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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 238-251

Do We All Speak the Same Language When Talking Conservation? Caiçara Understandings of Conservation in their Landscape

1 Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Manitoba, Canada
2 Laboratory of Human Ecology and Ethnobotany, Department of Ecology and Zoology, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Santa Catarina, Brazil

Correspondence Address:
Debora Peterson
Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Manitoba
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_18_123

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Date of Submission04-Oct-2018
Date of Acceptance28-Nov-2019
Date of Web Publication26-Jun-2020


Based on their world view, indigenous and local communities may have their own concepts of conservation, which may be different from Western ideas of conservation. Here we report the results of a photovoice study with a Caiçara community in the Juatinga Ecological Reserve, a protected area in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest region. Participants were asked to take photos of their landscape/seascape to illustrate what they understand as conservation. Photos produced by the participants served as 'boundary objects' that helped to evoke feelings, ideas, and thoughts of people-nature relationships during individual interviews, and finally during a group discussion. The results helped to explore ways to frame a Caiçara concept of conservation and highlight the importance of developing place-based conservation projects and approaches meaningful for Caiçara people. Such initiatives can help in understanding Caiçara motivations for conservation, aid partnership-building, and promote knowledge co-production between community, government managers and other stakeholders.

Keywords: photovoice, boundary objects, world view, biocultural approaches, protected areas, knowledge co-production

How to cite this article:
Peterson D, Hanazaki N, Berkes F. Do We All Speak the Same Language When Talking Conservation? Caiçara Understandings of Conservation in their Landscape. Conservat Soc 2020;18:238-51

How to cite this URL:
Peterson D, Hanazaki N, Berkes F. Do We All Speak the Same Language When Talking Conservation? Caiçara Understandings of Conservation in their Landscape. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Dec 2];18:238-51. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2020/18/3/238/288120

   Introduction Top

Western conservation mainly seeks to maintain biodiversity at the genetic, species, and ecosystem levels. However, it is not the only concept of conservation. Historically, conservation goes back to sacred species and sacred natural sites (Posey 1999), and can mean different things to different people in the contemporary world (Bosak 2008; Gonzales and Gonzalez 2010; Chan et al. 2016; Willow 2019). Bosak (2008: 219) suggests conservation ideas may revolve around livelihood activities, where local people understand “…the landscape is the provider of subsistence and wealth and as such must be cared for.” For some Indigenous groups, conserving biodiversity within a landscape relates to connecting humans, nature and gods in livelihood practices (Gonzales and Gonzalez 2010). Chan et al. (2016) argue that land stewardship and people's identities are inextricably linked as caring for places helps to maintain cultural identity and well-being. Conservation may be, for some Indigenous groups, a way to “retain or regain control of customary lands and thereby promote their peoples' physical, cultural, and political survival” (Willow 2019: 26). As a driver, conservation may help “…to ensure the continuance of the land-based sustenance on which their survival as culturally distinct and politically autonomous peoples depends” (Willow 2019:26).

Notions of conservation are based on one's world view, and it cannot be assumed people will share the same concept, even within a given geographical area or cultural group. World view or a “way of thinking about the world” (Kearney 1984: 41) is fashioned by several components and shaped by personal and collective experiences such as observations of ecosystems, practices of management, past and current land uses, ethics and values, and people's culture and identity (Posey 1999; Berkes 2018).

Biocultural approaches to conservation propose a framework that encourages the integration of multiple ways of understanding human-nature relationships, or multiple world views. Defined as “conservation actions made in the service of sustaining the biophysical and sociocultural components of dynamic, interacting and interdependent social-ecological systems” (Gavin et al. 2015: 141), these approaches have emerged as a tool to help tackle biological and cultural diversity loss. A biocultural approach respects the rights of local people, acknowledges the possibility of multiple objectives and different world views for place-based conservation, and recognises that partnering up is important for achieving success (Gavin et al. 2015). It also encourages conservationists to “start with the specific human practices, local knowledge and cultural beliefs that influence and are influenced by the landscapes and seascapes of which human communities are a part” (Sterling et al. 2017: 1800). Bearing in mind that conservation planning is often disconnected from the values of local communities and indigenous groups (Bockstael and Berkes 2017), actions that 'start locally' may be of high significance within the context of protected areas.

Although considerable research has been carried out about (emic=insider) conceptions of nature to guide conservation policies (Bosak 2008; Beh et al. 2013; Cocks et al. 2016), very little is known about Caiçara perceptions of conservation as a concept and as a practice. This research uses the lenses of biocultural approaches for conservation to address this gap in the literature. Studies in the region have shown that Caiçara agricultural practices contribute to the diversity of species such as manioc (Manihot esculenta) and yams (Dioscorea spp.) (Peroni and Hanazaki 2002; Emperaire and Peroni 2007). Also, there is evidence that Caiçara ethnobotanical knowledge can be important for the conservation of the Atlantic Forest (Hanazaki et al. 2000). A better understanding of emic perspectives—understood here as non-static view, open to changes—of conservation can be the starting point to build dialogue and strengthen relationships between local people and different actors, taking into account the existing connections that local people have with nature (Chan et al. 2016).

This research is especially important in the context of the Juatinga Ecological Reserve, a richly biodiverse region in southeastern Brazil, where negotiations to introduce a new arrangement of protected areas are taking place. The Caiçara are local people who have been living in this area for at least five or six generations (Vianna 2008). Under the current regulations, they are allowed some use of local natural resources, but many restrictions apply, affecting their livelihoods and culture. This research can contribute relevant information to help managers, policymakers, researchers, and NGOs to better understand local concepts and rationale for conservation, to talk the same language as local people, to expand their own world view, and to converge efforts to build strategies to address biodiversity and culture loss.

