Ouro Verde Bahia Program: an example of balance between environmental sustainability, scientific research, social development and economic growth


Ouro Verde Bahia Program: an example of balance between environmental sustainability, scientific research, social development and economic growth

Discover the fantastic work headed by Kevin Flesher at Michelin Ecological Reserve.

Known and recognized for its richness in biodiversity, the Atlantic Forest of the south of Bahia is characterized by being one of the last remaining portions of the original forests from the colonial time in Brazil. Even though its reduced space over time, it is about an extremely diverse, colorful and mysterious environment, which many appreciate, but few know well. The scene is, without a doubt, stunning: old trees, some over 30 meters, intertwine with the undergrowth, painting the landscape with deep shades of green and housing an infinity of animal species.

Considering the evident importance of conserving this scenario, between Bahia municipalities of Igrapiúna and Ituberá, 140 kilometers from Salvador, an ecological reserve with 3,386 hectares was created. The initiative, which belongs to “Michelin Ouro Verde Bahia Program”, came from Michelin Group, with the objective of protecting and enriching the biodiversity of the Atlantic Forest, one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. Since the beginning of its activities in 2006, the ecological reserve provided material for the publication of 121 scientific articles.

The Forest Restoration program, headed by the American ecologist rooted in Brazil, Dr. Kevin Flesher, has yielded good results in  Michelin Ecological Reserve. From the work of Flesher and his team, 107,000 seedlings of 275 different species were planted in the area and more than 2000 species were cataloged, involving fauna and flora.

According to the ecologist, “restoring is not reforesting. It is much more complex. We studied the original forest and applied the knowledge to devastated areas”.

So, let’s see a little bit more about the forest restoration program.

Forest Restoration Program

The forest restoration is the process of planting trees and other native vegetation, aiming to recreate the original forest ecosystem of the species and the interactions that maintain it.

Within the area of Michelin Ecological Reserve, the MER team conducts a series of initiatives that aim, in general terms, to accelerate the forest restoration process and increase the support capacity of the forests for wildlife.

One of the main researches developed by the Center of Studies of the Biodiversity within the reserve is the study, in the long term, of the phenology of the fruiting of trees in the forest. It is about a research that seeks to understand and ensure the availability of food for wild fauna over the years. This research is believed to be vital to understand the steps of ecological restoration.

For this study, 107,000 trees of 275 different species were planted on 300 hectares of abandoned seringals. After analysis, it was observed that 72% of the planted trees survived, fructified and reached between 4 to 18 meters in height. Among the species used in the research, it is noted a focus on endemic, high conservation value, and endangered species, whose populations need to be increased.

These data are essential for the development of strategies for the restoration of the rubber trees abandoned in the reserve, and also for the creation of ecological corridors between the forests, transforming the reserve into a single forest block.

Species discovery and recovery

According to Kevin Flesher, in the last ten years occurred an increase of 117% in the abundance of the fauna in the ecological park, with the return of endangered species, such as the Red-billed curassow, the Golden-bellied capuchin, the Ocelot, the Red brocket deer and the Black hedgehog. This increase was due, in the first place, to the protection. The Red-billed curassow, for example, was a bird that many believed to be extinct in the south of Bahia, but with forest restoration initiatives, it ended up reappearing and being protected, being spread throughout the reserve.

In addition to the return of endangered species, 20 new species ended up being found and mapped in the area of Michelin reserve. The species of the genus Askola are part of the latest discovery made in the ecological park, which generated great hope in the field of biodiversity restoration.

“The presence of this ephemeris is an indicator of the quality of the water in our reserve, since it can only survive in very pure waters”.

Kevin Flesher, Director of Michelin Ecological Reserve.

Community outreach programs

Environmental Education

The protection of the reserve is not just about restrictions and law enforcement; community participation and awareness about the importance of caring for the environment are of paramount importance for the sustainable management of the region in the long term.

Considering this premise, Michelin developed an environmental education program to engage the rural youth. Some of the topics addressed with children and young people include water sanitation, the correct use of agrochemicals in the environment, the implications of food choices, the consequences of deforestation and the extirpation of wildlife and the logic of environmental legislation. Tours are also organized in the forests of the reserve, in which basic concepts of ecology and conservation are explained, familiarizing young people with the biodiversity and local landscape.

The main idea is to expose young people to new ideas that can help to improve their lives. After ten years, today there is a number of young people who support the reserve and work to improve the environmental conditions of the region.

  • Bio jewels

Thinking about the potential of the artisans in the south of Bahia, Michelin and the Amazonian designer Maria Oiticica, who creates bio jewels from elements of nature, together launched Michelan Ouro Verde Solidary Art Program. Through workshops to improve techniques for creating bio jewels, entrepreneurship and commercialization, the initiative aims to train and generate income for women in the quilombola communities in the region around  Michelin Ouro Verde Bahia.

  • Ecotourism

Cachoeira Grande River is responsible for draining the hills of the interior forest, giving life to the beautiful Pancada Grande Waterfall, with 61 meters of fall. Flanked by the Atlantic Forest, Pancada Grande is the highest waterfall on the coast of Bahia, characterized as a symbol of the region. Aware of the importance of Pancada Grande waterfall for the local community, for the local tourism and for the biodiversity, Michelin obtained from the Brazilian government the maximum level of environmental protection for a private property, creating the RPPN Ouro Verde and ensuring leisure to more than 80,000 people who visit the area each year.

  • Canopée and Michelin Ecological Reserve

Canopée project arose from the longing of entrepreneurs and executives to reconcile their experiences and skills in favor of the environment and the communities that inhabit the areas of environmental protection and preservation.

We preserve the forests and manage socio-environmental projects using high information technology. We seek to encourage the development both in the social and in the environmental bias, aiming to take our team and our partners to a look of responsibility and protection, thinking about the preservation of the environment and the world that will be left for future generations.

Currently, we are responsible for managing the program of carbon credits originating from the area of Michelin Ecological Reserve, increasingly encouraging the several environmental and social actions of Michelin Ouro Verde Bahia Program.

Do you know any project that fits with the proposal of Canopée? Please, contact us! How about together we build a better world?

Foto: Divulgação/Programa Michelin Ouro Verde Bahia