Coming together in a time of need
In April Swiss Re Group announced it was providing the Swiss Re Foundation with an additional CHF 5 million to fund COVID-19 relief efforts. Since then, the Swiss Re Foundation has been in contact with its local and global partners to assess the business impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
We're happy to report back on how funds are being used and how we're making a collective impact. Here is one of the stories.
The Swiss Re Foundation's mission is to build societies that are able to withstand and recover from health, environmental and economic risks. One of its focus areas is Natural Hazard/Climate Risk Management. Given the urgent issue of deforestation and burning of the Amazon and Pantanal forests in Brazil, The Green Initiative (Iniciativa Verde), a Brazilian non-profit socio-environmental organization, was selected by Swiss Re's São Paulo employees as their Charity of the Year (COTY). The Swiss Re Foundation financially supported the restoration of 40,000 square miles of Atlantic Rainforest in the Mantiqueira region, which will be planted in the next rainy season.
In addition to the COTY funds, the Swiss Re Foundation also provided a COVID-19 emergency relief grant to The Green Initiative. They allocated those funds to The Green Initiative's three partners, which will help them increase their financial security during the economic recession caused by the pandemic.
The first partner was Grupo Dispersores in the Serra da Mantiqueira, a region that has housed most of the forest restoration projects of The Green Initiative. The main impact of the pandemic for the Grupo Dispersores was on the environmental education work they carried out with regional public schools. Due to the required social distancing they did not receive visits from any volunteer groups at the institution's seedling nursery. The work, however, did not stop.
“The production of native seedlings needs daily care," explained Evandro Negrão, project coordinator at Grupo Dispersores. He said that the donation came at the right time because, without it, they would've had to let some nursery staff go. "Now we can maintain the staff for a while, and, in the meantime, we pull in other sources of funds", he added.
The second partner was Associação dos Moradores e Agricultores Familiares do Rio Vermelho e Adjacências (AMAFARVA) located in the Vale do Ribeira region of Brazil – this area has large areas of well-preserved Atlantic Forest but is economically poor. The funds went to an association of residents and family farmers of the Rio Vermelho community and will be used for the acquisition of equipment for seed storage and fruit processing.
Arnaldo Pedroso, one of the farmers, reported that without adequate equipment, the loss of production is enormous. “These are species that have to be taken care of because the fruits are sensitive. In a day or two after maturing you can no longer use them," he said. "Although none of my coworkers contracted COVID-19, they felt the impact on their mental health". He elaborated that the situation was unexpected, and many citizens had to rely on emergency aid provided by the Brazilian government and, like thousands of Brazilians, had problems receiving the payments.
Instituto Pró-Terra, a partner of The Green Initiative in restoration projects in the Piracicaba River basin and adjacent areas, was the third organization to receive financial support. The pandemic stopped their growth plans of hiring additional staff to join the current team of 20 forest planters and of moving the headquarters to a larger location. Like the Grupo Dispersores, they also had to suspend environmental education activities and are currently exploring the possibility of remote teaching.
At Instituto Pró-Terra, adaptations to continue the fieldwork have already been implemented. In addition, staggered shifts at the office and 15-day shifts in the field have been established for the forest planters, during which time they stay at the farms instead of going home, which reduces the risk of contamination. To avoid crowded cars, Instituto Pró-Terra also increased the number of cars used for commuting, which resulted in higher transportation expenses. The funds received are used to cover these extra costs, as well as for the purchase of masks and hand-sanitizer.
"During these challenging times it's crucial that we come together and help each other," said Lucas Pereira, project coordinator at The Green Initiative. "With the funds provided by the Swiss Re Foundation, the Green Initiative was able to provide vital support to our partners in their time of need, enabling them to be resilient in the face of a critical situation."
Natural Hazard and Climate Risk Management
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