Developed in Brazil only a few years ago, the new planting technique is called muvuca. “In Portuguese, it means a lot of people in a very small place,” says Rodrigo Medeiros, Conservation International’s vice president of the Brazil program and the lead on the ground. The muvuca strategy demands that seeds from more than 200 native forest species are spread over every square meter of burnt and mismanaged land. The seeds are purchased from the Xingu Seed Network, which since 2007 has acted as a native seed supply for more than 30 organizations, thanks a collection of more than 400 seed collectors–many of whom are indigenous women and local youths. Several seeds germinate, compete between themselves for nutrients and sunlight, and the strongest ultimately become big trees. According to a 2014 study by the Food and Agriculture Organization and Bioversity International, more than 90% of native tree species planted with this strategy germinate, and they’re especially resilient, able to survive drought conditions for up to six months without irrigation.
Already a couple million trees have been planted, and it’s a win-win situation for all involved parties, says Medeiros. The coalition gets labor at a fair price. Indigenous communities can maintain their livelihoods and get recognition as the rightful owners of rainforest land. And farmers sign partnership agreements to fast-track recovery on their own land with logistical support. “Springs, rivers, and streams that were suffering from the lack of water are already beginning to show signs of recovery in the region,” says Medeiros, which has led to more productive soil and better yields for farmers, too.