The 16 communities of the Juá (also known as the Eixo Forte or “Strong Axis”, in English) are located in the micro-basin of Juá Creek, about 20 km east of the city of Santarém and only a few kilometers from the shore of the Tapajós River. The region is part of a federal APA Área do Protecção Ambiental (Protected Environment Area), due to the environmental sensitivity and diversity of the area. Recently about half the area has been named an environmental park, which designates even greater protection to the region, although to date, relatively little has been done to implement the park.
Although several of the communities are located along the highway linking Santarém with the resort community of Alter do Chão, they might as well be a world away. Most communities have between 40 and 65 families (200 – 325 inhabitants), although a few, such as São Braz has 100 families (approximately 500 inhabitants).
The people in the region are caboclo, a mix of European, black and Indian blood, similar to the other communities where CEN is currently working. The lifestyle is similar to the other communities, as well, with manioc production being an important communal activity, as well as the leading source of income for families. Some families do raise horses and other livestock, as well, and so “cowboy” traditions common in some other parts of Brazil are common in the Juá.
Key Problems Faced by the Communities
Basic Services - Basic education through 4th grade is available in most of the communities, although beyond that, students must enroll in schools in either Alter do Chão, about 15 km away, or Santarém. Basic electricity and sanitation are also now available in most of the communities, although runoff from the pit toilets seeps into groundwater and is believed to be responsible for some illnesses. Most communities have a health post; however the community health workers in each are not permitted to provide any medications. Their role is primarily to provide residents with basic health information and to monitor public health. For most medical care, residents must travel to Santarém.
There is hourly bus service running between Alter do Chão and Santarém and so, at least residents in communities near the highway can make regular trips.
Economics – There are very few options for sustainable livelihoods in the region. It is very common for youth and even many older males to leave the communities to work in Santarém or other parts of Brazil. Other than very small scale manioc and livestock production, market-based economic activities are currently very limited
Although more and more tourists come to the region to visit a nearby beach, and many people from the city are buying land, locals often don’t benefit from this activity.
Environment – Due in part to the shallow water table and relative proximity to Santarém, the remarkably diverse local environment is at high risk. Also, many people from outside the region that are buying up land don’t feel a strong connection to the land and are spoiling it by dumping chemicals, over grazing, building fences, throwing garbage and demonstrate a general lack of respect for the “uneducated” people from the area.
Accomplishment so far from the Juá Community-based Tourism Project
August 2011 draft of the Regional Development Plan for the Eixo Forte/Juá (2.9 MB PDF)
Final Draft of the Regional Development Plan for the Eixo Forte/Juá (Portuguese) (8.2 MB PDF)