La FAO y el FMAM

Una asociación para la agricultura sostenible y el medio ambiente

Integrated management of the Ilha Grande Bay Ecosystem in Brazil

Brazil’s Ilha Grande Bay hosts one of the world’s most unique and biodiverse marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Home to 243 000 people, it covers an area of 1 120 square kilometres, a 365 kilometre coastline, the island of Ilha Grande, and 189 smaller islands. Growth of tourism and population in the bay have exerted great pressure on local ecosystems, threatening natural resources and livelihoods. Sedimentation associated with poorly planned coastal development; mangrove deforestation; decline in water quality driven by non-treated urban or industrial wastewaters and oil spilling; unsustainable fishing practices; lack of tourism planning and other factors have put the bay’s ecosystem at risk.

About the project

The Integrated Management of the Ilha Grande Bay Ecosystem project (BIG) established the "BIG Initiative" and a comprehensive information sharing service for promoting sustainable management of the Ilha Grande Bay, balancing industrial and economic growth with the imperatives of safeguarding natural resources and ecosystem services for the future. The Initiative’s monitoring system, known as "Radar BIG", identified pressure points for the environment and proposes solutions. In 2018, the system found that the ecosystem is increasingly unable to dilute pollutants, like sewage water.

Good practices for the project's success 

Decentralize decision-making processes to empower local communities

The BIG project facilitated the establishment of a Watershed Committee comprised of numerous stakeholders from across the Ilha Grande Bay. The committee brings together representatives of local communities, public officials, NGOs, businesses, academia, and provides them with a decision-making and conflict-resolution forum aimed at ensuring the sustainable management of the bay’s watersheds and ecosystems.

Empowering stakeholders at local and community levels helped ensure that their concerns were adequately and fairly addressed, while leveraging their specific understanding and expertise of the social, economic and environmental issues affecting an area. It supported building people’s capacity through evidence-based knowledge sharing and allowing them to have a say in how the natural resources upon which they depend are managed, helping to drive the sustainable use of those resources and bolster livelihoods.

Adapt project goals to drive successful outcomes

In 2016, a series of significant challenges led the Programme Management Unit to reassess its goals and priorities under a component of the project, which had to be abandoned. Rather than simply truncating a series of actions and initiatives in the bay, the project steered its efforts in a different direction, designing an alternative, yet relevant, output. This resulted in one of the most successful outcomes of the project: the BIG 2050 Initiative, comprising the RADAR monitoring system and the BIG 2050 Challenge. Therefore, adopting a flexible, result-oriented approach can help overcome hurdles, provided it is absolutely necessary for the project delivery and has full participation of the concerned stakeholders. 

Leverage GIS and related technologies to strengthen resilience and foster knowledge-sharing

Information collected under the RADAR platform was made open and accessible to the public online, providing a data-driven basis for the BIG 2050 Challenge component. The Challenge was designed to crowdsource solutions and approaches to ensure the sustainable management of the bay’s natural environment and resources. By tapping into the knowledge potential of an entire population through an open, science-backed tool, the project uncovered innovative solutions and approaches while significantly enhancing ownership and project sustainability.

The BIG 2050 Challenge was also an effective means of raising awareness about sustainability in the region, attracting the interest and attention of the media and population alike. The integrated relationship between the RADAR monitoring system and the BIG 2050 Challenge enabled the monitoring of results to feed directly into the definition of policies and the prioritization of environmental issues to be addressed.