OUR I-CERRADO: RECOGNITION AND ACKNOWLEDGMENT
We are Nature, we are Cerrado. We are She and He, in one body of several of us, tied and untied. To recognize this is to reconnect with our Cerrado-Self, our memories, longings, joys, and sorrows. The Cerrado is the seasonal shelter that welcomes us together with all people and animals; the diverse orchard-garden that feeds us; the cradle of crystal-clear waters that refreshes us, quenches our thirst, and fills us with gratitude for existence; and the living pharmacy that heals us and reveals the goodness of creation that already carries within itself the solution to all ills. We wish it to live, to regenerate, and to cradle the dreams of many stories to come.
At sunset I received a message:
Cerrado that shelters, clothes, feeds and gives birth. My memory of the Cerrado was when I came here by bus from Rio. The change in the landscape enchanted me. It was July. It was the first time I saw a Caju tree, all black, with only one leaf, beautiful, frondose, so green. This scene never left my memory, my eyes filled with water and I felt that my place was here. The strength of that leaf...
It was from Flavia. Her message came from the Taquaruçu/Palmas (TO) cerrado, while we received it from other cerrados: Christiane and I, in the one in Belo Horizonte (MG), in the Curral Mountains; Camilla and Cristina, in the one in Brasilia (DF); Evelyn and Luciano, in the ones in Serro and Diamantina (MG), in the Espinhaço Range; Fernando, in the one in Pirenópolis (GO), in the Pirineus Mountains; and Nirmana, in the one in Chapada dos Guimarães (MT). But I noticed that, even among hundreds and thousands of kilometers of distance, we were in the different cerrados of the same Cerrado, the same shelter-biome, which occupies an area of 2 million km2, equivalent to 21% of the country's territory, with approximately 46 million inhabitants. Among Brazil's shelter-biomes, the Cerrado is the second largest, after the Amazon Rainforest.
When it was already dark, I received another message:
Transiting among the twisting trees of the Cerrado, alive, beautiful, full of colors and smells, one can harvest its so many flavors: Jatobá, Pequi, Guariroba, Mangaba, Araticum, Cajuzinho, Cagaita and so on, so many flavors. Unbelievable the amount of food the Cerrado offers to those who penetrate it with their senses awake. What a richness these memories are.
It is like entering a magic garden, the enchanted beauty of the Cerrado. It seems that fairies live hidden in every corner. It is necessary to walk slowly, appreciating its tiny details. with an attentive view of so many shapes. It is an invitation to walk lightly.
That was Evelyn describing her sensorial experience in the biome-garden-plantation. The diversity of smells, tastes, colors, and shapes she described characterizes the composition of the rich biodiversity of the Cerrado flora, which has 12,829 plant species, 44% of which are considered endemic. In addition to its high floristic diversity, the Cerrado also has a high phytophysiognomic diversity, with forest formations (cerradão, mata ciliar, mata de galeria and mata seca), savannic formations (restricted cerrado, parque cerrado, palmeiral and vereda) and campestral formations (campo limpo, campo sujo and campo rupestre ferruginoso and quartzítico). The environment described by Evelyn is a restricted cerrado or park cerrado.
Evelyn continues her memories:
People said I was crazy to walk at night alone, as I used to do in total darkness, because a jaguar had been prowling around there for days. Until one full moon night, I was at a bonfire playing my guitar. Pure joy, the moonlight silvering the valley and the music pulsing everywhere.
Until from this intense moment of connection, there came a roar that echoed throughout the forest. Suddenly I ran into my house and locked myself in, shaking like a leaf.It was the smart jaguar that I later learned was taking the remains of the hunted to the forest next to my house.
Luciano tells us about his experiences in the Cerrado:
We were walking on a rainy December and between the clouds, the sun shone and gifted us with its light and energy of dusk. While we were enjoying the dance of the plants in the winds of the Espinhaço Mountains, we were surprised by a wonderful maned wolf that calmly crossed the road and headed towards the field of Ema Canelas plants to our right. He was not frightened by our presence. It was incredible to see the beauty and harmony of its movement in all that environment. He continued with all his strength and beauty up the mountain, while the sun made his fur coat shine even brighter. The glow of life.
In fact, in the biome-garden-pomar lives a diverse fauna, including an estimated 50,000 to 90,000 species of insects, 200 species of amphibians, 800 (20 endemic) species of birds, 800 (200 endemic) species of fish, 200 (30 endemic) species of reptiles, and 227 (25 endemic) species of mammals. By feeding on the plants, the animals pollinate them and disperse their seeds throughout their vast territory.
Because of the high endemism of species suffering from exceptional habitat loss, the Cerrado is considered a global biodiversity hotspot. A total of 266 species of fauna and 637 species of flora are at risk of extinction.
CERRADO SOURCE OF WATERS
Besides being a shelter-garden-pomar, the Cerrado is scientifically called the "Source of waters", because it shelters three large aquifers and is the source of water for three major rivers in South America, the Paraná-Paraguay, the São Francisco, and the Tocantins. We can imagine, cyclically, the millions of lives that are born, grow, reproduce, bloom, fructify, create and die in this biome-water reservoir. The network of roots of the Cerrado plants, larger than the crowns themselves, with their depth and wide extension, absorb the rainwater and transport it to the aquifers.
