Fire in the Pantanal threatens the survival of indigenous people in Mato Grosso

29 outubro 2020    
The village in Barão de Melgaço, Mato Grosso, was severely affected by the fire.
© Roberto Maridoprado

With logistical support from Funai, WWF-Brazil has donated baskets of goods to guarantee emergency food for 30 families

“I have always lived here in this village. Along all these years, I have never seen smoke like this ... It is too much destruction of nature ... It is very bad for our health. Children and the elderly are suffering a lot ... It affects their health a lot. Fire destroyed almost the entire village and as a result, we lost our crops, and we are having a hard time getting food for all of us”. With his paused and reflective speech of who with great concern leads the community that inhabits the Perigara Indigenous Land, located in the municipality of Barão de Melgaço, Mato Grosso state, the chief Roberto Maridoprado regrets the fires that have already destroyed 75% of the village, more than 8,000 hectares - comparable to 8,000 football fields - out of a total of 11,000.

More than 2 hours away from Cuiabá, the state's capital, the Boe-Bororo community is plunged into chaos: many houses are destroyed, as well as agricultural crops and palm trees from which straw is harvested to make the roofs of houses. Furthermore, adults, the elderly, and children face the new coronavirus pandemic with fear, which keeps them in isolation to prevent infections. “Our community was not prepared to respond to the pandemic and the fire at the same time. It has been very difficult to experience all this and this help from WWF-Brazil came now when we most needed it. We can only be grateful for someone reminding us that we are here and that we still need a lot of help”, says the chief.

The Boe-Bororo people make the land their way of life and the devastation caused by fire, coupled with the times of the pandemic, drives them into a situation of great vulnerability. In view of the worrying scenario, WWF-Brazil has joined forces with several civil society organizations to support indigenous peoples in emergency situations.

The Organization has just donated baskets of goods to 30 Boe-Bororo families from the Perigara Indigenous Land, 105 people, including children, adults, and the elderly, with the logistical support of Funai (National Indigenous Foundation, the Brazilian government body that establishes and carries out policies relating to indigenous peoples), which sent a technical team to the site to deliver the baskets of food and basic goods.

“We contacted them to map out their emergency needs and meet whatever was possible. Our donation aims to minimize the impact of the fire that left the Boe-Bororo in a situation of food insecurity”, explains Osvaldo Barassi Gajardo, conservation analyst at WWF-Brazil.

Pantanal sets fire records

According to Inpe (National Institute for Space Research), in the 30 days of September, the Pantanal accumulated 8,106 fire outbreaks, surpassing by 35% the historical record of 5,993 fire outbreaks registered in August 2005. It was the largest number of fire outbreaks since Inpe started monitoring in 1998. In 2020, fire outbreaks in the region already total 18,259, triple what was observed in 2019. Flames in the Pantanal have already consumed around 3.4 million hectares since the beginning of the year, which corresponds to 23% of the biome. Endemic species of animals and plants may have been lost forever.

WWF in the Pantanal

The Organization has been operating in the Pantanal for more than 20 years, in partnership with local organizations. In the face of the environmental crisis caused by burning in the biome, actions involving the sending of protective equipment and training for brigade members have been prioritized, in addition to the delivery of baskets of basic goods to local communities.

The actions also include logistical support for social organizations that operate in the Pantanal, in addition to articulations with local entities and governments, with the aim of containing the environmental disaster in the biome.

IMPORTANT: All basic baskets were left at the entrance to the village and delivered by indigenous leaders without any contact with people outside. In the photos, the masks are not being used because the isolated indigenous people dispensed them in their daily lives inside their homes.
The village in Barão de Melgaço, Mato Grosso, was severely affected by the fire.
© Roberto Maridoprado Enlarge
The fire destroyed houses and crops in the Perigara Indigenous Land.
© Roberto Maridoprado Enlarge
30 families benefited from the delivery of basic food baskets.
© Roberto Maridoprado Enlarge