The Atlantic Forest Great Reserve: a groundswell of biodiversity actions

To conserve a biodiversity hotspot while promoting a restorative economy and improving local communities’ well-being.

Photo of Ricardo Aguiar Borges
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Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Ricardo Aguiar Borges

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • Brazil

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?

Fourty six cities in the coast line of Santa Catarina, Paraná and São Paulo states, in Brazil.

Website or social media url(s)

Date Started


Project Stage

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working toward the next level of expansion)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €50k - €100k

Organization Type

  • Nonprofit/NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

SPVS is an NGO that acts in the project's area for over 30 years. Despite the work of previous generations of conservationists and other partners, deforestation and biodiversity loss remain major challenges for the Atlantic Forest. However, and backed by all experience, there is an opportunity for an outstanding conservation initiative in one of the largest continuum remnants of this biome which represents a total of 2 million hectares. I was inspired by the exponential scalability of this Initiative that builds on experiences from The CLT in Argentina and the “Full Nature Framework” developed to promote the conservation of large-scale natural areas in conjunction with a restorative economy and job opportunities for local communities.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The main threats to the Atlantic Forest are deforestation and urban occupation. Overcoming these threats will require the regeneration of a positive relationship between people and nature. Parks should not be understood as barriers to development but recognized as assets for sustainable public policies and businesses. Moreover, there is a need to showcase how Protected Areas can act as leverages for the implementation of nature-based solutions such as restoration and ecotourism activities.

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

The project aims to implement the Full Nature Framework that integrates biodiversity conservation and local development in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. The underlying rationale is that Protected Areas managed with high-conservation standards are assets that can promote local development. The Atlantic Forest Great Reserve (AFGR) acts as an umbrella initiative for catalyzing biodiversity conservation and restorative economic activities, such as ecotourism and agroforestry, in its 2 million inland areas. The architecture of the Great Reserve is based on the designation of Sectors (total of 5) and the establishment of Touristic Gateways per Sector. The first phase of implementation of the Great Reserve is in the Sector called Serra do Mar Lagamar. This later is already mapped based on the Tourist Gateways rationale and it counts with a supportive multi-stakeholder network based on the useful Collective Impact Approach, with our team acting as a backbone structure. Further, we also conduct advocacy, monitoring, and surveillance activities to preserve forests and to promote the region as a local ecotourism destination.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

The main innovation is the use of the Full Nature Framework that states that natural areas with preserved habitats and abundant wildlife are the basis for the establishment of restorative economy activities, plus a variety of ecosystem services, which benefits simultaneously nature and local communities. An updated version has been applied for the Atlantic Forest to focus on Sectors and Gateways, and combined with a multi-stakeholder approach. The AFGR has its own logo made according to an open-source rationale to be used by every institution, entrepreneur or municipality willing to join the initiative. Any actor interested to join the Initiative shall sign a letter of principles that was elaborated collectively.

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

The involvement of local communities and other stakeholders is the foundation of the Atlantic Forest Great Reserve concept itself. The recognition of Protected Areas as critical for both conservation and local development purposes demands the engagement of different sectors of society. The AFGR network of stakeholders encompasses 46 municipalities, 75 Protected Areas; and, governmental agencies, companies and civil society organizations. Regarding the Serra do Mar Lagamar Sector, SPVS is leading a network of 80 players, mainly local entrepreneurs and municipalities. This bottom-up effort was possible thanks to the leadership of the youth. Moreover, Protected Areas managers are using the AFGR concept to strengthen their work. Also, the Paraná State Tourism Agency is already incorporating the initiative in its public policies focused on the Great Reserve Initiative area.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

At the present time, we have engaged over 80 institutions; and five municipalities already support the AFGR. For instance, since 2018 we have been promoting monthly meetings with the members of the Serra do Mar Lagamar Sector. Recently, this network has been critical as it acts as the main platform for group support during the coronavirus pandemic. Periodically, the levels of entrepreneurship in the region are measured by governmental institutions and we are applying these indicators to compare the results among municipalities within the AFGR. As for an “on-hands conservation” approach, the Initiative fostered partnerships with public authorities and NGOs for natural areas monitoring and surveillance activities; and we will rely on indicators advanced by the Protected Areas managers. Regarding a communication perspective in 2019, our web-series exceeded 500,000 views and reached over 1 million people and our marketing actions reached almost U$1 million of spontaneous media.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

The AFGR was conceived as a large-scale project. The Initiative is partially implemented in one Sector and other four are interested in the application of this model in their territory. SPVS will conduct a series of workshops to allow the exchange of best practices and lessons learned among all Sectors’ representatives. The logo’s open-source approach will also be key to spread the AFGR impact within the Initiative’s stakeholders. It is also expected the replicability of the Full Nature Framework, which represents a new strategy for natural landscapes in South America, with nature conservation as the main development asset. For instance, the “Alto Pantanal” initiative, already launched, is inspired by the Atlantic Forest Great Reserve.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

The construction of a shared narrative is a critical step to gather different stakeholders such as NGOs, local communities, local authorities, businesses, among others. The AFGR engages a multiplicity of actions and actors converging to the goal of reconnecting nature and people. The success of this project will significantly enhance the management of Protected Areas in Brazil and promote their environmental, social and economic value to the society. This benefits the conservation of endemic and threatened species, such as the highly-threatened black-faced lion tamarin or jaguars, and sustainable local development for communities neighboring Protected Areas thanks to sustainable businesses.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

