Boa Vista do Ramos, Brazil
The Amazon rainforest is the largest in the world. It covers an area almost one-third the size of the United States. But while most people think of the exotic animals, trees, and insects that live in the forest, there are also more than 20 million people living there, too! That's about the same number as live in Los Angeles. Or, twice as many people as live in New York City. And, almost all of the people who live in the Amazon rainforest have moved there in the last 20 years. The Amazon rainforest covers parts of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and the Guianas (Suriname, French Guiana, and Guyana). But the vast majority of the Amazon is in Brazil -- South America's largest country.
Boa Vista do Ramos, which means "good view of the branches" in Portuguese, is a town on the northern part of the Amazon, several hours by river from Manaus -- the largest city in the Amazon. This remote corner of northern Brazil, near the Venezuelan border, is teeming with diversity of wildlife and cultures. Some of the amazing wildlife found in this part of the Amazon Rainforest include the tapir, leaf-cutter ant, and Amazonian river dolphin. Living with these animals are people. As is true throughout the Amazon, the majority of the current residents are relatively new arrivals, drawn by the promise of a better life. Unfortunately, for most, this dream has never materialized. Unemployment and poverty run rampant, and many -- if not most -- rural families eke out a meager living by logging, mining or ranching. The livelihood of others depends on the extraction of Brazil nuts, rubber, local fruit and guarana, a natural stimulant used like caffeine.
The Oficina Escola de Lutheria da Amazônia (OELA), the Rainforest Alliance's Brazil-based partner, and their colleagues in conservation are hard at work to help the villagers of Boa Vista do Ramos overcome poverty through the sustainable management and use of their natural resources. Villagers now harvest fish, timber, honey, fruits, medicines and plants from this beautiful area while being careful to protect the forest.
OELA is working to train young people in Boa Vista do Ramos to create high quality musical instruments out of wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. By providing the technical skills to create these handicrafts, these individuals are given an alternative way to earn a living while sustainably using the forest surrounding their community. The community has developed markets in Manaus, the main city of the Amazon, where tourists from around the globe come to see wildlife and marvel at the vast forest. Ultimately, endeavors like these will allow the people of Boa Vista do Ramos to improve their lives, provide economic opportunities for their families, and will protect the wondrous wildlife of the Amazon.