Extreme E marks Earth Day with Amazon programme visit
As part of Extreme E’s commitment to its Legacy Programme in Brazil, members of the Extreme E team, along with No. 99 GMC HUMMER EV Chip Ganassi Racing’s Sara Price, headed to the Amazon earlier this month to see the project’s progress for the first time.
The theme for Earth Day 2022 is ‘Invest in our Planet’, with Extreme E using its platform as a sport for purpose championship to use its Legacy Programmes to provide both social and environmental impact in each race location.
Despite being unable to compete in Brazil so far due to Covid restrictions, Extreme E has continued its vital legacy work in the Amazon. The Legacy Programme is led by Amazon deforestation expert, Dr Francisco Oliveira, a member of the championship’s Scientific Committee and leading global environmental organisation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC).
Extreme E has partnered with TNC to develop its Amazon-based Legacy Programmes, which funds native forest restoration and a well-established cacao-based agroforestry programme.
With EARTHDAY.ORG underlining the need to ‘act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably)’, Extreme E is supporting a 1,000 hectare cacao-based agroforestry project, preventing the release of almost 150,000kgs of CO2 plus 100 hectares of a native forest restoration project.
As part of Extreme E’s visit to Brazil, the team met with rural producers in the northeast region of the Amazon to understand the challenges they faced as a result of the climate crisis and how they are being overcome, as well as the positive actions on the ground undertaken by TNC.
Upon arrival, Extreme E was able to see first hand the process of harvesting, fermenting and drying cocoa in Tucumã, as well as visit a new area of cocoa plantation and ecological restoration in the region.
The team then travelled to São Félix do Xingu to meet with local operatives at Campax Cooperative to gain an understanding of how the cocoa chain works and how climate change has impacted them, as well as learning of the challenges regarding agroecological agroforestry systems from Aprax-Cacao.
Ali Russell, Chief Marketing Officer at Extreme E, said: “Visiting our Amazon legacy programme was unbelievable. We saw the size of the problems in the Amazon, but also the size of the solution – it was so enlightening. There is so much hope there, particularly from small farmers who are making the difference. That is what I love about our relationship with TNC, too, in delivering that.
“We saw the whole process throughout our time in the Amazon and what will stay with me is the people. The opportunities that come from local people with local solutions to tackle a global problem has been amazing. There is a real understanding here that the climate is changing– the rainfall isn’t as extreme, its at different times of the year which affects soil, and so they have had to change the way that they farm as global warming impacts them. The level of change that is impacting the people in the Amazon is something that will stay with me.
“The legacy programme we have in the Amazon is amazing and being a part of this with Extreme E is something that will stay with me forever. The Amazon currently has its challenges, but it also has amazing opportunities. This is particularly due to the work from small landowners there, both in combating climate change but also for those small landowners to help themselves and their families. Their journeys had an impact on all of us and through working with TNC we have been able to see that first hand.”
Agroforestry is the practice of growing food crops and native trees together. This approach is ideal for maintaining and regenerating the health of the planet’s soils, capturing carbon and providing habitat for wildlife, while fostering sustainable livelihoods and ensuring long-term agricultural production. Cocoa trees are native to the Amazon rainforest, making them particularly well-suited for agroforestry in this region. Young cocoa plants need shade and can be grown in forested areas without clearing the land, or planted on previously cleared lands alongside other vegetation to restore native forests.
Since 2013, TNC’s Forest Cocoa Project has been providing technical assistance to farmers from the municipalities of São Félix do Xingu and Tucumã to encourage them to grow native cacao trees – the source of chocolate – to reforest degraded lands and to provide a more sustainable source of income. Farmers learn to grow multiple native species in the same area ensuring cocoa trees have the shade and nutrients they need to thrive, while diversifying their crops and making restoration a profitable activity.
Extreme E’s support will enable the expansion of cocoa agroforestry on degraded pasturelands, helping local farmers harvest higher value commodity beans and building sustainable livelihoods for their families. Moreover, Extreme E’s continued contribution to the ongoing maintenance of existing forests will sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and benefit 425 hectares of rainforest, equivalent to an area one third larger than New York’s Central Park (340 hectares).
Sara Price, No. 99 GMC HUMMER EV Chip Ganassi Racing, said: “The trip to the Amazon was a life-changing experience and I am not even sure whether that does it justice. To see what is happening in the rainforest and what we can do to change it, and the actions of the farmers that Extreme E supports to make a difference, was pretty incredible.
“When you visit a race track, you are not necessarily thinking about what you are doing to the environment or what you can do to help – you are going there to race. With Extreme E, and through the legacy programmes which the championship undertakes, you are thinking about it with a different mindset.
“When we visit Extreme E´s supported projects, we are taken out of the racing bubble and learning about things we probably never would have learned about before – and I love it! I enjoy learning about it and I take a lot from it.
“Even though the visit to the Amazon was only for a few days, it has given me memories that will last a lifetime. It is has been incredible to see different cultures and a different way of life, which I feel makes me a better person as a result.
“Life on land is important to me – I want to help take care of the different environments that we race in and I also want to take care of the environments I live in and enjoy. From the Amazon to the deserts, caring for environments across the planet and seeing what we can do to improve them means the world to me.”
Dr. Francisco Oliveira, Extreme E’s Amazon scientist, said: “The word I would use to sum up this visit is commitment. I saw great commitment from the people that are living in the Amazon to do the right thing as well as commitment from TNC to help the local people go in the right direction. There is also a lot of commitment from Extreme E to be part of the solution, too, in order to help these people change their lives in a better way.
“The Amazon rainforest is vital, particularly regarding biodiversity, but also the people living there, because they are part of nature. It is inspiring every day to see the biodiversity we have in the Amazon and I want to ensure the Amazon is preserved for the future generations.
“Commitment is certainly what we need more of to tackle this global problem – we all definitely recognised that as part of the visit. I saw that in the eyes of the people that were there. There was a determination from everyone who was there and that commitment is the kind of thing that touches our hearts that we can make a difference.”