Michelin Ecological Reserve in Bahia, Brazil

A unique opportunity to study how to grow natural rubber while preserving biodiversity.

This program has become, over time, a flagship for the Group’s corporate social responsibility, proving that it is possible to reconcile rubber farming and environmental protection on a 3,950-hectare site.

Michelin puts its words in action

In the 1980s, Michelin acquired a rubber plantation in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, to produce natural rubber for the local demand. A few years later, the trees were affected by several diseases. Due to the extraordinarily rich biodiversity of the site, Michelin decided to transform the plantation into a sustainable development program because it felt it had a responsibility towards local People and the environment. That’s how Michelin Ecological Reserve was set up in 2004 as the environmental pillar of this ambitious sustainable development initiative, the Green Gold Bahia Program*. Over the years, it has become one of the most important reserves in Northeastern Brazil for protecting the critically endangered Atlantic Forest.

*It all started in 2003. That year, Michelin launched the Green Gold Bahia Program, an ecological reserve, a research center on rubber plant varieties and a pilot project to improve the living conditions of smallholders: a concrete example of the Group’s commitment to producing a renewable resource while promoting economic growth, social development, and environmental protection, thus contributing to a better future for all.


A challenging and unique opportunity to sustain biodiversity

The reserve of 3,950 hectares lies in the heart of the Bahia Center of Endemism, one of the most biologically rich regions of the Atlantic Forest, which is also one of the most threatened biomes in the world. It has become over the years one of the best-protected areas of the Atlantic Forest, one of the most species-rich in the world. The Reserve also protects the 61-meter high Pancada Grande Waterfall.

The reserve was designed to try to find ways to reconcile the production of industrial rubber and biodiversity preservation while being beneficial for the local population. The main challenges consisted in keeping people from doing illegal activities in the forest and also to build a conservation team.

So, we took a six-prong approach based on protection, restoration, research, ecotourism, environmental education, and women’s leadership programs.

Environmental stewardship

As part of the reforestation program, ~110,000 trees spanning 348 species have been planted, recreating corridors allowing wildlife to access the areas and reforesting is being continued. Restoration is key to recuperate degraded lands in high biodiversity agro-forest tropical landscapes.

2,485 species have been identified, including 41 new species discovered. And there has been a 117% increase in the mammal and large bird population, particularly among certain species threatened with extinction.

Scientific research in the Reserve

Research is fundamental for documenting how biodiversity responds to a landscape of rubber groves and forest fragments. We have partnerships with the ecology/biology departments of the principal Bahian universities and other Brazilian ones as well as some foreign universities.

To date, Michelin has supported more than 140 research projects, and the reserve team keeps on conducting long-term monitoring studies on fauna and flora. 167 scientific publications were published from research done in the reserve.

Scientific research in Michelin rubber groves: approximately 400 hectares have been set aside for research to develop new, more disease resistant rubber tree varieties with higher yields. More than 30,000 varieties are being tested for selection, and the elite cultivars will be widely distributed to farmers in every producing country.

International Reference in terms of Microcyclus ulei fungus Scientific Research program
Michelin, in partnership with CIRAD (Center for International Integration in Agronomic Research for Development) in France, developed a pioneering research program in 1992 to create new varieties of rubber trees resistant to the Microcyclus ulei fungus.

This fungus poses a global threat to rubber production. Michelin and CIRAD are testing several new varieties of rubber trees that have increased resistant to the fungus and have a high productivity potential. This is crucial for the future of the natural rubber production all over the world.


Corporate citizenship

By working with locals, both through the environmental education the regional youth and the women’s leadership programs, we help them understand the value of the environment and manage the day-to-day environmental obligations associated with living so close to a reserve. The women’s leadership program is designed to stimulate young women of the region to fulfill their potential as future leaders in the workplace and in their communities.

Ecotourism is service we provide to the public. With up to 84,000 visitors each year, we keep the spectacular 61 m Pancada Grande Waterfall, the largest waterfall on the Bahian coast, clean and safe for the public.

We started with a dying forest. And after 20 years of work, we have an ecosystem that's full of life. Our hope is that we can replicate this in other places throughout the world.

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