This research starts with the assumption that the Caiçara may hold a particular understanding of conservation, shaped by their world view, experiences and place-based historical events. To understand a Caiçara ethnoecological perspective, we 1) unpack the concept of conservation; and 2) describe the local motivations for conservation. This is done by exploring the results of a photovoice exercise in a Caiçara community in the Reserve. We begin with an overview of the study area and local communities, followed by a detailed description of photovoice data collection. The results and discussion sections explore themes raised around the local conservation concept. Finally, we provide suggestions on how to develop conservation programmes based on a Caiçara biocultural approach for conservation.

   Study Area and Methods Top

The Caiçara people and the Juatinga Ecological Reserve

This research was carried out with Caiçara people in the Juatinga Ecological Reserve, in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Caiçara are mixed-heritage descendants of Europeans, Africans, and Indigenous peoples that inhabit regions of the southern and southeastern coast (Begossi 1998). They have lived in the region for many generations, engaging in a range of cultural activities in both landscapes and seascapes, such as shifting agriculture, fishing, subsistence hunting, harvesting of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), basket making, and wood carving. Eight communities and 12 smaller settlements with approximately 1,500 people, the majority Caiçara, live in the study area (Vianna 2008; IGARA 2011). Since the 1950s, this region has been targeted by land-grabbers trying to seize lands in Caiçara territories illegally (e.g., with forged notary documents). Such events have contributed to Caiçara out-migration, and for those Caiçara who stayed, building a sense of distrust of outsiders (Siqueira 1984).

Paraty is well known for its scenic landscape with beaches, forests, and waterfalls. Tourism in Paraty intensified after a major highway opened in the 1970s, facilitating access of people from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The Reserve's location is out of the highway, and even though its geography has contributed for some isolation, tourism contributed to changes in the local economy as Caiçara people engaged in tourism-related activities (e.g., working and managing local restaurants, camping, and transporting tourists).

The Reserve is located in the Atlantic Forest region and is about 10,000 ha. It is one of the last remnants of the Atlantic Forest, a biome with biodiversity comparable to the Amazon. The high rates of habitat fragmentation combined with a high number of endemic species of this biome have caught the attention of conservationists, who consider this a priority area for conservation (Metzger 2009; Ribeiro et al. 2009). The Juatinga Ecological Reserve was created in 1992 with the objectives of fostering both environmental protection and Caiçara culture (Rio de Janeiro 1992; De Francesco 2010). The category 'Ecological Reserve' is not covered by the SNUC1, the most recent law that regulates protected areas in Brazil. Hence, the Ecological Reserve of Juatinga is going through a process of recategorisation, which could lead to a new category of protected area being instated in the area. This process has been going since the SNUC law; many studies have documented the case, discussing possible scenarios for the potential categories of protected areas that could be established (Cavalieri 2003; Silveira and Brandão 2005; Monge et al. 2013). As of 2019, local people and the government have not reached an agreement, and negotiations are still in progress.

Data collection and analysis

Photovoice is a participatory research method that enables an active role for participants, and stimulates discussion and critical thinking about the issues of their place through a creative process (Wang and Burris 1997). Photos generated through a photovoice process function as boundary objects, which evoke new forms of information, feelings, and memories, generating richer, varied and in-depth results (Harper 2002; Bennet and Dearden 2013). Boundary objects help researchers to understand emic concepts because “… their structure is common enough to more than one world to make them recognisable as a means of translation. The creation and management of boundary objects is a key process in developing and maintaining coherence across intersecting social worlds” (Star and Griesemer 1989: 393).

Boundary objects, obtained here through the photovoice process, are a means of communication to translate ideas and information, to transform and co-produce knowledge (Carlile 2002; Feldman et al. 2006). Photovoice was used with six local participants between 18 and 41 years to investigate Caiçara perceptions on conservation, in the Praia do Sono community in the Juatinga Ecological Reserve. An attempt was made to include men (n = 4) and women (n = 2), to cover aspects of gendered knowledge. Although, our sample size was smaller than suggested by Wang (1999) and (Palibroda et al. 2009), the six participants offered diverse experiences and perspectives on conservation, as they had diversified roles in the community (artisan, community leader, small-scale farmer, church representant, park ranger, environmental educator, local tourism guide). As the first author Debora Peterson (DP) lived in Praia do Sono for over 18 months (2013-2015), she had the opportunity to build rapport and develop familiarity with Caiçara people, which was essential for this research. A long-term engagement helped the researcher to acquire the ability to better evaluate photovoice material (Nakamura 2008). Ethical procedures followed the protocol of the International Society for Ethnobiology and ethics approval was granted by the University of Manitoba. Informed consent was obtained from research participants prior to data collection.

Data collection took place from June 2015 to January 2017 through four steps [Figure 1]. The first step was the recruitment of participants through purposeful sampling and snowball technique. Participants were selected according to the following criteria: 1) time living in the community or around the Reserve (at least 10 years); 2) willingness to take part in this research; 3) interest in photography and in learning how to use the camera; and 4) interest in talking about conservation.
Figure 1: The steps of the photovoice process carried out with Caiçara participants

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Participants were asked about the relevance of using a local awareness campaign as inspiration to prompt discussions about conservation perceptions. During the period of the fieldwork, the Traditional Communities Forum2 launched a local campaign to raise awareness about Caiçara rights to cultural practices and to customary landscapes, helping to align the objectives of the research with the local context. The participants' orientation started with an explanation of methods and objectives of the research, ethical matters (e.g., ask permission to take photos of community members), advice on the camera's functions and suggestions on taking good photographs. The cameras (Nikon AW120) were waterproof, which permitted participants to shoot underwater photos. Time was given to participants according to individual needs and varied from two to seven months.

