It’s not easy to reach Morro da Formiga, a favela that perches precariously like a bird’s nest on the side of a cliff in the northern part of Rio de Janeiro. But once you get there, its dramatic view of lush forested hillsides is impressive. It wasn’t always like this though. Sixteen years ago, it was just a barren mountain with recurring mudslides threatening its residents.
Morro da Formiga is one of 144 sites of Rio’s reforestation program. I visited last week, together with a team from the Environmental Secretariat of Rio City Hall and a journalist from Agence France Presse.
Morro da Formiga. Photo: Franka Braun
Since 1986, the Environmental Secretariat of Rio’s City Hall (SMAC) has led a community reforestation program and planted over six million seedlings on 2,200 hectares of land within the city limits. Rio had long suffered from deforestation of its hills as a result of development, causing soil erosion, sediment build-up in waterways, floods, landslides, and pools of water filled with disease-carrying mosquitos.