| Author: Elisa Pustai Leal
| Professors: David Rifkind, Henry Rueda, Eric Peterson
| FIU – Florida International University, Miami, FL
| Project Report:
The Sertao* region has experienced environmental degradation caused by pollution of air, ground and water, deforestation, climate change and a general lack of concern for the earth’s natural ecosystems.
Existing communities that inhabit the Sertao region of Brazil, traditionally moved every other generation in search of fertile land. These communities will be encourage to build more long-lasting settlements using construction materials that could have a life span of 30-40 years. Buildings using a new construction method will be transformed into biochar after they have served their useful life span, leaving behind a fertile soil that could promote a more productive agriculture and forestry.
A new building method and community design brings Carnauba production into sertanejo settlements by implementing technical solutions and light industry into existing community infrastructure. In practical terms this means recycling existing assets and real estate with a lower need for capital investment.
*The Sertao is one of the four sub-regions of the Northeastern area of Brazil and experiences the lowest rainfall in the entire country.
Sertao is marked by rocky soil, sparse and small vegetation in a semi-arid climate defined by meager rainfall and high temperatures. It has suffered from extensive deforestation which has resulted in a semi-arid desert. The indigenous vegetation in these areas is severely compromised or completely extinct, causing the soil to lose its productive capacity while reducing potential food production. In this desert, once part of a thriving diverse ecosystem, now prevails small polyculture and cattle farming. In periods of political uncertainty, the lack of investment in infrastructure and integration strategies hinders progress of the Sertao region.
CARNAUBA PLANTATION PROPOSAL
Develop an agricultural enterprise – carnauba restorative industry – at the heart of the settlements that can accelerate and support ecological restoration ensuring a more prosperous and resilient economy in a fragile economy and ecosystem.
Design a new building method that facilitates rapid construction and easy disassembly after a period of 30-40 years, allowing the construction materials to be transformed into biochar.
Wood that naturally decomposes release CO2 and methane (up to 26 times worse than CO2 for the atmosphere) into the air. Converting wood and other biological material into biochar sequesters carbon and other volatile gases, leaving carbon behind.
Producing biochar releases more energy than is required to make the charcoal. The energy can be used to fuel more biochar production or used for other purposes. In addition to creating a soil enhancer, sustainable biochar practices can produce oil and gas byproducts that can be used as fuel, providing clean, renewable energy. When biochar is buried in the ground as a soil enhancer, the system can become “carbon negative.”
Working for and not against nature, associating agricultural crops with forestry, recovering resources rather than exploiting them and incorporating ecological concepts into the management of agro-ecosystems are some of the characteristics of syntropic agriculture, also known as agroforestry.
Agroforestry recovers traditional farming techniques from the indigenous people from Northeastern Brazil, and enhancing them with contemporary scientific knowledge about the ecophysiology of plant species and their interaction with native fauna, for sustainable food production and land use recovery.
LOCAL MATERIALS (CARNAUBA TREE)
Known locally as the tree of life, because of its many uses. Due to its natural resistance against most common wood pests, carnauba wood is a valuable local construction material.
As it is a plant adapted to the semi-arid climate, the carnauba offers great possibilities of use in economic activities even during the dry season. It is an important alternative component of the family income in rural communities.
The wood structure is covered in dried Carnauba leaves to protect the interior from sunlight and (infrequent) rain. The houses takes cues from the country’s indigenous architecture and uses the Carnauba palm fiber to regulate indoor temperatures and provide shelter from the tropical heat.
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