The AFGR Initiative acts as an umbrella framework to catalyze biodiversity actions within a large territory. There is considerable work from SPVS in terms of supporting communication actions and stakeholder engagement. SPVS has been engaging with donors and partners such as family offices, foundations, and development cooperation agencies. In the short term, the project is viable due to the acquired funding. In the medium term, the fundraising team is working to promote the Initiative to potential donors. In the long term, SPVS’s role will be less central. As the Initiative becomes more robust, it is expected that its regional development strategy based on the principles of a restorative economy, will be also supported by public policies.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

Our team is currently composed of a young and passionate leader that has grown in this area and comes from a family of engaged conservationists. Also, a field team focused on institutional relations and conservation activities, a communication team responsible for videos, websites, social media, leaflets, and others; and board members of SPVS that bring a 35 years’ experience of acting in this region. Finally, international consultants, ensuring the know-how of similar projects is applied.

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

12. Connection to Biodiversity: How does your project directly contributes to preserving and/or restoring biodiversity? Please share data to support your answer.

The sum of 2 million hectares of land with the same amount of marine areas is key not only for biodiversity conservation in the Atlantic Forest but also on an international level due to the tremendous geographic magnitude of the Initiative. The AFGR was designed to reinforce the importance of the protection of this region. Many conservation studies are conducted within the AFGR, and they have showed the significance of these natural areas and their ecosystems. Large mammals like jaguars, tapirs, cougars and harpy eagles need big areas as this for the maintenance of viable populations. Also, very delicate and endemic species like the Brachycephalus sp. frog, the black-faced lion tamarin, and the red-tailed amazon can only thrive in a well-conserved environment. All of the mentioned animals are icon species for the AFGR. Many stakeholders work directly for the conservation of the natural areas and these species. Also, our communication always brings up the importance of endemic species.

13. Example: Please walk us through one or two concrete examples that show how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address.

The AFGR acts as an umbrella Initiative for a groundswell of biodiversity actions and the Full Nature Framework connects nature and local development. The first impact indicator illustrating the advances is that organizations acting in the region recognizes the AFGR as a community network. Besides the organizations’ engagement, more recently we could notice the AFGR working as a supportive community for its members. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ecotourism entrepreneurs members of the AFGR have strengthened their exchanges and meetings to jointly find potential way outs for their financial losses and to overcome the impacts on the tourism sector. The second impact indicator is related to environmental public policies attesting the Initiative’s success on its advocacy strategies. For instance, the AFGR Initiative is included as a territorial strategy in the Sustainable Development Plan for the coast of Paraná State, encompassing seven key municipalities for the Initiative.

14. Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem in your environment? How does your proposed project differ from these other approaches?

One of the most interesting features of the AFGR is that it gathers stakeholders addressing the Atlantic Forest conservation issue. Regardless of the size or the approach, all actors working in favor of nature conservation and for a restorative economy are welcome to join. As an umbrella Initiative, the AFGR provides a community space for exchange; and also, jointly communication and advocacy actions. For instance, SPVS itself implements projects for biodiversity conservation within this area. This is also the case for other stakeholders who manage Protected Areas or projects for the conservation of threatened and endemic species. Also, there are actors working to promote ecotourism activities. WWF-Brazil, for example, is promoting a large range trail connecting many cities throughout the Atlantic Forest. Even other projects that differ from ours, if they somehow contribute to the conservation of the AFGR area, we understand that their achievement will benefit the Initiative.

15. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

So far, the Initiative did not receive any official award. However, we consider some achievements as important recognitions: the inclusion as a territorial strategy on the Sustainable Development Plan for the coast of the Paraná State; the publication of the Portuguese edition of the Full Nature book in an event gathering many Brazilian leaders; and the selection of the Atlantic Forest as an ecotourism destination by The New York Times in 2019.

16. Financial Sustainability – funding breakdown: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating an estimated percentage that comes from each source.

Individual donations: 18% Foundation or NGO grants: 59% Corporate contributions: 18% Grants: 5%

17. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge? How would you invest the prize money to leverage your work?

First, the recognition of such a distinguished Prize can be a label to promote the project for stakeholders and supporters already engaged and those that are already mapped on our institutional relations management plan. The Prize will also act as a communication asset to support other conservation initiatives inspired by the AFGR in different Brazilian biomes or even in other Latin American countries. Moreover, the prize money will be a leverage funding for our project scalability. The prize money will be critical to promote the Full Nature Framework in other areas within the Atlantic Forest Great Reserve territory. So far, and considering the available funding, our team has been more concentrated in one of the five Initiative’s Sectors. The prize would support us to foster our activities in at least two additional Sectors. That means 12 new cities and at least 200 entrepreneurs being engaged; and, strengthening the Initiative influence on the protection of nature and people.
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Attachments (2)

Magazine Atlantic Forest Great Reserve EN print.pdf

More information about the Atlantic Forest Great Reserve.

Folder Grande Reserva Mata Atlântica EN digital.pdf

Folder that is being distributed throughout the Atlantic Forest Great Reserve. A high standard communication strategy allied with an inspirational narrative is key to both create partnerships and make changes.

This inspired (1)



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