When I think of the Amazon, I always think of this gigantic rain forest which is one of the world’s greatest natural resources we have. Because its vegetation continuously recycles carbon dioxide into oxygen, it has been described as the “Lungs of our Planet” having about 20% of earth’s oxygen being produced there. I also think of its indigenous people, living in the depths of the amazon rain forest with no contact with outside world, even though learning about some tribes in at risk of extinction from disease and land loss where Illegal loggers and cattle ranchers are invading their land and bringing disease.
Well, the natural power and the threats used to be what occupied my mind when still living in the southeastern of Brazil, ten years ago, where getting there was just for scientist and gringos (few wealthy Brazilians would have this destination in their holiday list). That far away state and forest were almost like a fairy-tale. Time has passed and nowadays the Amazon have been much more visible/ accessible for many reasons: technology for sure, easier access to the area, having better transportation (development of air companies and new more routes in Brazil) ; also climate change as a hot topic, etc. It is definitely in the bucket list of many individuals in the whole world.
Being so far away from my reality, I never pictured myself being there despite the excitement of thinking of this exotic place (even for a Brazilian). For my great surprise I was invited, together with my team at the NHTV University of Applied Sciences, to visit the Amazonas State, especially the area of Manaus and its main institutions – The Amazonas State University (UEA); The NGO FAS (Fundação Amazonia Sustentável – sustainable Amazon foundation), as well as a tour operator called Amazons explorers, aiming at developing sustainable tourism in the region.
It was an amazing experience to have the opportunity to visit the place while understanding its culture, destination and main challenges.
A short summary of our itinerary:
- The first day in Manaus we visited the University of the State of the Amazon (UEA). In the morning, we visited a project called Ocean (http://www.oceanbrasil.com/), a technological learning center created and sponsored by Samsung. Ocean works together with the Innovation Agency (AGIN) of the University and, depending on the project, it also cooperates with partners within the Country (like Federal University of Pernambuco – UFPE) and outside (Horizon 2020 projects) Brazil. They already had more than 12.000 students participating in the projects in the last two years learning to develop apps and games. They also have in their ideas supporting young kids at an early age to have access and interact with tecnology. Ocean’s project supports this idea and is already working with young children from the streets, usually between 10 and 12 years old. In this meeting we had the opportunity to meet professor Waldeyde O. Gualberto Magalhães (Director of AGIN – UEA) and professor Antenor Ferreira Filho (Director of Ocean Manaus).
Together, we identified some possible lines of cooperation and collaborative projects we can develop together. An exciting future is waiting for us!
In the afternoon we visited the Faculty of Tourism and were received by professor Marcia Raquel Guimarães. We spend the afternoon there watching a presentation about the Bachelor in tourism including their approach on tourism and the projects they are development; among them the “labtour” , a laboratory where the students learn in practice the daily life of a tourism agency. We had the chance to visit the lab and to get to know how they work in their projects and assignments Together with Marcia we discussed possibilities of exchange of students and professors as well as some collaboration on projects.
On the second day, the Amazon Explorers invited us to a tour around “Rio Negro” . We had the privilege to visit two communities living in the Amazon forest. The Amazon explorers, a tour agency, works with the region of the amazon for more than 20 years and develop projects in partnership with an NGO called FAS that is also placed in Manaus. During this visit we got to know a project that is also sponsored by Samsung and is related to education in the amazon. There is a school in one of the communities that receives kids from different parts of the amazon where they get education and learning on sustainability, health etc.
In the the afternoon we visited the office of the NGO FAS (Fundação Amazonia Sustentável), where Victor Salvati, coordinator of innovative solutions program, received us and presented the NGO and its projects. FAS is a non-governmental organization committed with the conversancy of the Amazon forest as well as the wellbeing of its population.
These two busy days are just the beginning of a sustainable collaborative adventure we are starting. Next week we are already receiving at our University the Rector of UEA to officially sign our partnership. From there, the sky is the limit.