Brazilian forestry activist Maria Margarida Ribeiro da Silva has been awarded the 2017 Wangari Maathai Forest Champions Award for her achievements in promoting community forest management.
Ribeiro da Silva received the award in recognition of her tireless efforts to promote community forest management and to improve the livelihoods of local Amazonian communities. Since 1998, she has fought to secure land rights for local communities and to protect forests and rivers.
“Today is a day of great pride to the Amazon and mainly to the women who fight in defence of forests,” said Ribeiro da Silva, who promotes the ability of women to effect change. “This award recognizes that we are on the right path to conserve forests and to improve the quality of life of the people who depend on them.”
Her many notable achievements include her efforts in 2006 that led to the approval of a community forest management plan in the Verde para Sempre Extractive Reserve, which is also her home, and the largest extractivist reserve in Brazil. Recognized by federal agencies, the plan empowers local communities to manage their own resources and to commercialize wood sustainably by relying on low impact techniques.
Ribeiro da Silva’s work to support community empowerment was formally recognized in 2016 when the cooperative she helped to organize received certification from the Forest Stewardship Council. The cooperative, Senhora do Perpétuo Socorro do Rio Arimum Agroextractivist Cooperative (COOMNSPRA), located in the state of Pará in northern Brazil, has since been used as a model for six other organizations to establish sustainable certification criteria.
She is currently a member of the Observatory of Community Forest Management, a group of 14 community organizations representing 2,500 families from 11 territories in the state of Pará, and continues to work to ensure the autonomy of local communities.
“Ms Ribeiro da Silva’s extraordinary commitment to community forest management makes her a deserving winner of the Wangari Maathai Award,” said Hiroto Mitsugi, FAO Assistant Director-General of Forestry. “Through her unrelenting efforts to strengthen the technical and organizational capacities of local communities, she has ensured the sustainable management of forests by local communities to their own benefit.”
Ribeiro da Silva received the award, which includes a cash prize of USD 20 000, at the 4th Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany.