As a company that produces fair and sustainable backpacks, we held a 'Green Weekend' instead of the usual 'Black Friday' and collected donations for a reforestation project in the rainforest. 2,100 euros were collected with your help, which we were able to hand over to the 13 women of the group GTAE ('Grupo de Trabalhadoras Artesanais Extrativistas') on December 15, 2020. Actually, we only wanted to make a small contribution to environmental protection. However, in contact with the human rights activist Claudelice da Silva Santos, representing the group GTAE ('Grupo de Trabalhadoras Artesanais Extrativistas'), we learned shocking facts about the crimes in the Brazilian Amazon. We would like to tell you about this and about the great project of the 13 women behind the group GTAE in this blog article.
Female students of the University of Pará (©Claudelice da Silva Santos)
The idea of the 'Green Weekend
Already last year, with your help, we were able to donate 1,000 euros to the reforestation project #ActforAmazonia of WWF-Germany and thus contribute a part to saving the rainforest. The latest Climate Protection Index 2021 by Germanwatch and the New Climate Institute shows that Brazil is still struggling badly with illegal deforestation. In an article by Deutsche Welle, climate researcher Niklas Höhne, head of the New Climate Institute in Cologne, says: "The Amazon is not only relevant for greenhouse gas emissions, but for the entire global climate"(Rueter (2020): Klimaschutz-Index: Wie weit sind die Länder weltweit?).
This is exactly why it is so important, even in times of the Corona pandemic, to stand up for the Brazilian rainforest and thus for the green lungs of our earth. "This year, as a small company, we are also supporting a small organization directly on site, showing that you can achieve a lot on the other side of the world with just a few resources," says Adrian Goosses, Co-Founder of Airpaq.
Dan Baron Cohen - a British theater director, cultural theorist and art educator who has lived in Brazil for a long time - drew our attention to the group GTAE ('Grupo de Trabalhadoras Artesanais Extrativistas'), which is worth supporting. Cohen has been working on the cultural preservation and protection of indigenous people in the Amazon for some time with his collective community project 'Rios de Encontro'. He made the connection with Claudelice da Silva Santos, who is an international defender of ecological justice and human rights in Brazil. With his help, we found a way to target the donation to the group GTAE, because monetary donations in Germany are associated with some bureaucratic hurdles. In order for everything to be in order under tax law, many requirements must be met. In a Zoom meeting we from Airpaq discussed with Dan Baron Cohen and Claudelice da Silva Santos.
Zoom Meeting between Claudelice da Silva Santos, Dan Baron Cohen and Airpaq (©Airpaq)
From Dan Baron Cohen we only knew that the group GTAE was a reforestation project of several women in the Brazilian Amazon. Via chat with Claudelice da Silva Santos, as contact person for us and representative for the group GTAE, we then learned the background of the project and their own story. Over several hours and always in parallel with a translation program, she told us how bad it is for the existence of the rainforest and the human rights of those who work for it. Also to see in the documentary of the Vice-Magazine: Vice (2010): Deforestation and Slavery in the Amazon.
Die 'Group of Extractive Artisanal Workers' (GTAE)
Die 'Group of Extractive Artisanal Workers' (GTAE)
"They live and harvest according to extractivist principles, which means taking sustainable yields from nature without degrading it in a predatory way - just for the survival of the family," says Claudelice da Silva Santos. The most important plants here are the Brazil nut, the andiroba (a plant species from the mahogany family) and cupuaçu (large-flowered cacao). From these, the women produce various natural products such as honey, oils, cosmetics or therapeutics, which they sell on the local market to ensure their survival. With the money donated by Airpaq, they can afford better equipment, which they desperately need.
Women from the GTAE at beekeeping (©Claudelice da Silva Santos)
About Claudelice da Silva Santos
Claudelice da Silva Santos comes from the same area as the group GTAE. After the murder of her brother José Claudio Ribeiro dos Santos and his wife Maria do Espírito Santo in 2011, she became a recognized human rights defender. Claudelice da Silva Santos fought alongside her brother and sister-in-law for the right to access land and against human rights violations through land grabbing, deforestation, and denounced crimes against the environment. Because of her human rights activities, she has been subjected to a series of threats, making her feel unsafe in her home. Claudelice da Silva Santos is currently studying law in order to support not only the GTAE, but also other environmental defenders in Brazil and litigate human and environmental rights cases. She says her struggle now includes "the right to land and to life." The European Parliament recognized her commitment 2019 mit der Nominierung für den ‚Sacharow-Preis‘ in der Kategorie ‚geistige Freiheit‘.
Claudelice da Silva Santos (©Claudelice da Silva Santos)
The murder of the environmentalists José Claudio and Maria do Espírito Santo
In May 2011, the founding members José Claudio and Maria do Espírito Santo of the GTAE were killed in a contract killing. On their way home to their small farm in Nova Ipixuna, they were intercepted and killed. Since they had been receiving repeated threats from the logging industry, they had been expecting to be murdered at any time for several years. However, their attachment to the Brazilian rainforest - their home - did not let them give up, and so they continued to work for environmental protection. They gave lectures all over the country, organized conferences, and tracked down illegal loggers in order to collect evidence with photographs.
Article in Correio de Carajás newspaper about Airpaq's donation to GTAE. (©Correio de Carajás)
This incident is unfortunately not an isolated case, because unsolved murders of environmental activists like José Claudio and Maria do Espírito Santo are now part of everyday life in the Amazon region. Since Brazil's democratization in 1985, more than 800 environmental activists have been killed. With the murder of the couple, the GTAE went through a period of loss, as its most important supporters were brutally murdered. However, in 2012, encouraged by Maria do Espírito Santo's sister, the GTAE resumed its important work. Nowadays, 100 percent of GTAE's work is organized by women farmers and extractivists. The amount of 2,100 euros is not very much, but it can already make a great difference. As also reported by the local press: Correio de Carajás (2020): Faíscas de Esperança: Alemães ajudam projeto agroextrativista em Nova Ipixuna.
When we decided to donate to a small organization directly on site, we did not expect the story behind it. We are deeply impressed by the dedication with which people work to protect the rainforest, while being exposed to such dangers and uncertainties. That is why it is so important to support the people who want to protect the endangered rainforest. The Amazon rainforest is not only the largest forest on earth, but can also absorb and recycle a huge amount of greenhouse gases (CO2). It therefore significantly lowers the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and also represents one of the world's largest biodiversities. Illegal logging not only has a serious impact on wildlife and the adjacent population, but also on our climate. We remain in contact with Claudelice da Silva Santos and do not exclude further projects. Of course we will keep you up to date at this point.
Authors: Maya Kraatz & Marie Kalle