Connecting community forest management with markets that value sustainability
Project dates: 2017 – 31/12/2020
Type of initiative: Advocacy
Members of the Mixed Cooperative of the Tapajós National Forest (Coomflona) needed raw material of legal origin to work in their furniture makers to tackle illegal logging and slave labour in the region. In 2011, Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) encouraged the formation of a working group to develop Actions to Support the Community Furniture Production Chain in the Forest, which resulted in the idea of maximising the use of residual wood from forest management.
At the time, research by the Institute of Biodiversity and Forests (IBEF/UFOPA) identified that the management of certified wood forests generated a significant volume of the waste left in the ground, hindering the natural regeneration of the forest seed bank smothered beneath the phytomass of logs and branches.
In 2017, BVRio developed the foundations of the Design & Sustainable Wood Initiative together with two internationally renowned Brazilian wood designers, Leo Lattavo (Lattoog) and Zanini de Zanine (Studio Zanini). The proposal was to promote the union between design and socio-environmental responsibility, adding value to the objects produced by community forest management cooperatives in the Amazon, whilst generating income and professional training for the local communities.
The initiative added value to the residues of FSC® Brazil certified wood by offering training to the local communities to manufacture high-end objects. For the designers, the initiative would give them access to a noble raw material, from a legal and sustainable source, without middlemen, and the participation in a project with social and environmental benefit. Coomflona, BVRio’s cooperative host in this project, has had the FSC 100% Community Forest Management seal since 2013 and proves the importance of small producers in forest conservation.
The initiative’s main activities included;
- Capacity building
The initiative took internationally renowned Brazilian designers to the states of Pará and Acre in Brazil to provide training to community-led manufacturers on new techniques of timber furnitureand exclusive pieces design. Local artisans learned to produce high-value objects, using sustainable wood certified by FSC®. BVRio organised a cycle of training sessions with these top designers, a total of 11 workshops onsite for 36 local artisans.
- Exhibition at international design fairs
The objects and furniture produced by the community-led manufacturers and signed by the designers were exhibited at two international fairs in 2019, at Milan Design Week in Italy and MADE Latina in São Paulo, Brazil.
- Fundraising campaign
In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the production of these Amazon’s furniture manufacturers, the D&SW initiative launched the National Campaign ‘CooperAÇÃO’ to raise funds, supplies and equipment for the communities. BVRio paid two months’ salary for all of their employees.
In five years, 13 designers have teamed up with the initiative to mentor 36 artisans. They produced 9,000 pieces during that time, which were bought directly from the Amazonian communities and cooperatives. Many of these pieces were exhibited at international design fairs which are visited by hundreds of thousands of people.
“When we get to the finished product, exhibited in a place of visibility like MADE in São Paulo, it shows the public that the union between the forest community and designers, with BVRio as a channeller, can produce positive results.” – Carlos Motta, designer participant of the initiative.
BVRio produced 19 videos to promote the initiative, including two documentaries, which had, up until September 2022, almost 60,000 views on YouTube. During its duration, between 2019 and 2022, the initiative had extensive media coverage with dozens of features nationwide.
After the completion of the project, BVRio and FSC® Brazil invited the designers of the initiative to create wooden trophies for two regional football championships in Brazil, the Copa Verde (Green Cup) in 2018 and 2021, and the Northeast Cup in 2022, giving visibility to the responsible management of Brazilian forests in the national media through football, the most popular sport in the country.
Legacy and future
The initiative expanded talents, generated income and jobs, and strengthened the capacities of community groups involved in sustainable forest management. In addition, it fostered a green economy in the Amazon and Brazil, by raising awareness about using residual wood to prevent illegal logging and forest degradation, and by introducing community-made products into high-standard markets that value sustainability.
The project’s actions lead to sustainable production models for the communities and the national furniture and wood products industry. Several objects created for the initiative have become renowned, especially by Attom Designer, Lattoog and Atelier Paulo Alves. The Amazonian communities have replicated them to restock high-end furniture stores.
BVRio continues to foster the bioeconomy by developing initiatives focused on zero deforestation, strengthening sustainable forest management practices and supporting a green and inclusive economy.
Campaign Cooperação – 2020