The second step consisted of the first round of photo shooting, photo selection, and interviews. Participants were asked to take at least ten photos to answer the primary question, 'What do you understand as conservation?' At this stage, the photos (n = 330) were printed and given to participants. Each participant selected three photos to describe their perceptions during semi-structured interviews. They would often choose extra photos to complement their ideas or help explain a concept. Semi-structured interviews were conducted individually in the local language (Portuguese). The researcher (DP) asked questions to probe further explanation of concepts and ideas. At the end of the first round of interviews, participants were asked for one to four new topics for the next step. Participants came up with a diversity of topics for potential follow-up for the next step. These were: canoes and canoe-making; the landscape; the meaning of a traditional community; the meaning of a 'Caiçara community;' how to obtain support for projects; and intergenerational teaching/learning techniques.

In the third step, which was the second round of photo shoot and interviews, participants were asked to take five new photos about each of the topics named by participants in the previous round. At this time, we used the digital version of the photos, saved in a laptop. Each participant chose at least one photo of each topic for the interviews. Again, participants chose extra photos to help illustrate concepts and ideas whenever they felt necessary. In total, 44 photos guided 12 interviews, which varied in length from 38 minutes to 1 hour and 35 minutes.

The fourth and last step consisted of a focus group discussion. The focus group objective was to create a space for dialogue and knowledge exchange between participants, which are principles of the photovoice process (Wang and Burris 1997). The preparation for this step included an initial exploratory analysis of the interviews, carried out by the researcher, with coding for recurring topics (codes)3 common to all participants (Ryan and Bernard 2003). Six major code families, related to the Caiçara conservation concepts, were identified by the researcher [Table 1]. As an example, the code family 'social cohesion' was used for every content cited by participants that linked peoples' attitudes (or lack thereof) to 'mutual help group' (code) and 'engagement of community members' (code) in community-related issues. This categorisation was an attempt to present the results in a systematic way to guide participants' discussion during the focus group. The focus group was held for 6.5 hours over two days; the results presented to participants consisted of photos chosen for interviews, quotes from interviews, and codes and code families common to participants. Follow-up questions (based on these codes and code families) were posed to the group, one at a time, to encourage group discussion about interview results. Participants would often build their answers from other participants' answers. Individual answers were reported separately, and a consolidated consensual answer for each question was presented for validation by the participants. As an example, the notion that a Caiçara territory is continuous was posed by participant 1, and generated a rich discussion, with all participants supporting this idea. Building up from these thoughts, participant 5 complemented that a traditional territory encompasses activities held on that land (see excerpt from participant 5 in page 8). The focus group helped to articulate, whenever possible, commonalities and differences within participants, and to validate and share results among participants. At a later stage, during the preparation of this manuscript, the researcher reassessed and further elaborated codes and code families into themes [Table 1], as an attempt to systematise the results and provide further context to the reader.
Table 1: List of codes, code families and themes illustrating the Caiçara conservation concept, using the 44 photos from the photovoice process chosen by the six participants for interviews, and focus group discussions. Codes were obtained from recurring topics in individual interviews. Code families are the collection of related codes, which helped guide focus group discussions. Themes were developed later, for this manuscript, to contextualize the data

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   Results Top

From 1,429 photos produced in the second and third steps of the research, the 44 photos chosen illustrated several subjects such as the landscape, daily duties (making and fixing nets), examples of food obtained and/or prepared for local diet, children playing, and more. This section explores each theme. [Table 1] shows the codes, code families, and themes that emerged from data obtained through photos, interviews, and focus groups.

'Culture' and 'traditional and local ecological knowledge' are interrelated but were initially presented as two code families to facilitate focus group discussions. There is also some overlap elsewhere; for example, knowledge transmission comes up in several themes. Culture is the subject of the first theme, along with results on beliefs, customs, behaviours, and Caiçara identity. Knowledge, use and management of natural resources are covered in the second theme, and the other themes in the four subsequent sections.

Caiçara culture and identity is related to cultural continuity, knowledge translation and past and present cultural practices

Defining culture is challenging because of the many ways in which the term has been conceptualised. Bates and Plog (1990: 7) define culture as “the system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviours, and artifacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation through learning.” For research participants, Caiçara culture was linked to (but not restricted to) knowledge transmission and the skills of: making fishing nets, carving canoes, using seeds as condiments, cultivating edible roots and gardens, preserving food (e.g., salt dry fish), using parts of plants for canoe making, and house construction [Figure 2]. The photos portraying everyday life situations and landscape elements were used by participants to show concerns about cultural continuity, erosion of cultural practices, knowledge transmission (including culture in formal education), and Caiçara identity.
Figure 2: Photos portraying elements of Caiçara cultural practices: (a) youth manufacturing a cerco net, (b) canoe and fishing nets, (c) seeds of Bixa orellana, used as condiment, (d) cultivating edible manioc root (Manihot esculenta), (e) cultivating gardens, (f) dry fish, (g) a Caiçara canoe, (h) pau-a-pique building under construction, and (i) pau-a-pique house

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[Figure 2]a was used to show concerns about cultural continuity. A participant mentioned the importance that youth perceive Caiçara culture as their own culture and as part of their everyday lives (youth is considered here as people between 15 and 24 years, UN 2018). This local concern for the potential erosion of knowledge and cultural practices triggered ideas for local actions to help contain this situation and to value Caiçara culture. For instance, Caiçara initiated partnerships to find resources to build space for promoting a valorisation of culture to Caiçara people and tourists. In this space, artisans (wood carvers, basket makers, embroiderers, painters) could show and sell their work.

