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The rescuers have recruited people living in the forest, many of them former field workers who used to harvest vegetables, and trained them to recognize native trees, select seeds and monitor their growth, creating seven small-scale nurseries set up by locals.
For Marlene de Oliveira and her sister, the nursery business was a godsend. After decades of back-breaking work harvesting manioc root, they’re now the proud owners of a sturdy wood-frame, mesh-walled nursery near the reserve for which their shoots are destined. In their first year, they produced 14,000 shoots of dozens of species.
The county where the de Olveiras work has become the nation’s leader in private reserves, with 22. The landowner voluntarily grants the legal protection, but once a plot gets the designation, it’s binding: The forest can never be cut down, even if the ground under it is sold.
"I used to think this was a funny idea, planting trees," said de Oliveira, through a wide, gummy grin from which most teeth were missing. "I used to wonder, why not plant food? What good is this to anyone? Now I see it’s good for the monkeys, and good for everyone."
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