Friday, July 11, 2014

How Brazil clamped down on deforestation

Khor Reports comment: Worth reading this piece from The Economist: I'm hoping to soon get hold of a the source article in Science. I've been reviewing soy sustainability. State regulations are an important part, as are proactive and well functioning industry associations that seem well engaged with all levels of administration. Some sources point out that Brazil has a well-engaged and active domestic NGO sector, which also pushed the earlier changes via domestic contestation. To be sure, implementation was a major question mark and international pressure has been for Brazil's relatively strict regulations to be followed. There are also efforts at information reporting on GIS mapping of deforestation and such. Bottomline, Brazil annual deforestation is now about 500,000 hectares and it's attributed significantly / mostly to smallholders.

The Economist writes, "But how did it break the vicious cycle in which—it was widely expected—farmers and cattle ranchers (the main culprits in the Amazon) would make so much money from clearing the forest that they would go on cutting down trees until there were none left? After all, most other rainforest countries, such as Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have failed to stop the chainsaws. The answer, according to a paper just published in Science by Dan Nepstad of the Earth Innovation Institute in San Francisco, is that there was no silver bullet but instead a three-stage process in which bans, better governance in frontier areas and consumer pressure on companies worked, if fitfully and only after several false starts." It concludes: "By any standards, Brazil’s Amazon policy has been a triumph, made the more remarkable because it relied on restrictions rather than incentives, which might have been expected to have worked better. Over the period of the study, Brazil also turned itself into a farming superpower, so the country has shown it is possible to get a huge increase in food output without destroying the forest (though there was some deforestation at first). Still, as Dr Nepstad concedes, a policy of “thou-shalt-not” depends on political support at the top, which cannot be guaranteed. Moreover, the policies so far have been successful among commercial farmers and ranchers who care about the law and respond to market pressures; hence the effectiveness of boycotts. Most remaining deforestation is by smallholders who care rather less about these things, so the government faces the problem of persuading them to change their ways, too. Deforestation has been slowed, but not yet stopped."


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