Knowledge transmission in a formal educational system is another way to value cultural practices. A participant mentioned how elders are concerned with the possible erosion of cultural practices. Such concerns are accompanied by creative ways of accomplishing knowledge transmission, because the Caiçara style of learning is by imitation or learning-by-doing:

You have the knowledge of the tree to take away, the whole cycle there and such. Just like the fishing net. The size of the fish net. The way to make the fish net. The kind of nylon, of weight, of rope. The place where to put the net, how will you catch the fish with the net. And here the same thing, from the manioc plantations. You have the time to plant, the time to harvest, the time to cut, to prune the branch, for the branch to grow, to thicken the roots. You cannot leave them in the soil too long or harvest early. This is driven by a need. And this need is a culture... This shows that these people are differentiated. It is different, the right and the place where these people live it has to be safeguarded... That is why these people are different, although they adapt a lot, they have a culture, they have a way of doing it. (Participant 1). [Here and elsewhere, translated from the Portuguese by DP]

The decline of cultural practices due to transformation of livelihoods was explored by participants. Some felt nostalgic, telling many stories about how things used to be. Others used these as a trigger to raise awareness of cultural practices, as Caiçara identity is linked to these practices. These are not, however, the only elements of identity. For participants, a Caiçara identity is linked to a culture that is dynamic, and that has been inclusive of other cultures. The use of terms has evolved over time to better define elements of a Caiçara identity. In the past, Caiçara were mostly identified as traditional fishers by outsiders, but the term Caiçara is better suited in their opinion:

As we began to become more involved with Caiçara organisation [to fight for rights and territories], we used a more comprehensive term, more than traditional fishers that was once used. The [term] Caiçara has a more comprehensive relation to the whole, with culture, whereas the [term] fisher has the closest relation to the sea. (Participant 1).

Traditional ecological knowledge is related to knowledge continuity and knowledge transmission among Caiçara

Traditional ecological knowledge can be defined as “a cumulative body of knowledge, practice, and belief, evolving by adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmission” (Berkes 2018: 7). Local ecological knowledge, by contrast, refers to knowledge that is not necessarily multi-generational and not necessarily transmitted culturally (Berkes 2018). Traditional and local knowledge are here considered to be open to changes, and not static and inflexible (Berkes 2018).

Participants explored photos to talk especially about the use and management of plants, and knowledge transmission. Discussions about traditional ecological knowledge came up with examples of use of plants. Bamboo is a crucial resource for pau-a-pique houses, a local construction technique with bamboo and clay. Although this type of building has been giving way to modern ways of house construction, it is still practised in Sono and other communities. Bamboos of several species including Bambusa vulgaris, Dendrocalamus asper, and Phyllostachys pubescens, among others (Brito and Senna-Valle 2012) are used today in the region to build not only houses, but also beach benches and sand retaining walls. Although most of these species are non-native to Brazil, they have been an important resource for the Caiçara for a long time. Participants used photos of bamboo plants [Figure 3]a and pau-a-pique houses [Figure 3]b to explore the importance of these resources. According to local rules, harvesters should harvest only mature shoots. Sustainability issues aside, mature shoots are known to be more durable and resistant to weather conditions. A harvest of immature shoots is considered a bad practice:
Figure 3: Photos used by photovoice participants to discuss traditional ecological knowledge in Praia do Sono: (a) bamboo species (Bambusa vulgaris) used by the Caiçara for many purposes, (b) an old pau-a-pique house, and (c) women embroidering a commissioned work

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We go far away to get this bamboo. And we have to choose mature bamboo to be able to maintain it for longer. Now if we harvest it out of the season, it rots fast. In six or four months. When it [the bamboo] is good [mature], you strike it with the machete four, five times to cut it. When it is not [good], you strike it twice and it is cut. (Participant 2).

Another participant used a photo to explain knowledge transmission among Caiçara for craft making [Figure 3]c. Women in Praia do Sono are well known for their embroidery, which embraces forest, sea and cultural elements as motifs in canvas. Embroidery has become a creative way to tell, pass on, and register parts of the local stories. However, women may lack familiarity with some details, and may seek ecological knowledge from others. For example, when uncertain about the plumage colours of bird species they want to embroider, they usually seek help from knowledgeable elders and relatives:

They [the women] tell stories through embroidery. This is why I chose this photo… I like the knowledge that people have in their hands, and how they pass this along through beautiful drawings and colours...you see a tree, a bird, everything they live for, everything the community lives for, they [the women] try to pass through embroidery. They [women] ask them [men], what are the [bird] colours, how they are. Then, many women embroidered birds with the knowledge retained by men, because men had the experience of looking for birds…they know them well. They [women] ask them because they know the knowledge they have. (Participant 3).

As many tourists buy embroidery from women in the community, some of this ecological knowledge may be also passed on to non-Caiçara people as well. Artists often explain the meaning of the motifs and the stories as they show their canvas to potential buyers, locals and tourists.

'Taking care of the land' is linked to rights and responsibilities towards the customary territory

The term 'taking care of the land' (cuidar do lugar) appeared to explore a range of topics during the interviews, namely: territory, seascape protection, excluding outsiders, and capacity building. This resembles the term 'caring for country' used to describe stewardship of aboriginal peoples in Australia (Zurba and Berkes 2014). During the focus group, participants explained that “taking care of the land”was used to define the intention of maintaining what the Caiçara have in the land for the generations to come.

