Rio de Janeiro's Reforestation Program (Refloresta Rio)
A greener city, with the forest contributing to the reduction of landslides and floods, richer in fauna and flora, protecting the waters and providing a better quality of life for its citizens. This has been the Reforestation Program’s goal for over 30 years, and even with all the challenges, Rio de Janeiro has, through reforestation, managed to improve the landscape and bring environmental benefits to our city. Further than protecting and providing the development of natural regeneration of forests and trying to reestablish contact among citizens and the original Atlantic Forest, reforestation also has become a barrier to avoid occupations in areas at risk.
The program recovers, through reforestation, areas of slopes or mangroves swamps, irregularly occupied by vulnerable populations for housing and economic activities, aiming at reducing the risk of natural hazards (landslides and floods) and building ecological corridors. The Reforestation Program has already reached 3,400 hectares reforested and has planted 10 million seedlings of native species of the Atlantic Forest. The program contributes to the reduction of GHG emissions: from 2012 to 2017 the number of carbon removals from reforestation and urban afforestation managed to offset 100% of total emissions. Also, the population of over 92 neighborhoods, around 15,000 residents, is encouraged to work on the recovery of green areas by receiving training and financial incentive, the only source of income for 60% of the families involved.
The program’s main goal is aligned with SDG 15, to protect, restore, promote the sustainable use and management of the Atlantic Forest and halt and reverse land degradation by illegal occupations. It helps to decrease the number of deaths, missing persons, and persons affected by natural disasters. The program also covers SDG 13 as it is considered an important carbon sink as the number of carbon removals from reforestation and urban tree planting effectively managed to offset 100% of total emissions from the land-use change from 2012 to 2017 in the City of Rio.
To start an intervention, the community association presents a formal request and the Municipal Coordination of Green Areas carries a technical evaluation to confirm the feasibility in the area. Once technical feasibility is confirmed and there is the availability of budget, personal protective equipment, materials, and technical staff for monitoring, the executive project is prepared and meetings are held with the community to clarify what the program is and thus start the process selection of a resident who will be in charge and lead the local field team. The participation of residents realizes the social dimension of the program. In many cases, knowledge about environmental recovery techniques used in the program becomes a differential for residents to access formal employment and autonomous activities. As the time offered by the volunteers would be insufficient to carry out a fast and good quality job, the system of "paid joint effort" was adopted and remuneration was offered. Consequently, the project was transformed into an instrument for generating income and, therefore, mitigating unemployment and promoting environmental education. Currently, 382 people are employed by the project. In 2021, US$726.421 is allocated for the program. The activities are monitored by forestry engineers, agronomists, and biologists who technically guide the program's actions and verify a series of parameters and the following indicators: implanted area, maintained area, planting, and management - planting in areas already implanted in order to increase the diversity of flora.
In 34 years, the program has planted more than 10 million seedlings of native species of the Atlantic Forest and increased the city's green coverage by 3.4 thousand hectares, recovering the fauna and bringing back the wildlife, preserving Life on Land. In addition, the building of a natural barrier contributes to the reduction of landslides, creating resilience and providing a better quality of life, collaborating to reach SDG #11. Regarding the Climate Action Goal, The Municipal Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) Inventory, which quantifies and measures the origin of the city's GHG emissions, pointed that the number of carbon removals from reforestation and urban tree planting effective managed to offset 100% of total emissions from the land-use change from 2012 to 2017. The financial incentive, on average, R$ 1,000 (about USD 180) per month offered to 382 workers contributes to the Eradication of Poverty in the areas included in the program.
The local community’s commitment is vital to the program’s continuity over its 34 years as it was designed as a tool for social development and to increase the safety of the community by reducing landslides and floods. With the governance structure development, environmental issues were incorporated into the social bias. The reforestation activities started with a series of task forces (sanitation, rainwater, stairway), therefore, there was an assembled structure and knowledge already acquired to the prosperity of activities. Challenges are the social and safety vulnerability of communities and the need to protect the areas from forest fires.
The strength of the program lies in the interaction between society and the municipal government. This connection solidified over three decades, as well as the investments of the City Hall in training, green recovering techniques, and financial incentives, sustain outcomes of the practice. The city is willing to reply to the knowledge of partner governments and institutions sharing its operational experience (such as negotiation and engagement with the local community, hiring of workers, etc.) and its scientific techniques (land evaluation, seedling nursery, as well as land recovering techniques). Extending the practice depends on financial availability. To this end, Rio is searching for national and international partners willing to sponsor forest regeneration initiatives with great social impact.
The pandemic affected productivity and, consequently, decreased the total area of the project. From April to June 2020, the activities were suspended. A minimal staff, formed by people outside the risk group, carried specific maintenance activities and preventive action against forest fires. After this period, the activities resumed due to security measures. The reforestation program is part of Rio’s strategy towards a green and equal recovery as it offers an income resource for its works, while they are unable to enter the formal market, and, by recovering green areas, it safeguards the population from natural disasters, helps to mitigate heat islands and reduce GHG.
SDGS & Targets
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Deliverables & Timeline
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City of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil