Toyota do Brasil Foundation (TBF)
The APA Costa dos Corais (an Environmental Protection Area) was created on October 23, 1997 by the Brazilian Government, with the aim to ensure the conservation of coral reefs and sandstone and their associated flora and fauna; maintain the integrity of habitats and preserve the population of manatees (or sea cows); protect mangroves, and organize tourism and other economic activities compatible with environmental conservation; and promote regional culture and cultural events.
Located along 135 km of the Northeastern coast of Brazil, the APA Costa dos Corais is the largest Marine Federal Conservation Unit in size and the first to include coastal coral reefs. When the APA was created, there were as many as 18 million people living in the region, and the economy of most local areas was based on the exploitation of coastal ecosystems and their natural resources. There were no regulations, however, for sustainable use or protection of these areas, which led to accelerated environmental degradation due to factors like over-fishing and abusive exploitation of limestone. The Brazilian federal government created the APA to enable the creation of policies and legislation for appropriate use and conservation of these natural resources.
Currently, the APA has a closed area (a marine reserve) in the city of Tamandaré. With fishing and tourism encroachment forbidden for the last 13 years and constant monitoring activity, the area has become a model for Brazilian coral reef conservation and the fish population has increased four-fold in that location.
With a view to promoting conservation and sustainability in the area, Toyota's APA Costa dos Corais Project was created in 2011. This initiative, implemented by Toyota do Brasil Foundation in partnership with SOS Atlantic Forest, and run by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, aims to achieve the goals set out by the conservation unit through a detailed management plan.
As a result of this project, protected zones are expected to be created in another ten local areas over the next 5 years, thus fostering the reproduction of several species.
In this first year of activities, the project has focused on capacity building; this has supported training sessions for the Management Team; equipped the headquarters with electronic items such as computers, so as to increase the effectiveness of administrative activities; and equipped the vehicle fleet with motorized vehicles (boats and motorcycles) to expand inspection activity. Actual marine protection zone activity will commence next fiscal year.
Additionally, Toyota's APA Costa dos Corais project supports local projects, which develop complementary activities in the region, such as conservation of biological diversity, promotion of environmental awareness, and development of sustainable community-managed tourism. These projects have been conducted in partnership with various NGOs.
The manatee tends to be the first animal to die in a degraded environment. Therefore, it is considered an early indicator of environmental degradation and has been named the “flag specie.” In the early '90s, when the Manatee Project conducted a survey along the Brazilian Northeastern coast, the animal was identified as a highly endangered species, with only 200 manatees existing along the coast. This figure has now increased to about 500, but the manatees still need be continuously monitored and protected.
In order to raise awareness regarding the importance of conserving the environment for manatees, Toyota's APA Costa dos Corais project has forged a partnership with the Manatee Association, and begun guided tours for the Tatuamunha river, located in the municipality of Porto de Pedras. The organization also implements environmental education activities for the community, tourists, and skippers, to raise awareness and organize tourist activities in the region in an ecologically correct and sustainable fashion. Activities conducted include lectures in schools about the history of the species, guidance on the conservation of the species and the natural environment in the region, and teaching how to keep mangrove and beach areas clean.
Ms. Terluriana Flávia Rego,president of the Manatee Association, says Toyota do Brasil Foundation has been offering resources which APA Costa dos Corais lacked to give visibility to projects and incentives for community initiatives. “They cooperated with us to expand our auditorium. With multimedia equipment, it is a lot easier to show tourists and the community that the conservation of the Tatuamunha river and preservation of the manatees are important,” she concludes.
The goal of the partnership with Instituto BiomaBrasil is to contribute to the technical training of educational professionals who work near the APA Costa dos Corais, thereby spreading knowledge related to coastal ecosystems. Public school teachers and managers are trained how to conduct activities together with students that raise environmental awareness, based on themes relating to biological diversity, local culture, and the conservation unit management process.
“The work of the Institute in the APA Costa dos Corais started as a result of Toyota's APA Costa dos Corais Project. Before that, initiatives were carried out in other regions, such as Espírito Santo. The main goal of our work is to train and inform teachers about the importance of ecosystem conservation in mangroves and coastal areas. We conduct this work, supported by a guidebook entitled 'The wonderful mangroves of Brazil,' which contains 47 activities for teachers to do with their students. One such example relates to cleaning oil spills; in this activity, a simulation test is conducted to show various methods of cleaning the sea and land, and the result of these,” states Mr. Clemente Coelho Junior, BiomeBrazil Institue coordinator.
The Environmental Nautical Cooperative consists of fishermen, students and community businesspeople, who offer nautical and sightseeing services in an environmentally responsible fashion.
The Cooperative actively participates in the APA Costa dos Corais Advisory Board, that was established in July 2011 to discuss matters relevant to environmental management and activities in the area, and develops a coherent strategy for the selection of sites and professional training of local inhabitants to implement monitoring in the areas to be closed off for coral reef restoration.
“Misinformation is the main cause of degradation. Toyota's APA Costa dos Corais Project has given financial support for the spreading and implementation of conservation activity; this is since the environmental protection area is very extensive, entailing a high monitoring cost. Without the support of Toyota do Brasil Foundation, it would not be possible to expand the work area,” states Ms. Larissa Vila Nova, biologist and secretary of the Environmental Nautical Cooperative.
In the second year of Toyota's APA Costa dos Corais Project, with the approval of the management plan by the Ministry for the Environment, the goal is to start implementing the activities chosen for the next five-year period including social and environmental management, the creation of five marine reserves, investments in operational infrastructure, and monitoring and inspection activities, in addition to the creation of scientific knowledge.
Another difference with Toyota's APA Costa dos Corais Project is the creation of an investment fund to ensure continued activity relating to management and sustainability of protected areas in the years to come. For ten years, Toyota do Brasil Foundation will contribute annually to continually growing the fund's resources, with the intention of being able to cover the activities in the management plan with the gains made from managing the funds.