Suzana Machado Pádua
This profile was prepared when Suzana Machado Pádua was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
In Brazil, as in many other settings, there is growing awareness of the importance of enlisting the support of directly-affected communities in conservation initiatives, and of the need to help those communities address the economic and quality-of-life consequences of such initiatives that they, at least initially, perceive as adverse. In Suzana Padua's view, however, most programs designed with those concerns in view have two serious flaws. First, almost without exception, they are "top-down" in their approach and overly dependent on the ideas and energies of outsiders. And second, the methodologies that they employ are all too rarely subjected to careful assessment. Working through the organization that she founded and heads, Suzana is addressing both of those deficiencies. To resolve the problem of "top-down" planning in her pilot project in Nazaré Paulista, Suzana has gone to great lengths to ensure that all the specific undertakings that she and the Institute are associated with reflect the community's diagnosis of priority problems and needs, and that they are spearheaded, in a very genuine way, by local community leaders. In Suzana's view, the role of an outsider is to serve as a resource, helping the community gain access to knowledge, experiences elsewhere, and financial resources relevant to projects that the community itself develops. With regard to the need for methodological assessment, Suzana is developing an array of research, publications, and training programs. These programs are examining various approaches to environmental education and community participation in, and mobilization around, conservation endeavors throughout Brazil. She sees this component of her idea as crucial for the multiplication of community-based ecological initiatives.