In the 2011 animated film Rio, a pet parrot named Blu – the last known male of his species – makes his way to Brazil and falls in love with Jewel, another blue macaw. After overcoming much adversity, Blu and Jewel start a family and presumably save their species from extinction.

In real life, the last known wild blue macaw (also called Spix’s macaw) was spotted in 2000 near the Cerrado Region of Brazil. Today it is believed that less than 100 of these critically endangered birds still exist, all of them in captivity.

The Cerrado is the most biologically rich savanna on earth, home to thousands of plant and animal species, including, at one time, the Spix’s macaw. Nearly half the plants in the Cerrado can be found nowhere else. This same area is also ideal for farming and has helped Brazil transform itself from a food importer to one of the world’s leading food exporters. Thanks to the bounty of the Cerrado, Brazil has become one of the great agricultural success stories of the last 40 years.

Working with Conservation International (CI), farmers and local governments, Monsanto helps ensure that nature and farming peacefully coexist in the Cerrado. Indeed, farming needs the benefits provided by natural ecosystems to be productive. Together we seek to preserve and restore Brazilian habitats in the Cerrado Plains Region.

Over the years, the region, like much of the rainforest, has undergone significant deforestation. Not only does this compromise the Cerrado’s rich biodiversity, but it has led to the erosion of topsoil and the movement of sediment into regional rivers, lowering their capacity to hold water used by communities and farmers alike. Deforestation also has reduced habitat for beneficial pollinator species and contributed to global climate change, as trees and other vegetation absorb carbon from the atmosphere. None of this is good for farming or the environment.

Past efforts to restore the Cerrado forests have met with mixed results. The seeds planted for reforestation were often not native species and struggled to thrive. To increase the success of restoration efforts, Monsanto and CI worked with local communities and farmers to introduce a technique called “muvuca,” whereby native seeds combined with corn, beans, crotalaria and sand are planted near riverbeds. This technique is economical and helps ensure good results within local landscapes.

A regional plant nursery paid local women to gather native seeds for the project, providing new jobs and creating economic value in the community. With the help of 50 area families, nearly 25,000 acres have been restored in this way, with more planned in the future.

Our collaborative efforts in the Cerrado are part of a larger global initiative to stop deforestation, conserve agricultural resources and promote biodiversity. This is action is part of our effort to address climate change.

View this video to get a closer look at how we’re helping to reforest the Cerrado. We have been working to make this story, like Blu’s, have a happy ending, this time in real life.

To learn more about how we are working with others to make farming more sustainable and protect the environment, check out the 2015 Monsanto Sustainability Report.

Follow Gabriela on Twitter: @gpburian.

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