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Rainforest Alliance Names 2007 - 2009 Kleinhans Fellow to Create Tools to Help Communities in the Brazilian Amazon Market Their Forest Products

December 16, 2007

The Rainforest Alliance has awarded Mônica M. Barroso Keel with the organization's 2007 – 2009 Kleinhans fellowship. Barroso Keel will provide market information to communities in the Brazilian Amazon, making it easier and more profitable for them to sell the nuts, fruits, gums, resins and other non-timber forest products they rely on for food, medicine and income. The fellowship is awarded once every two years to support research on how the production of non-timber forest products can be used to conserve tropical forests.

Barroso Keel, 32, who is originally from Londrina in Paraná state in southern Brazil and currently lives in Zurich, Switzerland, will receive two $15,000 grants over two years for her project, which involves creating and broadcasting pilot radio programs to help forest communities become active players in promoting the non-timber forest products they harvest and sell.

"Giving local residents who manage the land an economic incentive to do so responsibly is the key to conserving tropical forests," said Tensie Whelan, executive director of the Rainforest Alliance. "Harvested sustainably, non-timber forest products can provide communities with much-needed income, provided they have the access they need to market information."

Using current market intelligence and information about forest management, species use and processing, Barroso Keel will create radio broadcasts, which are the most widespread communication tool in the region. One-third of the Brazilian Amazon is owned and managed by smallholders, including some two million traditional rural people and about 180,000 indigenous people. Although many projects have produced data about marketing forest products in the region, such studies rarely reach the communities that would benefit most from the information.

Monica Barroso Keel

"Most of the forest dwellers in the Amazon who produce and sell non-timber forest products live hours or even days from the nearest urban center," Barroso Keel said. "They are not aware of the real value of their harvests and rely on middlemen who rarely pay fair prices for their products. Better access to market information could increase the negotiating power of these communities and also their awareness of the value of responsible resource management."

Barroso Keel, who earned a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science in August 2006 and wrote her thesis about radio communication and forest livelihoods in the Brazilian Amazon, hopes to fill this information gap with her radio broadcasts. Previously, she worked as a consultant for Friends of the Earth Brazilian Amazonia and also co-founded a non-governmental organization called Projeto Bagagem that promotes local development through community-based tourism in Brazil, among other things.

Barroso Keel is the 10th recipient of the Kleinhans fellowship, which was created in 1989 by Elysabeth Kleinhans, a longtime Rainforest Alliance supporter, to focus on the intersection of responsible forest management and business. Fellowship projects focus on preserving the integrity of the forest ecosystem through researching the management and use of tropical forest resources such as Brazil nuts, fruits and medicinal plants. Fellows study the ecology of the local forest, existing resources that have economic potential, challenges, and possible local and international markets.

"I am pleased that this latest award goes to the heart of the purpose of the fellowship: to find ways for producers of non-timber forest products to reap the benefits of their work," Kleinhans said. "It is essential that the research promotes methods that can be replicated and used in many settings."

Other recent fellows include Amy Duchelle (2005 – 2007), who studied Brazil nut production in the Western Amazon; Carla Morsello (2003 – 2005), who studied trade partnerships between forest communities and corporations in Brazil; Catarina Illsley Granich (2001 – 2003), who developed a management plan for the production of mezcal in peasant communities in Mexico; and Silvia E. Purata (1999 – 2001), who studied the role of markets and certification in the management of non-timber forest products in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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