By Adriano Maneo, from the VCA Brazil regional team, with information from revistaemancipa.org

IV VCA Brazil Partners Forum bridges local to global Perspectives in São Luís do Maranhão, uniting representatives from the 14 Brazilian program’s coalitions and other Global South voices to debate city, state, country, and global challenges

In the rural area of São Luís do Maranhão, within the Rio dos Cachorros community, Dona Maria Máxima’s house stands at the corner of her lush yard filled with fruits, vegetables, herbs, and fresh produce. Here, the tranquillity of her surroundings is continually disrupted by the bustling traffic of trucks from the nearby sand mine. These trucks deposit dust that blankets the trees and hinders one from fully grasping the wisdom of this community leader. Dona Maria Máxima faces relentless challenges as private sector entities and their allies within public authorities seek to displace her and her fellow residents from the very territory they call home, where they were born and raised.




Over its centenary history, the community has encountered numerous threats, with the relatively recent extraction of sand for construction being just one of them. They find themselves surrounded by fertiliser factories, coal thermoelectric plants, and, most notably, Vale do Rio Doce, which utilises the region near the Port of Itaqui for iron ore transportation. In the face of these challenges, the community successfully resisted the establishment of a steel hub that aimed to displace them from their land. Today, their ongoing struggle revolves around advocating for establishing an Extractive Reserve called Resex Tauá-Mirim.

“In this world that God created, for us, there is one very serious thing: no one in this world wins when nature loses. And we need to be a voice among these guys”, argues Dona Máxima. “We always have to check if nature authorises it because nature is the maximum authority, she adds.




Rio dos Cachorros served as the concluding location for the IV VCA Brazil Partner Forum, an annual gathering that brings together representatives from the program’s 14 coalitions across Brazil. This year marked the second in-person edition of the event, and it was hosted in São Luís, the capital of Maranhão State.

The event’s closing activities included an unforeseen resilience masterclass with the Rio dos Cachorros community led by Dona Máxima. Additionally, the participants enjoyed a celebratory performance by Tambor de Criola do Taim, the oldest Tambor de Criola group still active in São Luís.



“We need to have joy to strengthen our spirit. And nature inspires us to sing nature itself”, reinforced Dona Máxima, who, together with Tambor do Taim, played a song created after the victory against the steel hub.


“Hey, don’t cut down that Mango Tree,

Hey, don’t fill in the mangroves,

Hey, don’t cut down the Mango Tree,

We must preserve natural resources


I’m from the countryside, I live from brushing the ground,

Plant rice and cassava, manioc and beans

Gherkin, okra and vinegar,

To sell everything at the fair

From the cuxá of Maranhão.


I’m from Rio dos Cachorros, my brother,

From Taim , Porto Grande and Vila Maranhão

Seafood vendor, family farmer and fisherman,

We are children of this land, I will not give up on you.”




While the drums played, the ‘farinhada’ in the yard continued in full swing. A ‘farinhada’ is a communal gathering for processing cassava and transforming it into flour, which serves as the dietary staple for Maranhão and the North and Northeast regions of Brazil. It is also a source of income generation and cultural identity for traditional peoples and communities throughout our country. This occasion brings together families, communities, friends, and neighbours, fostering stronger bonds and contributing to collective social cohesion.




At the commencement of the IV Partnership Forum, which took place in the stately mansions nestled along the cobblestone slopes of the Historic Center of São Luís, Rogenir Costa, the Maranhão representative of the Program’s Regional Team in Brazil, made a poignant reference to the ‘power of farinhada’ to inaugurate the proceedings. The event hosts, the Agroecology Coalition for the Protection of Amazon Forests, comprising solely organisations from Maranhão, warmly welcomed participants with a symbolic gesture invoking the significance of “farinhada”.



That’s precisely what the VAC Brasil Partner Forums are all about: opportunities to exchange knowledge and experiences, fostering collective organisation. These events gather representatives from over 70 organisations within the program, creating a platform to discuss the impacts of climate change, strategise politically, envision the program’s future, and develop pathways for the voices of Amazonian communities, environmental defenders, and Climate Justice activists to resonate both locally and globally.

In addition to participants from Brazilian organisations, the event, held from September 26th to 30th, extended its reach beyond borders, welcoming delegates from Bolivia, Paraguay, South Africa, and Uganda. The program was replete with exchange, debate, and collaborative alignment opportunities.




The event’s program encompassed the exchange of experiences from diverse regions and facilitated discussions on a wide range of topics. These included political advocacy, gender equity, youth involvement, territorial protection, local climate solutions, effective communication and storytelling, human rights, and climate financing. Specific sessions were dedicated to Brazil’s COP 30, Climate Justice and Gender, and presentations showcasing experiences related to Climate Justice in partner countries within the Global South.


Within the coalition’s self-managed activities, participants had access to a variety of workshops and mini-courses. These included workshops on integral defender protection, creative approaches in communications,  a practical artivism experience on ‘licks’ production, and a mini-course covering socio-environmental safeguards in REDD+. Additionally, conversation circles focused on advocacy, capacity-building methodologies, and sharing experiences related to community self-censuses.



We also had the ‘Where’s the Circus?’ festival, organised by the Na Piracema Coalition. This festival served as a nexus between advocating for sustainable policies honouring the environment and people in Maranhão’s capital and the struggle to preserve a cultural space steeped in history. Sadly, this space has succumbed to the very development model that threatens our planet, particularly the most marginalised members of society.



The Forum also provided opportunities for collective alignment on the VCA Brazil Climate Agenda and VOICES Magazine, two of the program’s knowledge management products. Additionally, there were presentations on a knowledge trail in Advocacy and an emergency fund for environmental defenders, which the Programme in Brazil will implement.

To bookend our narrative, much like we started with the resilience of Rio dos Cachorros, we concluded with a verse from a song sung by the community. This verse encapsulates the strength of unity that VCA fosters alongside more than its 70 partner organisations in the country. ‘Baião das Comunidades,’ by Zé Vicente, asks for nothing more than what should be a fundamental right for all: land, bread and peace.”


“We are new people living together

We are seed people of a new nation ê, ê

We are new people living love

We are a community, the Lord’s people, eh, eh


I will invite my working brothers

Workers, farmers, odd jobs and others

And together, we will celebrate trust

Our struggle in the hope of having land, bread and peace, ê, ê”


Photos: Pedro Henrique/ SobreOTatameFilmes @SOT @pedroenricksen

# VACBrasil # IVForumVAC # ResexTauaMirimJa #WeAreVCA

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