Restoring Lives While Restoring the Environment in Brazil
CVA’s teak plantations contribute to climate-change mitigation—and give inmates of a local penitentiary a second chance. © Diogo Ribeiro/IFC
For Adeilson Muller da Mota, the time he spent in prison in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso was life-changing. While he was incarcerated, his family relationships deteriorated, he lost his house, and stability slipped away. But in the five years, five months, and five days he was confined, he also came across an unexpected opportunity: to learn a new skill that now offers him a livelihood—and a second chance.
Mota was one of nearly 160 inmates of the Água Boa penitentiary who have participated in a program led by IFC client Companhia do Vale do Araguaia (CVA)—a Brazilian company that manages teak plantations—to promote the reintegration of prisoners into society and help them develop the skills to earn a living.
Through the program, inmates who meet certain criteria can volunteer to work on one of CVA’s teak plantations. Participants are paid current market rates and have the chance to participate in workshops like carpentry to further develop their area of expertise. A third of their earnings are saved for future needs and another third are sent to their families. At the end of their sentences, inmates earn more than just their release from prison: a job with CVA.
Supporting this CVA program was one of IFC’s objectives when we loaned the company $22 million in 2015. Promoting inclusive growth, especially in frontier regions where economic diversity is low and job opportunities are scarce, is an essential aspect of our work.
But CVA’s impact reaches beyond the local community. Adhering to strong environmental and social standards, the company manages and preserves a total of almost 10,000 hectares of land—including more than 6,300 hectares of tree plantations. CVA’s trees capture and store nearly 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent of taking more than 20,000 cars off the road. They also help protect nearly 3,000 hectares of stream corridors and wetlands, and contribute to restore the region’s biodiversity and drying microclimate.
CVA is now working to certify its plantation management practices according to the Forest Stewardship Council’s standards. Once the trees are fully grown—most of them after 2020— the company plans to sell the wood in global markets, taking advantage of the soaring demand for teak and the decrease in global supply due to the unsustainable harvesting practices in other regions of the world.
A New Path Ahead
Teak has offered the rural area of Água Boa a future it never envisioned. The trees, planted on degraded land previously occupied by livestock and crops, are helping diversify the local economy— still highly dependent on cattle grazing and the cultivation of soy and corn. The work to promote the reintegration of prisoners into society has contributed to the safety and welfare of the community where it’s located. Unrest episodes at the prison have declined significantly as the program has evolved.
Attracting a dedicated workforce has actually been one of the objectives of the company since 2013, when it launched the NovaMente program—a Portuguese play on words, meaning “again” as well as “new mindset.”
“All those who participate in the program are committed and feel valued. They can now see a path ahead,” Program Coordinator Antonio Honorato do Nascimento Filho says. More than 10 percent of those participating in program so far have been hired by CVA after the end of their sentences.
Currently, 35 inmates are enrolled in the program, and four CVA employees are former participants. One of those is Mota. In July 2016, CVA offered him a permanent position as a laborer, despite the fact that he never finished middle school.
With the money Mota saved while working in construction and carpentry during his time in prison, he bought tools and a car. He now rents a house close to Água Boa, where he plans to stay and re-establish the stability that eluded him while behind bars.
“I’ve learned new things that will help me in the future,” he says. “Now it’s time to start all over again.”
To learn more about IFC’s work in forestry, visit http://www.ifc.org/agribusiness
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Published in July 2017