Blog post

Dream job to save the Amazon forest

Published on
January 12, 2021

by MSc student Marjolein Mooij

When I started my MSc Forest and Nature Conservation at Wageningen University, I was very idealistic and determined to learn how to save the Amazon rainforest. I therefore conducted my thesis research in a remote community in the Brazilian rainforest. These four months gave me the chance to acquire some basic Portuguese and, more importantly, basic insight in how communication and social interactions are done in Brazil.

As one could expect, simply ‘saving the Amazon rainforest’ turned out to be quite difficult in reality. That did not diminish my interest. In fact, I joined a pilot project for reforestation in the south of Brazil, to translate and highlight the social impact of the project. Here, I first heard about the Black Jaguar Foundation, and I immediately knew: this is the organization I want to work with.

The Black Jaguar Foundation (BJF) is a Dutch NGO with one goal: creating a 2600 kilometre long biodiversity corridor along the river Araguaía in Brazil. In doing so, they work together with local famers to ensure success. The importance of nature restoration and a healthy biodiversity is promoted by Brazilian BJF employees. All local farmers are encouraged to join, but their cooperation is completely voluntarily.

One of the most important laws in Brazil states that a certain percentage of land should be reserved for nature – the percentage depending on the state you live in. Violators of this law receive a huge fine, even under Bolsonaro’s current regime. Additionally, farmers are starting to see the effects of degraded land and infertile soil, as they need to use more and more artificial fertilizer and face lower yields. However, they often don’t have the resources for proper nature restoration. BJF provides information, equipment and assistance for farmers that join BJF. Joining BJF enables farmers to comply to the Brazilian law and helps them with restoring degraded land. The nature restoration is carried out by local employees paid by BJF. This way, the organization creates jobs for local inhabitants.

Biodiversity restoration is a key objective and BJF carefully selects different tree species to enhance biodiversity restoration along the river Araguaía. All the work is facilitated by the Black Jaguar Foundation itself: the funding, sponsorships, area mapping, tree plantations, scientific research, the actual tree planting and aftercare for the trees, amongst others. This year, the first 100.000 trees have been planted!

A few weeks ago, our new ‘Donate a Tree’-campaign was launched. Everyone can now donate a tree to the project and save a little bit of Amazon rainforest themselves. In return, you receive a personal certificate with information about the tree. All current campaigns and offices of the Black Jaguar Foundation are sponsored, which means donated money goes directly to tree growth.

You can imagine working for the Black Jaguar Foundation is a perfect fit for a Forest and Nature Conservation graduate student. I was therefore thrilled when they invited me to work with them after I sent them an open application. I can now proudly say I’m putting theory into practise: supporting BJF with planting a million indigenous trees in 2021 and a billion trees by 2030.

Join our ambitious nature restoration project and donate one or more trees!

I’d like to say to current MFN students: “Do not lose that touch of idealism that WUR students tend to have, keep your eyes open and keep sending open applications to that perfect NGO!