I have a brief and unforgettable story in its waters and the trails that surround them:
It was July. The waters were cold and crystal clear. I bathed in the dark ones of the Couros, in the clear ones of the Prata and in the lunar ones of the Vale da Lua. In the late afternoon and evening, I and two friends, Rafael and Tadeu, had gotten lost on the trails of the Prata. One of them said that there were jaguars there. My heart beat fast. Luckily, we had memorized the plans of a trail. The flashlight illuminated them and they illuminated our path. Anxiously, it was time to arrive.
I received from Nirmana some of her memories:
It was October, arriving from São Paulo, in Chapada dos Guimarães, my first perception of the Cerrado was the landscape, the cerrado bush, the vereda, ciliar forest, the river. I had studied this in school and could identify this pattern. I wrote letters and more letters to my high school biology teacher, telling him about my adventures in the Cerrado. The Trilobites and the Cerrado peanut that I discovered I could eat. The Lobeira, that strong smell that I never forget. I told of the endless days of rain! I lost almost all my clothes, because there was no way to dry them. In the Chapada they said: 'it's mariana', a black fungus that won't come out of your clothes. And the ritual bugs are passing through...... foot bugs, nega, the purification of the city's junk. When we went to the city, Cuiabá, we all knew that we lived in the Chapada, because we smelled the smoke from the bonfire...
Nirmana reminds us of certain Cerrado physiognomies, its fruits and the smell of Lobo fruit, the water that falls heavily and constantly, the bicho-de pé (a parasite that gets into the skin) and the smoke that distinguishes but does not separate people from the Chapada and the capital.
The Cerrado, land that shelters the water, that shelters the plant, that shelters the fruit, that feeds the animal, that spreads the seed, that makes more Cerrado, that sustains man giving him the medicine.
With these words, Nirmana reconnects us with the Cerrado shelter-garden-pomar-waterhole, and also greets us with the medicine, the cure, the biopharmacy. Paradoxically, it recognizes and welcomes the illness and pain of our Cerrado-self:
The Cerrado was in its place, man came to harm it... the Cerrado in the water, the water in the plant, the plant in the fruit, the fruit in the seed, the seed in the bug, the bug in the man, the man and man's medicine, and the Cerrado in its place....
This human-made evil is seen in the degradation of the soil and native ecosystems, in the introduction and expansion of exotic species, including African grasses such as capim-gordura, in intentional fire, even though natural fire is part of the ecological cycles, in the expansion of cruel and monopolizing cattle ranching and agribusiness, especially of soy, in excessive and corrosive mining, and in the pollution of rivers and soil by heavy metals and agrochemicals. Alarmingly, 40-55% of the native Cerrado vegetation has been replaced by cropland, pastures, and monoculture eucalyptus plantation. Furthermore, the protected areas of the biome constitute only 8.3%, and this figure drops to 6.3% when the portion covered by native vegetation is taken into account.
Eu-Cerrado (I CERRADO)
For more than 11 thousand years, humans have occupied the Cerrado and created a rich cultural mosaic, closely connected with biodiversity. Today, there are 95 indigenous territories, 44 quilombola territories, and 13 types of non-indigenous traditional communities, around 100,000 inhabitants, in this biome-garden-pomar-pharmacy-watersource. Of "unparalleled beauty and diversity," the peoples of the Cerrado are made up of family farmers, quilombolas, geraizeiras, babaçu coconut breakers, Sempre-Viva flowers pickers, indigenous peoples, and urban populations, with a deep wisdom and sense of community.
Evelyn, moved by the dance and song of the indigenous plurality, in Brasilia, claiming the original right to their lands, against the temporal mark, wrote:
Cerrado is the life of the simple people, a way of being spontaneous. The work of the land, the seed people, who plant and harvest, welcoming with their rhymes and stories. Their tales by the fire in the sky filled with stars, bonfire and guitar. And the unforgettable traditional parties: Folia de Reis, Nossa Senhora do Rosário, Bumba meu Boi, Congado, Festa Junina. So much color, rhythm, music and religiosity. Strong people, resilient like the Cerrado. That speaks in song and sings the enchanted.
I am writing during the dry season of the Cerrado, which extends from April to September, while the wet season is from October to March. It is the blooming of the yellow ipês. In the intervals of this writing, I contemplate them. However, it is a fact that with the arrival of climate change our already acclimated seasonality of the biome is gradually changing. Our shelter is warmer, our cradle drier, and our orchard-garden and pharmacy unbalanced. The behavioral, biogeographic, ecological and evolutionary dynamics of species communities are being affected. Significant changes are likely to occur in the water and carbon cycles, generating marked impacts on regional climate and ecosystem functions and interactions. Echoing this, I hear the cry of the scientists, environmentalists, activists, artivists, and people of the Cerrado.
