Arena Socioambiental Showcases Models for Sustainable Development at Rio+20

Global meetings at Arena Socioambiental Rio+20. Photo© Paula Alvarado

If the People’s Summit at Rio+20 felt like a mix and match of messages and intentions, the Arena Socioambiental’s idea is very clear: “to show the world successful Brazilian strategies to combat poverty and social inequity in the context of sustainable development.”

The space, which is located next to the Modern Art Museum in Flamengo, a few blocks away from the before mentioned event, is composed of an auditorium holding a series of ‘global encounters’, a biodiversity square, a digital art exhibition and a cafe.

Even if not groundbreaking in its approach, the biodiversity square is interesting because Brazilian natural resources are so rich. The fair features producers of native foods who work with family or community agriculture.

The biodiversity square holds family and community farming projects and their foods. Photo© Paula Alvarado

Community farmers from the cerrado region. Photo© Paula Alvarado

It wouldn’t surprise me if the next super food came from here, and that could very well be the Castanha de Baru: the seed of the baru tree, which grows in the cerrado area of the country (center) and which has been proved to control cholesterol for having high levels of Omega 6 and Omega 9. The seed is shaped like an almond with smooth covering and tastes a good kind of bitter and buttery.

It is produced by Emporio do Cerrado a communitarian network of small scale farmers, gatherers, fishermen who have started working with the seed in its pure form and in processed products (granola, cookies, and power bars, among others).

Castanha de Baru from the Cerrado region in Brazil. Photo© Paula Alvarado

Other interesting products found at the fair include licuri palm nuts, cashew nuts derivatives, and umbu juice from the Caatinga region and liquors and pulp from cupuaçu and açai, plus murumuru cosmetics from the Amazon.

Next to the fair, a digital exhibition called Portinari+Brasileir@s shows stories of people favored by social policies who talk about the impact of such actions in their lives.

My personal favorite was a woman who said that her town used to be one of woodmen (meaning all everyone did was extract natural resources), while now it is a town of family farmers. This is probably related to the fact that one of the strategies in Brazil's Fome Zero campaign to eradicate poverty was the support of family farming as a way for people to produce their own food and gain income. Which, according to the woman, accomplished those things while also reviving a local community. Some videos can be found here (in Portuguese).

Digital exhibition showing cases of people benefited by social policies in Brazil. Photo© Paula Alvarado

More than discussing words in an agreement and denouncing everything that can be denounced, it seems Rio+20 could have been more useful if the focus had been on sharing what countries are doing right and helping others replicate it.

Arena Socioambiental Showcases Models for Sustainable Development at Rio+20
Smaller than other events, the Arena Socioambiental does a good job showing models that are working to lift people from poverty in a sustainable way.

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