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For an isolated community in Brazil, knowledge is power

The Kalunga community is using mapping data to defend their land and traditional way of life.

translated from text published by Marsea Nelson, Senior Communications Manager, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund 


Several hundred years ago, in Brazil, fugitive slave groups established communities & #8211; known as quilombos. Many of these communities were destroyed, but in a remote mountainous region of Goiás, some 8,000 of their descendants & #8211; the people Kalunga & #8211; it continues a traditional lifestyle largely isolated from the modern world.

Today, however, this modern world is forming for this community. The Kalungas found themselves fighting for both their culture and their ancestral land, which lies within the impressive region of Veadeiros Plateau (Goiás, Brazil), which is part of hot spot in Cerrado biodiversity.

The Kalunga are mainly Catholic. However, some converted to neo-Pentecostalism, which brought some differences with community members who continue to hold traditional beliefs.

Community children learn about local biodiversity. Photo: © Quilombo Kalunga Association Collection

In addition, younger Kalungas leave the territory to study or work. “When they return, they bring musical influences, outside dancing and new habits,” said Vilmar Souza Costa, president of the Quilombo Kalunga Association (AQK). “They also bring a new vision of how to relate to the land, wanting to apply new technologies to cultivate it and fight pests, which are more appropriate for agribusiness.”

At threats to Kalunga lands they include imminent plans for the construction of a small hydroelectric plant and consistent pressure from mining companies, as well as an increase in land used for agriculture.

Pasture areas have grown over the years and open areas are already taking over the territory, Costa said. He also noted that populations of many species of local biodiversity & #8211; including tapirs, armadillos, rheas and fish & #8211; decreased.

The project field team. Photo: © Quilombo Kalunga Association Collection

Recognizing these challenges, the community established the Quilombo Kalunga Association in 1999 to represent and defend their interests.

In 2013, the idea of using the geoprocessing to better understand families living in the region and territory, documenting precisely what Kalunga lands housed, where they were most vulnerable and where there were the best opportunities to implement tourism.

Finding funding for the project, however, proved challenging. Government funds failed and efforts to find another donor did not materialize until five years later, when CEPF granted the Association its first Donation of US$ 216,600.00.

& #8220; In the Cerrado, working with traditional peoples and communities is an important part of our strategy & #8221; said Peggy Poncelet, CEPF grant director. #8220; Not every donor is equipped to provide the kind of technical support that a developing organization such as AQK requires, but CEPF is.

Kalunga Territory. Photo: ©P. Poncelet / CEPF Collection

With funding finally in place, a specialist was hired by AQK to train 24 young Kalungas in GIS and Open Data Kit, which is a data collection toolkit that does not require an internet connection. They then began to systematically gather socioeconomic information about local residents of the Kalunga Historical Site and Cultural Heritage.

The work was not easy & #8211; The team faced heavy rains and bad roads. Sometimes they would go to hard to reach places, only to find that the family was not at home. This fieldwork was a complicated process, but, according to Costa, the young people took on with “enthusiasm and joy”.

The information collected in the survey is being useful on many fronts. The state sanitation company will use the data to improve water supply and sanitation in the community. Information about which families have dogs and chickens will be used by the Department of Health to help fight Chagas disease, which can cause serious health complications. Meanwhile, a federal organization is using data on land cultivation and animal husbandry to provide farmers with more efficient technical assistance.

Vilmar Costa, president of AQK, spoke to the community about the 19 endangered species occurring in the Kalunga Territory. Photo: © Quilombo Kalunga Association Collection

Awareness raising is another essential component of the CEPF funded project. Presentations about 19 endangered species found in the region were widely reported in local schools and municipalities. & #8220; Participating students and teachers posted photos and comments on their social networks, which eventually led to large-scale knowledge of the 19 species of Chapada dos Veadeiros & #8221 ;, said Costa. AQK also made presentations during community meetings and distributed calendars and banners describing local biodiversity and how to protect it.

AQK is now working on creating a online platform which will allow each family to update their own information.

The project was also reported locally by the The Brazilian Report and Eyeing The Ruralists. Recently, the portal G1 Nature has published a series of articles and videos about the Kalunga community.

Read the original text of this article, which is available in English at site CEPF.

About Quilombo Kalunga Association and CEPF Cerrado

The Quilombo Kalunga Association is a non-profit, non-profit civil organization founded in October 1999. It is formed by the Kalunga Associations of Cavalcante, Monte Alegre, Teresina and Engenho II, as well as Epotecampo. She represents the largest quilombo territory in Brazil, with 262 thousand hectares of land. The Association promotes the defense of interest of all communities formed by residents of the Kalunga Historical and Cultural Heritage Site (SHPCK), scattered between the municipalities of Cavalcante, Monte Alegre de Goiás and Teresina de Goiás, and represent them in all instances. legal and administrative

The project “Use of Geoprocessing in the Management of the Kalunga Historical and Cultural Heritage Site - SHPCK”, fostered by Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF, from the acronym in English to Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fundand with support from Brazilian International Institute of Education (IEB)The project aims to know in depth the reality of Kalunga communities, use geoprocessing technology to map the territory in detail, promote SHPCK occupation in a more sustainable way and make Kalunga internationally recognized as advocates of biodiversity conservation. .

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of the French Development Agency, Conservation International, the European Union, Global Environmental Management, the Government of Japan and the World Bank. A key goal is to ensure that civil society is involved in biodiversity conservation.


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