burn the remaining forest and raise cattle on the land thus ravaged. Ronaldo's project is attempting to prevent that disastrous outcome through a combination of still experimental economic activities in the areas of subsistence agriculture, animal breeding, fruit-growing, tropical silviculture, and the development of basic infra-structure (including housing, education, sanitation, and health) that will attend the most pressing needs of the reserves' communities.His principal goal, and the essence of his new idea, is the development and implementation of a model of agricultural activity in the Amazon region that is economically viable, ecologically appropriate, and easily assimilated by the people of the forest. In his view, attending to the basic consumption needs of the people of these reserves is the first step of a process that will guarantee the self-sufficiency of the communities and, consequently, the survival and success of the extractive reserves. Ronaldo's model offers considerable promise for revitalizing and transforming the Amazonian economy from one that is clearly not self-sustaining to one that ensures the survival of indigenous small producers and rubber-tapping communities through the institution of culturally sensitive and viable economic alternatives. The economic measures that he proposes as supplements to extractive activitiesincluding farming, raising small live stock, harvesting fruit trees, producing cultivated products such as guava paste, building homes, and developing the community infrastructure - will help assure a basic level of economic security for people currently living on the extractive reserves.