The expedition ran from February to August 2007. It followed the course of the Xingu River in Brazil by boat from its source to its confluence with the Amazon, a distance of 2,500 km, visiting forty-eight Indian villages along the way.
The expedition's objectives were to:
- Assess the current health, education, culture and security of the tribal communities
- Evaluate the conservation of forests inside indigenous reserves and compare them with areas outside, which have suffered deforestation
- Record tribal life, in photographs, video and sound, for dissemination through popular media to demonstrate the values and vitality of indigenous cultures
- Build direct contact with villages and indigenous organisations as a basis for further projects
- Explore measures for supporting tribal communities to maintain their traditions and lives in a sustainable way
- Provide GPS and computer equipment and training to help the indigenous communities to protect their lands
- Assist indigenous video cameramen with the supply of equipment to increase their capacity to serve the needs of their communities.
We are now working on a book, which will be published in both Portuguese and English, as a showcase of the values and cultures of the tribal communities we visited.
The images and other materials we collected form the basis of a travelling exhibition, "THe Heart of Brazil". We are also pursuing a programme of illustrated talks to promote a better understanding and appreciation of tribal values and cultures. For details of present and future venues and times, please refer to the Heart of Brazil News section.
The Indians of the Xingu are a vital force in preserving the forest. A casual glance at aerial photographs immediately makes clear that only areas designated as indigenous territories retain complete forest cover, while patchwork deforestation crowds in on them from all sides.
By preserving the forest, the Indians are making an important contribution in the battle to protect Brazil from the worst effects of climate change, to which it is particularly vulnerable according to climate scientists.
For a fuller explanation of the relevance to climate change of the Heart of Brazil Expedition, see this Climate Change Perspective.
We will shortly be posting a report of the expedition, which will be available in English and Portuguese.
The expedition is featured on the BBC's Brazilian site; follow this link to read about its progress in Portuguese: www.bbc.co.uk/portuguese/forum; read weekly reports which were filed during the expedition.
We are very grateful to all of the many individuals and organisations who have supported this project so far. In particular, we would like to thank our major sponsors:
Following the expedition we are working to develop further projects, including:
Provision of a launch to transport crops, including bananas and other fruit, to market
Capacity building for various commercial activities, including:
- Rainforest oils
- Cacau for fair trade chocolate
- Handicraft, especially weaving
Safeguarding and reviving knowledge and use of medicinal plants
Reviving knowledge and use of ancient crop varieties
Reforestation of area re-occupied by the Kisedje (Suya)
Establishing a radio station and transmitter
Training and equipment to expand the use of video to record cultural and historic material
Design and implementation of a GPS/GIS system for use in policing the boundaries of indigenous territories, including training and provision of equipment
To support projects resulting from the expedition, or to invite Patrick and Sue to give a presentation, click here.
Marimbú Community Health Centre
The health centre in Aldeia Marimbú, which was the first project of IPCST (see Completed Projects), has been running successfully for over eight years. It now needs some updating and expansion. Specific objectives are:
- Refurbishment and redecoration of the building
- Improvement and renewal of the solar electricity installation
For information with itemised funding requirements for this project please see the Xavante Community Health Centre Blog
To support this project, or to invite Emily to give a presentation, click here.
Xavante Tree Nursery
Climate Change is probably the major issue confronting mankind in the 21st century. Deforestation contributes 20% of current greehouse gas emissions worldwide. In Brazil, destruction of the forests is threatening rainfall in the south of the country.
In Brazil, only those areas set aside as Indigenous Reserves remain intact. The Indians are protecting the forests they control. They are aware of the importance of maintaining those forests. But the devastation of land outside of their control is approaching ever closer.
This image, from Google Earth, shows the rapid increase in conversion of forest for growing soya. The image is a composite of two photographs, the bottom being taken a few years ago and the top more recently. The advance of the ecologically barren soya fields is very obvious.
The Xavante Tree nursery project will help the indigenous community to cultivate and regenerate native species of trees and plants within the reserve. We will work with the community to create the infrastructure for the nursery, providing materials, tools and equipment. We will employ an agronomist to oversee the project and to help establish an educational programme to train members of the community in the methods used in propagating plants and replanting degraded areas.
This initiative has the potential to provide a regular source of income for the reserve, helping the indigenous community to become more self-sufficient. It will offer a means for individuals and companies in the developed world to offset their carbon footprint by contributing funds for the Xavante to plant cerrados trees. Accreditation for inclusion in carbon trading schemes is complex and time-consuming, and requires considerable up-front investment. To take advantage of this opportunity, the Xavante need to begin implementing this project as soon as possible.
This will help to protect and preserve the fragile ecosystem of the cerrados forests where the Xavante live. Because of intensive agricultural activity to feed international demand for soya, this ecosystem is disappearing at an alarming rate, with countless species facing extinction every year.
The success of this project will encourage other communities, both within the Sangradouro reserve and elsewhere, to set up similar schemes. The project will act as a pilot, and experience gained will be used to help other communities.
For more information about the progerss of this project see the Tree Nursery News.
To support this project, or to invite Emily to give a presentation, click here.
Xavante: Marimbú Health Centre and Medicinal Garden
During 1994 -1995 Emily developed a project with members of the Xavante tribe from Aldeia Marimbú in Mato Grosso State, Brazil.
The project was to build a health centre and establish a medicinal garden, with an educational programme in the use and cultivation of medicinal plants.
The British Government’s Overseas Development Agency (now DFID) provided match-funding for the project, and the remainder of the funding came from small grants and donations from foundations and individuals.
In 1997 and 1998 Emily organised and coordinated the construction of the health centre deep within the Sangradouro Indigenous Area. The centre uses solar energy for lighting and to power a refrigerator for storing medicines and vaccines. The solar energy also provides light for the village school.
The centre was inaugurated on January 11th 1998, and has brought renewed hope to the community. It represents a victory in their dream for a more independent existence. This was the first project on the Sangradouro reserve to be implemented directly with the Indians. It was carried out jointly with the village through their own association, Associação Indígena Marimbú.
Emily organised the construction contract and other financial negotiations on behalf of the village, but the actual construction was supervised by members of the community, who each had copies of the architectural contract with a list of all the building materials. As a result, 100% of the financial aid reached its intended destination.
The centre has enabled members of the tribe to return to their old village, thus alleviating the appalling overcrowding at the missionary village.
The most rewarding factor in helping these people is to have seen a revival of ancient traditions, songs and dances. They form an intrinsic part of their identity and help them to live in harmony with their natural environment.
Adjacent to the Centre is a medicinal garden, established to help conserve and rebuild traditional knowledge of plant medicines among younger members of the tribe. Collecting medicinal plants can involve travelling great distances, and younger members of the community have come to rely on the "quick fix" of pharmaceuticals, which has undermined confidence in traditional remedies.
In 1997, Emily accompanied a Xavante tribesman to the university in Fortaleza where he attended a course in the cultivation and administration of medicinal plants. The objective was to introduce the concept of medicinal gardens to the Xavante, who previously had only collected medicinal plants in the wild.
The Medical centre was supplied with tools and equipment for the cultivation of plants, and the community now grow many of the plants that had become difficult to find in the wild. They make more use of traditional remedies and rely less on pharmaceutical medicines.
All photos on this page are copyright. Xavante photos © Emily Burridge, all others © Sue Cunningham
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