Taking care of the land was linked to discussions around rights and responsibilities of Caiçara towards their customary territory. Participants mentioned that the word territory was new for participants, who formerly called the place 'the land of traditional communities.' The local understanding of the common landscape extends from the limits of Praia do Sono community to the entire landscape of the Juatinga Ecological Reserve. A practical aspect of this understanding is that communities may share resources within the Reserve landscape. Plant harvesting is one example. Not all useful bamboo species are found in every community; Praia do Sono has a bamboo species which is not found in Ponta Negra. This means that people need to travel outside of their communities for harvesting certain species. In this context, there is an understanding that land and resources that fall in the Ecological Reserve are for all Caiçara in the region, and not restricted to a particular community.

The Caiçara territory is seen, by participants, to be continuous, meaning it encompasses landscape and waterscape, going beyond the geographical boundaries of communities within and outside the Reserve. A participant drew attention to the current pollution of the river and river mouth with the photo shown in [Figure 4]a. This suggests a local sense of responsibility to biophysical elements of the landscape, and indicates that participants feel responsibility also for the pollution in their landscape:
Figure 4: Participants photos obtained by a photovoice process show: (a) a Terminalia catappa tree on the river bank, (b) trail to one of the cascades in the community, and (c) one of the engraved rocks in the cascades

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I love this almond tree [Terminalia catappa] because it comes from the [river] margin, it is actually in the water…then I took [the picture] because it shows that even though it has pollution, that barra [river mouth] is polluted, we can still have such a beautiful tree, can't we?... Hence we need to stop to think that the barra needs to be well taken care, doesn't it? Because the barra looks ugly, doesn't it? Then we just go there to take pictures, because to swim it is not good any more. (Participant 4).

A participant highlighted how protection of the sea is often overlooked, remembering that both land and sea should be taken care of, and linking this notion of continuity to the integrity of a Caiçara territory. This participant remembered that the land is often the target of much of attention by managers and policymakers, but few legal measures are taken for the sea environment. He justified his thoughts with examples of the occurrence of spearfishing with scuba, practised by outsiders.

Participants reported that tourists seeking seasonal residences and entrepreneurs of tourism developments are difficult to contain. People mentioned that the Reserve brought in some legal restrictions that helped to limit outsiders, but only to an extent. On the other hand, they highlighted that the Reserve has not been fulfilling its objectives for local culture valorisation in their territory:

The traditional territory encompasses a little of everything you do in there [and] I believe we are stronger in this matter, maybe because of the Reserve enactment. I do not say we do it [conserve] because of the Reserve. We have been doing it. We somehow did conserve. You can see that we live here, I think we are already the fifth generation, and the Reserve was only created in 1992…. If you have people aiming at protection, you first have to listen to the community, not just create the laws without hearing [the community], create a law to protect this community, see what the community needs and what it uses. (Participant 5).

One participant advocated for more opportunities for youth in the community. His photo of one of the most touristic trails in Praia do Sono [Figure 4]b evoked ideas of training youth as guide tours to potentially lead tourists on trails. The community has a high demand for touristic activities, and engaging youth in such activities as local tour guides would bring benefits. First, it would help in local economic development by providing extra income to youth for doing something that many of them enjoy doing. Second, it would open an opportunity to disseminate knowledge about local nature and culture. Third, it would serve as a means to monitor negative effects of tourism on trails and other places in the landscape. Littering and rock engraving along the cascades [Figure 4]c are examples of pollution that concern the Caiçara. Lastly, building this type of capacity would be an encouragement to keep the youth in the community.

Social cohesion is a strong expression of the caiçara culture, related to cooperation and leadership

Stanley (2003: 5) suggests social cohesion as the “willingness of members of a society to cooperate with each other in order to survive and prosper. Willingness to cooperate means they [people] freely choose to form partnerships and have a reasonable chance to realize goals because others are willing to cooperate and share the fruits of their endeavours equitably.” Social cohesion was portrayed as a strong expression of the Caiçara life by the participants. Photos explored during the interviews linked social cohesion to organising mutual help groups, the desire of forming a decentralised leadership, and building leadership capacity.

Mutual help groups, locally called mutirão, were referenced by participants as an example of social cohesion. People gatheredto perform work that benefits specific group of individuals or the entire community, such as building bridges, schools, or houses. Mutual help groups are also needed to perform daily activities more efficiently. According to one of the participants, this mutirão practice was commonly found in the community in the past:

In the old days we had the need to help each other, hence we had a lot more mutirão…to build bridges, to build a church, to fix the school, to build houses, to cook the paint for dying the fishing nets…to bring out logs to build canoes in the middle of the forest, didn't we? Since the logs are very heavy, we had to have mutirão. (Participant 1).

Some people say things have changed over the years, especially with tourism expansion, which for some, challenged social cohesion and triggered individualism. The frequency of the mutirão practice has diminished for some tasks, such as building houses. However, people still keep the habit of helping each other [Figure 5]a, and this is especially true for livelihood activities, such as for getting ready for fishing [Figure 5]b:
Figure 5: Photovoice participants took these photos to show situations where people need and collaborate with each other within the study region: (a) a mutual help group to transport building material, (b) a group of people is necessary to move canoes in and out the water, and (c) three fishers working in partnership. At least three more people are needed to help them pull this canoe in and out

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…Kinship, from family, kind of unites people, because it has always been a solidarity tie. You call people to help pulling out the canoe… they also go there to see if you caught fish or didn't. It [the photo] really is something very strong. Very strong for the Caiçara's life. (Participant 3).