I receive a prose-poetry text from Fernando:
Cerrado, firm and ancestral land, birthplace of the essential liquid with its twisted and thick-barked trees, producer of water, food and beauty, shelter of culture and survival, mistreated by the fire placed, suppressed by ignorance and greed, is not alone in this resilience; it needed the rain to stop raining, not even in the shade can you stay, but the worst blind is the one who does not want to see, unfortunately the man will have to kneel...
After he sent me these verse-phrases, he said "inhibited in front of the rich collaborations that the 'girls' sent you". Fernando seems to behave like certain plants of the cerrado, inhibited in a moment, so that it is necessary to naturally pass the fire for it to sprout, create, reappear.
Christiane made a little bouquet of Jasmine, Manacá, Lavender, and Flor-de-Pitanga, to inspire her to write:
Leandro asks us where from the Cerrado we speak of....
I speak about BH, the capital of Minas Gerais and you may ask: but is there Cerrado there? Well, yes, there is! We have neighborhoods named Mangabeiras (Mangaba tree, delicious fruit from the Cerrado!); Buritis, majestic palm trees that line up along the Veredas, forming the Buritizais and, speaking of veredas, we also have a neighborhood here in Belo Horizonte called Veredas! I don't see the Mangabeiras, the Buritis or the Veredas: the city occupied the spaces, but we still have a small sample of what once existed, like a beautiful Pequizeiro (which is now in flower!) at the entrance of the city, to the right of those arriving from Rio de Janeiro, before the speed radar. It resists, because there is still a little piece of Cerrado left...
And Guimarães Rosa says :
"The Sertão is everywhere, (...).
The Sertão is the size of the world, (...)
SERTÃO: is inside us.
Well then, it is inside my heart that I carry the Cerrado, the Ser-tão.
Christiane portrays the relationship Cerrado-city and cities-cerrado. Cities within the Cerrado and Cerrados within the cities. The affection for the living Cerrado, also alive in words, in the names of neighborhoods-plants, in the daily life of a Belo Horizonte, decorated, a bouquet of Cerrado, in Christiane's heart, in my so-so.
It was already night, and I waited anxiously for Cristina's memories. She asked me for another hour, then I realized that she was like the Embiruçu-do-Cerrado, that opens its flowers at night, visited by moths and bats. Then, at dusk, she opened up:
Upon reaching the Cerrado, everything seemed exotic to me. I looked at it with the eyes of an outsider. Soon after, however, I became involved in the preservation of the Cachoeirinha reserve, planting, collecting, pruning, taking care of grotas and springs... And so my intimacy with the Cerrado became a breath of life. Leaving the city and giving myself, body and soul, to that environment was a transforming experience. Something like opening a window when you are in an environment with stale air.In the managing, in the intimacy of those trees and grasses, I started to recognize them. It was no longer simply a tree, but a Jatobá, a Pequi, a Jacarandá, a Sucupira, a Vinhático. My heart began to yearn to see the Pau-Santo tree blossom, the Baru tree fall, the Cajuzinho ripen (delicious!), the Vinhático tree give seeds and the soil become humid and fertile. And to be apprehensive so that the seedlings planted would survive until the next rains, the fire would not arrive, the springs would not dry up... The Cerrado is not obvious. Its beauty is precisely in the amazement with the details. To see it, we have to sharpen our gaze. And he himself taught me to sharpen mine.
Cristina's arrival in the Cerrado brought me a feeling of nostalgia. Longing for that which has never left or will never leave, our "I-Cerrado" (Eu-Cerrado).
This article is part of a collaborative campaign carried out by organizations participating in the Acelera Cerrado Program, in partnership with OSC Nossa Causa, to celebrate the Cerrado Day.
Collective authorship: Anand Nirmana - Associação Ecológica Alto Paraíso, Camilla Ceylão - Nossa Causa, Christiane Uchoa - Núcleo do Pequi and other Cerrado fruits, Cristina Estrela - Associação Reserva Cachoeirinha, Evelyn Zajdenwerg - Associação Ayrumã, Fernando Madueño - Associação do Córrego Barriguda e Cabeceiras do Rio das Almas, Flávia Rodrigues - Associação Onça D'Água, Leandro Assis - Associação Ayrumã & Luciano Collet - Associação Ayrumã.
ABOUT ACELERA CERRADO
Acelera Cerrado is a 100% online, free capacity building program for 40 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working for the conservation of the Brazilian Cerrado, with the objective of strengthening their management capabilities and achieving positive results related to their mission and purpose.
Acelera Cerrado is carried out by Impact Hub Brasilia, with a partnership with Impact Hub Curitiba, support and funding from the Partnership Fund for Critical Ecosystems (CEPF), Instituto Internacional de Educação do Brasil (IEB), Instituto Humanize, Instituto Nova Era, and Fundação Grupo Boticário de Proteção à Natureza, to direct their efforts around the sustainable development of the Cerrado Hotspot because they believe that collaborating to keep the Cerrado standing and valuing local communities contributes to biodiversity conservation and income generation.
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