Sustainability Centre opens in Boa Vista, Brazil

Boa Vista, Brazil: On 5 April 2022, UNHCR Brazil inaugurated a new space for sustainability education and cultural integration in Boa Vista, Roraima. Named the Sustainability Centre (Centro de Sustentabilidade) and initiated in joint partnership with UNHCR the UN Refugee Agency, Operação Acolhida, the European Union and with Fraternity Without Borders/Fraternidade Sem Fronteiras (FSF) overseeing site management.

The Sustainability Centre occupies approximately 300 square metres next to the Rondon 1 and Rondon 3 shelters, with a covered area called Janoko in the indigenous language, Warao. One RHU unit houses a cinema and auditorium; and an additional double RHU superstructure hosts educational activities in sustainable development, environmental protection and indigenous traditional practice. Central to the complex is the seedbed adjacent to the RHU units, where the Centre aims to plant up to 7,000 trees by the end of the year.

Three core pilot projects are already ongoing at the Centre: an aquaponics tank with a closed system, which cultivates fish and grows garden plants; a biodigester to reduce and reuse food waste; and a filtering system that makes use of rock filters and banana plants to recycle greywater.

While the Centre hosts presentations with partner organisations to facilitate training on sustainable practice, the daily maintenance of the pilot projects are superintended by members of the Sustainability Committee, all teenage residents of the shelters built by Operação Acolhida in 2020. Sustainability Committee member Gabriel Alejandro Barreto said of the Centre’s impact,

“I really like it all here. I love aquaponics and I love sowing plants. It is like everyone told us, we should be proud to have started this work that is for us, for everyone now and for everyone in the future”.

15-year-old Julio Calzadilla participated in the pilot projects and highlighted that,

“the Sustainability Centre is important not only for the learning that it has received, but also for the benefit of the entire collective. We didn’t know many things about the water cycle and now we have the possibility to teach in projects for everyone”.

The opening ceremony on 5 April was attended by the Ambassador of the European Union in Brazil, Ignacio Ybáñez; the deputy representative of the UNHCR in Brazil, Federico Martinez; the acting Head of UNHCR in Roraima, Arturo de Nieves; the Head of the Communication Cell of Operação Acolhida, Colonel Albuerque; and FSF’s Sustainability Advisor, Edson de Souza. Additionallym local authorities representing the state of Roraima attended, including the rector of the Federal University of Roraima, José Geraldo Ticianeli; the Secretary of State for Agriculture, Development and Innovation of Roraima, Emerson Carlos Baú; and the Assistant Secretary of State for Basic Education  Management in Roraima, José De Souza.

Operação Acolhida (Operation Welcome) was an initiative supported by UNHCR to coordinate operations accommodating the influx of Venezuelan migrants and refugees entering Brazil. In 2020, UNHCR supported the construction of the Protection and Care Area/Área de Proteção e Cuidado (APC), developed buy the Operation Welcome Task force in response to the growing COVID-19 cases among both the migrant and local Brazilian populations. UNHCR donated 200 RHUs, in addition to mattresses, hygiene kits and other NFTs, ultimately building on the APC’s capacity to attend 1200 patients affected with COVID-19.

Read the full report on the opening of the Centro de Sustentabilidade here.

Read more about how we supported the Operation Welcome Task in 2020 here.

Read more about UNHCR’s work in Brazil here.