[Figure 5]c shows fishers combining effort during mullet (Mugil liza)fishing. This technique requires two or three fishers and a canoe of 4–5 m. These large canoes [Figure 5]b and [Figure 5]c accommodate fewer people than are needed to pull them into and out of the water. [Figure 5]c shows a canoe that has the capacity for three fishers, the required fishing gear, and the potential catch. However, a minimum of six men is needed to move it with ease. Such dependency on each other builds and strengthens relationships and fosters social cohesion.

The second challenge to social cohesion is linked to leadership or lack thereof. Highlighted during the focus group, participants agreed that capacitating leaders in the community is difficult. There are few people acting as local leaders, and they are often overwhelmed with many matters. There is a great need for capacity building for a diversity of roles: to organise local actions, build dialogue within the community, deal with external matters, and build bridges to improve communication between internal and external leaders. Participants believe that having decentralised leadership, with a higher number of local leaders, would be beneficial. Leaders would be more engaged and could focus on one matter, more people would be involved in leadership, and the community would have a more organised structure for local governance.

Social cohesion (or lack of it) may also affect the success of local participation. Participants mentioned difficulties in gathering the interest of community members in projects developed by outsiders or initiated by the community. Two factors may have contributed to this—trust and local capacity. With long-term projects, external partners may be able to access more resources and be helpful in addressing local issues, but community members are often reluctant to participate because of the history of land grabbing by outsiders. The distrust of outsiders often affects projects funded by external organisations. There are however, organisations that have been working for some time in the community and have built trust with people in the community. Nevertheless, initiatives emerging locally have higher chances of participation by community members. Participants acknowledged some level of engagement from community members in local initiatives (e.g., organisation of festivals, development of trails to access local schools). The challenge is, according to participants, to build local capacity to access financial and human resources to address matters in the community.

People-nature relationships connect the people, forest, and sea

Many resource-based peoples have holistic views of people-nature relationships. A holistic world view often characterises indigenous people, who view their culture, people, and environment functioning in a connected way rather than as disconnected parts (Berkes 2018). Participant photos and interviews explored these people-nature relationships with examples of long-term and often cyclical relationships:

The people talk a lot about the forest, you know? We don't live only off the forest, we live with the forest as well. But you know there is not one thing without the other. If we don't take care of the forest, subsequently we don't have water. If we don't take care of the water, we don't have a life, you get it? Water is life, isn't it? It is what they say, but I think water will be subject to conflict from now on. We don't think about it, but if we keep the forest preserved, we will have water. If we maintain the water clean, we have life, haven't we? It is all part of a 'cogwheel', isn't it? (Participant 5).

The model in [Figure 6] was drafted from interviews based on [Figure 7]a and [Figure 7]b. Cerco fishing is a fixed-net fishing technique brought in by Japanese immigrants in the 1970s-1990s (Mussolini 1980; Idrobo and Davidson-Hunt 2012). Participants explained that every few months, cerco nets are submitted to a dying process to make them more durable because the resin in the dye. It also makes them less visible for fish because of the dark colour. The preparation of the dying solution requires plant species found locally. In Praia do Sono, the bark of aroeira (Schinus terebinthifolius) and/or quaresmeira (Tibouchina granulosa) are harvested and boiled in the containers—tacho or caldeirão—until the liquid turns reddish brown [Figure 7]b.
Figure 6: The model displays cerco nets interconnecting forest, sea, and culture as a system

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Figure 7: Photos taken by participants: (a) man repairing cerco nets, (b) the container (tacho or caldeirão) used for dying cerco nets in Praia do Sono, and (c) fisherman in fishing spot casting his net

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This cyclical relationship around cerco nets comes from a world view, where forest, sea, and culture are interrelated as a system: “this one [photo] of the caldeirão and this one [photo] of the net are part of the same story; the knowledge that everything is for the sea. You come out of the forest and go to the sea—just like the net and the caldeirão.” (Participant 3).

Long-term interactions between the Caiçara and marine resources were also cited. A participant chose a photo [Figure 7]c to call attention to cast nets, a multi-generational fishing practice. He is expressing a particular world view, where he believes that continuing to use a resource helps maintain its availability:

And there are areas of abundance of robalo [Centropomus spp.], of parati [Mugilplatanus]. Depending on the season, each has its own time, of course…. The cast fishing was already a tradition since the time of my great-grandfather and that has been maintained. And why does it hold? Because you still have this resource to use… I think they [fishers and fish] complement each other. (Participant 5).

Landscape and seascapes provide aesthetic, spiritual and recreational values

The aesthetic, spiritual and recreational values of land and seascapes are some of “the nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems” (MEA 2005: 40), intrinsic to peoples' well-being. During interviews, contemplative words like beautiful, wonderful and pretty appeared consistently to describe natural and cultural scenes portrayed by the photographs. Participants talked about the beauty of the place, showing the ocean, coast, forest, river, houses, and other elements. This suggests an aesthetic appreciation of the Caiçara landscape/seascape in Praia do Sono. Two participants shot photos very similar to one another to explain this feeling [Figure 8]a and [Figure 8]b:
Figure 8: Photovoice photos show a Caiçara landscape/seascape: (a), (b) beautiful landscape, (c) the river mouth, locally known as barra, has elements of sacred natural sites

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What does this picture mean to me? It is a very beautiful photo, right? But what does it mean to me? I think it means everything because it is the Sono, right? This is the place, as I told you, this is the place I do not want to leave. This is the place I find beautiful, wonderful. (Participant 6).

