Rui Barbosa da Rocha
This profile was prepared when Rui Barbosa da Rocha was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
The tourism industry in Brazil has grown considerably over the last decade, with greater numbers of international visitors coming each year to popular destinations and to new regions that were once inaccessible. Rather than resist this growth and take on the industry as the enemy, Rui has built a network that brings small-scale farmers and isolated communities together with large hotel chains and other businesses, creating a new platform for ecotourism. By helping them to identify their shared interests, Rui is proving that local communities can work with the tourism business in ways that benefit both groups, and preserve the environment and the integrity of local communities in the process. Working in the Itacaré region of Bahia since 2003, Rui’s Floresta Viva Institute implements programs in five key areas: Wilderness protection, biodiversity recovery, sustainable ecotourism businesses, environmental research and analysis, and policy advocacy. Each program has the shared goal of shaping a sustainable tourism industry that can be used to promote social, environmental, and economic good. To date, Rui’s work has had a direct impact on the lives of 1,000 families and 20,000 people indirectly, in addition to contributing to environmental and community improvements in the Atlantic Forest. Situated in the state of Bahia, the sections of Atlantic Forest in which Rui works are primary growth: Critically important areas home to rare species of biodiversity. In partnership with Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Rui intends to strengthen this methodology and spread it to other regions of Brazil and Latin America also coming to terms with the effects of modern day tourism.