The Amazon’s new guardians: innovative projects spark a surge of hope for vital forest conservation

Published January 22, 2024

In the shadow of impending global climate crises–”this may be our last chance,” attendees at the COP28 climate conference cautioned– the Amazon rainforest stands not just as a symbol of the world’s ecological fragility but also as a beacon of hope, thanks to a series of innovative conservation projects seeking to conserve the precious forest frequently referred to as “the lungs of the planet”. Brazil’s COP28 push to create a conservation fund for tropical rainforests marks a significant stride towards global environmental stewardship. This move, which comes amidst the backdrop of reports suggesting that the Amazon could reach historic low deforestation rates by 2025, hopefully signals a turning tide in the battle to save one of the Earth’s most vital ecosystems.

Adding to this cautious optimism, a series of pioneering projects—such as Envira Amazon Carbon, Jari Amapa, and, most recently, the Mejuruá project—have emerged, each offering a unique approach to the complex puzzle of rainforest conservation.

TheEnvira Amazon Carbon project, located over a 200,000-hectare area in Brazil’s Acre state near the border with Peru and Bolivia, exemplifies a multifaceted approach to forest conservation. Before the project was initiated, the owner of the parcel of land had intended to clear-cut the forest and establish a large cattle ranch; by foregoing this plan, Envira Amazon Carbon aims to mitigate over 12.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over the project’s first ten years. 

What’s more, the project is intertwining biodiversity preservation with community upliftment—offering courses to local residents on how to use less-destructive, less land-intensive agricultural techniques, for example, and equipping communities with the knowledge they need to collect and sell sustainable forest products, such as medicinal plants. It’s a vivid example of how ecological initiatives can also drive socio-economic benefits, a critical factor in the long-term success of environmental projects. 

A number of prominent companies have bought carbon credits from the project to offset their own emissions, including Brazilian state-owned oil giant Petrobras, which bought 175,000 credits in September—its first-ever purchase of carbon credits.  Petrobras President Jean Paul Prates commented on the purchase: “Here at Petrobras we want to make a decisive contribution to Brazil’s energy transition process. With every step towards the use of clean energy sources, carbon capture and storage, and investments in decarbonization, we are creating a future in which the economy will thrive in harmony with the planet.”

While theJari Amapa project, in the Jari River Valley in Amapá state, is far smaller in terms of conserved area (covering an area of roughly 66,000 hectares), it shares the same commitment to curbing emissions while benefiting the local community. One of the impacted community members, Marli Dos Santos, stated that the project has “taught us how to preserve nature and not to destroy it, the area that had already been deforested taught us how to replant it.” The Jari Amapa project reduces emissions by an estimated 660,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, and has helped protect more than 2000 species of fauna—133 of which are endangered. In parallel, the project has provided local communities with technical training in advanced production, agriculture and forestry techniques, allowing them to generate income in a more sustainable manner.

One even more recently-announced project, the Mejuruá project in Brazil’s Amazonas state, is particularly ambitious. The project aims to protect over 900,000 hectares of rainforest,  avoiding the equivalent of some 80 million tonnes of CO2 over a 30 year period–2.7 million tonnes a year–to put this into context, Mejuruá will save the equivalent of 10% of Greater London’s yearly emissions.

The Mejuruá project has been conceived as a holistic initiative to conserve the forest while bringing countless benefits to the local community. Indeed, beyond conservation practices and avoiding carbon emissions the project will replenish biodiversity in the protected area through the help of local community members –dubbed “Forest Angels”. These community members will support surveillance and data collection efforts to optimise protection and better understand what needs to be done to combat illegal deforestation.

Even beyond the “Forest Angels”, Mejurua aims to make an impact with profound ripple effects.  Through the creation of sustainable jobs, as well as generating clean power and water and enhancing education and healthcare services, Mejuruá is investing in the land and the people so that together both can prosper.  “Mejuruá believes that the people and the land of the Amazon region are inseparable,” explained Ing. Forestry Ricardo Ludke, director of forestry operations on the project. “So that the forest can thrive evergreen and rich in biodiversity, both must live in harmony with each other. This approach, along with Mejuruá’s ambitious scale, makes the project unique, and we hope it will serve as a blueprint for future conservation efforts around the world.”  

The recent advancements in Amazon rainforest conservation, embodied in projects like Envira Amazon Carbon, Jari Amapa, and Mejuruá, represent a significant and hopeful shift in environmental stewardship. These initiatives are not only combating climate change through substantial carbon offsetting but are also setting a new standard for conservation efforts by holistically integrating community development, biodiversity protection, and sustainable economic growth. The commitment of large entities like Petrobras to these kinds of projects and the active involvement of local communities as “Forest Angels” are indicative of a broader recognition of the urgency and importance of preserving the Amazon. 

As these projects continue to gain momentum and yield positive results, they offer a model for global conservation efforts, demonstrating that it is indeed possible to harmonise ecological preservation with economic and social advancement. This synergy between conservation and community empowerment could be the key to sustaining and expanding these efforts and ensuring a future where the forest thrives alongside local communities.


CDN Newswire