To combat land grabbing, one of the main causes of deforestation in the Amazon, it is essential to coordinate actions between governments at all levels, the productive sector and civil society. “One doesn’t have to be in or near the Amazon to help,” said Alcilene Cardoso, researcher at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), in the third episode of Amazoniar’s series on land grabbing.
See the new episode of the series and the recommendations of IPAM researchers to combat the illegal appropriation of public lands in the Amazon.
1. Cancel registries of irregular rural properties overlapping with undesignated public forests
As shown in the second episode of the Amazoniar series, a study by Amazônia 2030 – which included the participation of IPAM researchers – points out that more than 100,000 rural properties registered in the National Rural Environmental Registry System overlap with undesignated public forests in the Amazon, an area almost the size of Uruguay.
An essential tool for the country’s environmental regularization, the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR, by its acronym in Portuguese) has been misused by land grabbers. Banning fraudulent CARs from the national database is the simplest and most immediate way to combat land grabbing.
The researchers explain that under Brazilian Law 12651/12 on the protection of native vegetation, the registration, analysis, suspension or cancellation of registries is the responsibility of state or municipal environmental agencies. They recommend that these governments scan their databases to identify and cancel CARs that overlap with undesignated public forests.
2. Designate all undesignated public forests
Brazil currently has 56.5 million hectares of undesignated public forest. These public lands are under the domain of the state or federal government and have not yet received a designation to be consolidated as a conservation unit, indigenous land or extractive reserve, for example. According to the Public Forest Management Law (11284/06) in Brazil, these areas must be designated for conservation or for the sustainable use of their resources, especially by native and traditional populations.
For a definitive reduction in land grabbing, it is essential that the state and federal governments quickly resume the processes of designation of public forests. Proof of the effectiveness of this strategy is a case in the state of Pará. “Between 2005 and 2010, 24 million hectares of public land were set aside for the protection of the Terra do Meio region. This resulted in a 45% drop in the deforestation rate in that area [from 2005 to 2008],” said Cardoso.
She also underlined that it is crucial to take into account the perspectives of Amazonian traditional communities when designating these forests. IPAM and partner organizations have been contributing to studies to map the best types of designation from their socio-environmental and economic characteristics.
3. Strengthen enforcement and punishment of land grabbers
One of the most effective actions to immediately combat land grabbing and reduce deforestation is strengthening command and control, that is enforcing and punishing those who are committing and financing environmental crimes. Brazil was one of the pioneers in strengthening the legislation and public policies that encourage the protection of the biome and has already shown that tackling deforestation combined with economic growth is possible.
“The enforcement by bodies such as Ibama [the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources] and Funai [the National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples] is very important,” said Cardoso. A clear example of its effectiveness was the Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Amazon (PPCDAm, by its acronym in Portuguese). Between 2004, when it was implemented, and 2012, Brazil managed to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 84%. This is because the large investments in the Plan were essential to strengthen the environmental enforcement capabilities of government agencies, helping to improve the performance of the institutions responsible for it.
4. Implement and improve traceability mechanisms
Traceability mechanisms to identify whether products come from (il/legal) deforestation are one of the major requirements of the international market today. With the implementation and continuous improvement of these mechanisms, it would be possible to prevent the promotion of land grabbing by markets and investors and eliminate this crime from the production chains of commodities.
“The existence of an active consumer market, whether local, national or international, supports agricultural production. It is essential that undesignated public forests are included as a key element in any agreement that restricts agricultural production on public lands,” commented the IPAM researchers in the study mentioned previously.
5. Support the people’s initiative Amazônia de Pé
Any Brazilian citizen can contribute by signing the People’s Initiative Amazônia de Pé, which is also supported by IPAM. In order for it to be presented by the Brazilian people, 1% of the country’s electorate must support the bill, which means around 1.5 million people. But it’s important to be aware that “a digital signature is not enough to validate a popular initiative bill”, explained Cardoso. It is possible to find and propose new signature collection points on the initiative’s website.
Besides the designation of 56.5 million hectares of undesignated public forests, the bill also seeks to classify land grabbing as a crime of climate damage, with harsher punishment for land grabbers; to combat the climate crisis; and to protect traditional peoples.
Amazoniar is an initiative of IPAM to promote a global dialogue about Amazon and its importance for Brazil’s relationships with the world. In the previous cycles, dialogues addressed the commercial relations between Brazil and Europe; the role of indigenous peoples in the region’s sustainable development and their contribution to science and culture; and youth engagement for the forest and its peoples in the 2022 Brazilian elections.
With the proposal of taking the Amazon beyond its borders, Amazoniar has already carried out special projects, such as a photography contest, whose selected photos were exhibited in the streets of Glasgow, in Scotland, during the COP26; a series of short films that composed the exhibition “Fruturos – Amazônia do Amanhã”, at the Museum of Tomorrow, in Rio de Janeiro; as well as two publications currently available only in Portuguese: Possible scenarios for the Amazon in the context of the 2022 Brazilian elections and Solutions to deforestation in the Amazon. The initiative also produced a series of interviews with representatives of traditional communities during the negotiations of the Free Trade Agreement between Mercosur and European Union.
To be part of the global dialogue about the Amazon, sign up for our newsletter.
Journalist and communications consultant at IPAM*