I come to this side, it is so beautiful with these canoes on the beach. The ranch, each one with its canoe, the fishing net... Sono is a very beautiful place. Then it is so appealing to see that there are still people...who care, don't they? Just like I say, each one takes care of their yard, right? Where there are no [people], the people see that no one is caring, [then they] are throwing things in there. I took this picture because it had the beautiful landscape. (Participant 4).

Sacred natural sites are part of landscapes and seascapes defined as “areas of land or water having special spiritual significance to peoples and communities” (Verschuuren et al. 2010: 1). The river mouth in Praia do Sono shows elements of sacred natural sites, because it is where important religious celebrations, such as baptism, take place. It also functions as a recreational place for children and families. The community does not allow any construction near the site. The local perception is that the river mouth is a communal area that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy. Local rules are extended to tourists and campers who are not allowed to set up tents. It is not rare that some community members inform tourists about local restrictions and/or contact the environmental agency for legal enforcement, in the event of tourists disrespecting rules. The ecological functions of this ecosystem were highlighted by one participant [Figure 8]c:

This photo was taken in Sono, in a place called barra, which is a sacred place for me. The barra is sacred, you know? It is a beautiful place, it is a kind of mangrove. [As well] you have a school of robalo [Centropomus sp.] or parati [Mugil sp.] which develops inside here, right? They come to reproduce, to spawn. It is here. The resources are enormous. The barra is rich in everything. Where else can you find this? To me, to conserve is to maintain what nature has given you, what the creator has given you as a gift. For me, this is conservation. (Participant 5).

   Discussion Top

Photovoice was effective in engaging community members in the research, especially in the context of a complex theme such as conservation. It was both, time-consuming and challenging—time-consuming for participants, who needed several months for shooting photos and completing interviews. Photovoice was also challenging because participants needed to be engaged in the research even when the researcher was not in the community.

At the individual level, photovoice allowed participants to explore their own creativity, and through digital cameras, had more freedom to exercise photography, by taking and retaking multiple shots, often of the same object. This creative process helped them to reflect on which frames would work as the boundary objects they really wanted to illustrate, showing personal agency (Bowles 2017). [Figure 8]c is an example; the participant took multiple shots to frame the school as he was willing to show the importance of the river mouth as nursery habitat for fish.

The interaction around the boundary object, with interviews, discussions and participants' reflections helps create knowledge (Fischer 2004). Photovoice was particularly useful to create space for local people to talk about their community, and on a broader scale, about Caiçara identity. One participant mentioned his feelings about the opportunity to have his voice heard, adding that he would likely not have shared his thoughts with others if not for this research. During interviews, participants mentioned occasions where they shared with others personal reflections raised by photovoice.

The photovoice exercise was initially planned to involve seven participants or more (Wang 1999; Palibroda et al. 2009). As this research was part of a greater initiative (a doctoral research) it was difficult to conduct the photovoice exercise with more than six participants (within the doctoral time frame). This was due to the nature of the method, which as previously discussed demands a lot of time from participants, and lack of material and personal resources (as more cameras would be necessary, and at least one field assistant to help with the data collection). Yet, six participants, with an in-depth analysis, provided an understanding on Caiçara conservation, as the research consisted of many steps of data collection and the roles of participants in the community were diverse (Masterson et al. 2018). Furthermore, the small number of participants promoted a comfortable space to exchange information and co-produce knowledge. However, there were limitations in having a smaller number of participants; it may have contributed to results with a smaller number of themes. Having participants somehow engaged in environmental activities (park ranger, environmental educator, local tourism guide) and with leadership roles (community leader) may have contributed to results with strong similarities with Western conservation concepts. This is because these participants are often more involved with researchers, conservationists, NGOs, Reserve staff and government representatives than other community members.

For the participants, culture is the pillar of local relationships, as people learn cultural practices from others. These practices help people to formulate a Caiçara identity. There are local concerns about the potential erosion of cultural knowledge, due to tourism, social transformation, and modernization (Brito and Senna-Valle 2012). Idrobo (2014) presented an analysis of the association of knowledge loss with modernisation, as this often hinders local development. Suggestions to promote cultural continuity (e.g., inclusion of cultural elements in formal education) open up space for collaboration among different actors (e.g., elders, children, formal teachers, researchers), and opportunities for co-producing knowledge.

Traditional ecological knowledge was linked to Caiçara conservation in a range of practices, including fishing and plant harvesting (Sanches 2001; Hanazaki 2003; Hanazaki et al. 2009). In the process of this research, conservation came to be identified by participants as something that they do naturally during their daily activities—for instance, knowing the time to harvest mature bamboo shoots or manioc plants. This was a revelation to the Caiçara, as the term conservation was initially brought into the communities by outsiders. Willow (2019) reported something similar with Indigenous people in Canada, who explained environmentalism was a term used by outsiders to describe indigenous practices that have been happening for long time in their territories. In the Reserve, Caiçara people refrained from using the term conservation, as it was associated with past and present top-down conservation (Idrobo et al. 2016).

The idea of 'taking care of the land', as part of this new understanding of conservation, appeared linked to rights and responsibilities of Caiçara to their customary territories. Building local capacity for tourism-based activities (e.g., training youth as tour guides) is a way to strengthen relationships with the land and motivate conservation stewardship, while contributing to economic development. Many indigenous groups consider that a higher degree of people-land interaction promotes responsibility for land and fosters stewardship, helps to strengthen cultural relationships, and keeps youth on the land (Davidson-Hunt et al. 2010). Keeping traditions and ways of life, as well as retaining and regaining rights to customary lands are some of the goals of elders for the future of youth in Indigenous territories (Willow 2009).

