“What the Forest has” (Part I) - An event by the Instituto Socioambental and Instituto ATÁ Supporting Socio-Biodiversity Product Value Chains

Posted by Gregory Prang on


On Saturday, August,5, Culinary Culture Connections attended a truly magnificent food event called “What the Forest has” at the Pinheiros Market in São Paulo.


The event brought together products for tasting from indigenous communities of the Indigenous Territory of Xingu (Mato Grosso), extractivists from Terra do Meio (Para), quilombolas from the Ribeira Valley (São Paulo) and indigenous peoples of Roraima and the Rio Negro basin, in the state of Amazonas. It was organized by the Instituto Socioambiental  (ISA) and Instituto ATÁ (ATÁ) to showcase their Territories of Socio-Environmental Diversity project, whose mission is to strengthen a new forest economy with indigenous peoples, quilombolas and traditional extractivists. The Project has received generous funding from the European Union, which also helped support the event.  

ISA was founded in 1994 to propose integrated solutions to social and environmental issues with a central focus on the defense of environmental assets, cultural heritage, human rights. For more than a decade, ISA has been working to create and support product value chains of socio-biodiversity. Through it's Territories of Socio-Environmental Diversity project, their objective is to improve the management of these chains by building stronger relationships with market participants and making improvements in the quality control and production capacity of indigenous and traditional societies. We find it ingenious that the founders intentionally elected to use the compound, un-hyphenated word, socioenvironmental, rather than use it hyphenated to express the fact that the human and natural systems are intricately connected and are essentially one and the same.  

Addressing the crowd, founder of ISA, Beto Ricardo, issued an ominous warning.

"There is an avalanche of setbacks in the socio-environmental agenda, trying to suppress the rights of the quilombolas, to interrupt the demarcation of indigenous lands, to reduce the conservation units. We are in a very difficult moment in Brazil, of a corrupt political class that auctioned interests and rights in a game to stay in power. We need to be vigilant.”

Alex Atala, founder of ATÁ (and others), and only 2 Michelin Star Chef in Brazil has been working closely with ISA since 2009, sharing its key values. The philosophy of ATÁ is a profound statement about what food culture should look like in our increasingly complex world.

According to ATÁ’s manifesto,  

The relation between man and food must be revised.
We need to bring closer knowledge and eating.
Eating and cooking, cooking and producing, producing and nature, working in the whole value chain, aiming to strengthen territories for their biodiversity, agrodiversity and sociodiversity, to ensure good food for all and to preserve the environment.

Alex Atala emphasized a crucial theme during his opening remarks:

"You cannot talk about conservation of the environment without talking about food. Protecting nature is not only protecting the river and the forest but the man who lives from it. The food web is perhaps one of the greatest levers for this. The current political context, however, is a major threat to traditional communities, protagonists of this new economy that reconciles preservation with production.”
In partnership with the municipality of São Paulo, ATÁ also maintains three shops at the Pinheiros market called “Boxes.” The boxes gather products from six biomes: Atlantic Forest and Amazon Biomes; the Cerrado (tropical savanna ecoregion of Brazil, particularly in the states of Goiás, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Tocantins and Minas Gerais) and Caatinga (a type of vegetation, and an ecoregion in the interior northeastern Brazil) Biomes; and the Pampas (grasslands of southern Brazil) and Araucárias (part of the southern Atlantic forest) Biomes. 
The "Box" of the Atlantic Forest and Amazon Biomes

On the wall of the Amazon Box, he offers some vision about how the relationship between people and food might be revised. 

The kitchen is the main link between nature and culture
The best way to conserve the forest is not only protecting the rivers, trees, and animals but, above all, the people who live from it.
To valorize our ingredients is to recognize our gastronomic cultural patrimony and collaborate with all of the participants of the chain to which it belongs

During the event, visitors had the opportunity to assist a virtual film about the Rio Xingu titled “Fire in the Forest.”


ISA also launched the book titled Xingu: Histories of Products of the Forest.” The publication was introduced by Rodrigo Gravina Prates Junqueira, Coordinator of the Xingu Program of ISA.

Ricardo Abramovay, a professor at the Department of Economics at FEA and the Institute of International Relations at USP, who prefaced the book introduced the book by saying he believes that the approach of introducing forest products to the market is a critical part of the new "care economy," an

"effort to insert ethics into the economy… By stimulating the products of the forest, and putting products in contact with the market, what is being valued is not only the work of the people but the forest as a patrimony of humanity The market has traditionally been a vector of destruction of the lives of traditional populations. ISA is facing this challenge head-on instead of hiding. We are going to create markets that work in favor of people, socio-biodiversity, and an integration between society and nature.”

See Part II of this blog here to learn more about some of the exciting new foods the forests have.

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