Capacity-building was understood by the participants also as a way to strengthen social cohesion in the community, which has become weaker. Bockstael (2017) found out that capacity-building improved social cohesion and fostered leadership in Trindade, a Caiçara community close to Praia do Sono. Building-capacity for leadership could be more efficient for community-based governance than simply imposing resource management actions without meaningful local participation (Bockstael et al. 2016). This corroborates participants' belief that a higher number of leaders focusing on different aspects of life, including conservation, would strengthen community cohesion.

Caiçara concepts of conservation are relevant to resource sustainability. The world view of people-nature relationships resonates with other indigenous groups, who believe the diverse relationships—people-animals (Berkes 2018), people-plants (Rosado and Moreno 2015), people-deities (Sylvester and García Segura 2016), people-land (Davidson-Hunt and Berkes 2010)—are needed to maintain resources. It is part of the Caiçara world view that to make a resource continuously available and keep it productive, one needs to make use of that resource. A similar view was found among the Cree of eastern Canada, who believe that trappers need to keep trapping beavers to maintain the productivity of animals. Similar views exist among many indigenous groups of the world, from the Inuit to the Maori of New Zealand (Berkes 2018).

Caiçara concepts of conservation also have a strong biocultural component. The aesthetic, spiritual and recreational values of some places in Praia do Sono remind Caiçara of the beauty of their community and make them appreciate what they have. The way participants see these places resembles 'cultural keystone places', described by Cuerrier et al. (2015: 427) as “places of high cultural salience for a particular group of people at a particular time and critical to their identity and well-being.” Lepofsky et al. (2017) suggested that 'cultural keystones places' can be the link between people's past and future through the memories of shared landscape. Landscapes are known to have well-being effects leading to physical, mental and social improvements in people's lives. An individual's perceptions of a landscape relate to the meaning, identity, attachment, belonging, memory and history that the landscape evokes (Abraham et al. 2010). The concern with pollution at the river mouth, for example, is rooted in its ecological function as fish nursery, but there is also a sense of cultural attachment to the site which resonates with sacred natural sites (Posey 1999).

In terms of policy-relevance, [Table 1] is by no means an exhaustive list, but it provides some of the main elements of the local conservation concept, which can potentially help in understanding the local motivations for conservation and in partnership-building with community members. These elements, organised in a list of themes, can be used as a tool by researchers and managers to develop conservation projects as part of a biocultural conservation approach (Gavin et al. 2015). Such an approach would give priority to fostering knowledge transmission, social cohesion, and leadership—some of the ideas revealed here for Caiçara conservation.

   Conclusion Top

The government criteria to define protected areas in Paraty were similar to those other protected areas, where conservation plans had little or no involvement of the local people. In recent years, some local participation is emerging; for example, Caiçara from Trindade, a community close to the Reserve, were involved in the revision of the management plan of a protected area (Bockstael et al. 2016). There is, however, still much to do. Encouraging mutual learning and knowledge-sharing among stakeholders is a way to improve participation, and communities need opportunities to learn about Western conservation (Bockstael et al. 2016). Similarly, managers, researchers and policymakers should acknowledge the existence of a unique Caiçara understanding of conservation as a first and necessary step to mutual learning leading to co-production of knowledge.

The Caiçara showed interest to partake in projects they believed would benefit people-nature relationships: training local people (especially youth) as environmental guides, teaching the value of places in the landscape to children and youth in local schools, and increasing awareness of local biocultural diversity. Community initiatives in creative art and artistic processes can help communicate about land and water management, encourage knowledge transmission, and bridge knowledge systems (Zurba and Berkes 2014). Thus, a potential space for knowledge co-production may be within the women's embroidery group. These biocultural approaches could underpin a broader approach to conservation, taking into account local knowledge, cultural beliefs, and people-nature interactions. By starting locally, not only are the chances of participation increased, but the approach will be more just by involving those who have been living in this landscape for generations.

   Acknowledgements Top

We are grateful to research participants from the Juatinga Ecological Reserve who shared their knowledge and provided their valuable time to this research. We would like to thank the funding agencies. This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior - Brasil (CAPES) - Finance Code 001 (doctoral research award to DP), the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico - CNPq (NH scholarship grant - 309613/2015-9), Organization of American States - OAS (fieldwork funding for DP), IDRC/CRC International Research Chairs Initiative (A. Begossi/F. Berkes), and Canada Research Chairs Program (http://www.chairs.gc.ca). We also would like to thank D. Peppler for preparing [Figure 1] and [Figure 6].

   Notes Top

  1. SNUC in Portuguese stands for Sistema Nacional de Unidades de Conservação da Natureza, or the National System for Protected Areas, law number 9985, July 2000. http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/leis/L9985.htm. Accessed on March 14, 2019.
  2. Fórum of Comunidades Tradicionais (www.preservareresistir.org). Caiçara, Indigenous and quilombola peoples (descendants of Africans) from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro states organised themselves in this initiative, to join efforts to defend their rights and customary territories. This Forum prepared a video, a pamphlet and wrote the poem below as part of the local campaign mentioned in the text, with the objective of raising awareness about rights and territories. The poem read: “To preserve is to resist, to resist is to conserve, to conserve is to know how to use, to know how to use is the art of traditional people.” (Fórum of Comunidades Tradicionais, translated by DP)
  3. We used Gibson and Brown (2009) for defining: 1) code: a label used to describe a general category of data; 2) code family: a collection of codes that belong together; and 3) theme: representation and recontextualisation of the data to which they relate in a data set.

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6], [Figure 7], [Figure 8]

  [Table 1]


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