Amazoniar – an initiative of IPAM (Amazon Environmental Research Institute) to promote a global dialogue about the Amazon – launched this Thursday (08/03) a new series of videos, this time focusing on the main cause of deforestation in Brazil: land grabbing. The illegal appropriation of public lands is directly related to the region’s deforestation records. According to IPAM’s analysis, more than half of the biome’s deforestation between 2019 and 2021 occurred in these areas, which are a public heritage.
The launch coincides with the start of the Amazon Dialogues, a civil society and social movements event that will take place from August 4th to 6th in Belém (Pará) to formulate strategies for the region based on the demands of its traditional communities. The dialogues will be followed by the Amazon Summit, which will bring together authorities of the countries covered by the Amazon forest to consolidate a regional position on the forest.
In its new cycle, the Amazoniar team will explore with its audience, in six episodes, how land grabbing happens in practice, what its impacts are on the Amazon and the world, and what can be done to combat this crime. “One of Amazoniar’s main goals is to democratize information about the Amazon. We want anyone, regardless of their level of knowledge about the biome, to be able to embark on this journey of collective learning with us. The conservation of the Amazon is everyone’s interest and responsibility and the good news is that there are solutions for this,” explained Lucas Ramos, coordinator of Amazoniar at IPAM.
“Many people think that public areas are ‘no one’s land’, but in fact the land grabbers are occupying land that belongs to everyone. There is a shared responsibility to take care of the Amazon territory. No one gains from deforestation,” added Alcilene Cardoso, educator, researcher at IPAM and presenter of the series.
Watch the first episode of Amazoniar’s series on land grabbing:
Land grabbing in practice: how does the illegal occupation of public land take place?
Grilagem (land grabbing) is an old crime whose origin dates back to the times of the Empire era in Brazil (1822-1889). Cardoso explained that, at the time, individuals would put a false property title inside a box with crickets so that the insects could deteriorate the document and give it an appearance of an old document, which made it easier for people to claim they owned that particular area.
Since then, they stopped using the crickets and the practice has started to operate through the false registration of lands in the National Rural Environmental Registry System (SICAR, its acronym in Portuguese). As the CAR is self-declaratory, land grabbers draw supposed private properties in the system, to simulate a right over that land that does not actually belong to them. IPAM studies show that, by the end of 2020, more than 14 million hectares of so-called undesignated public forests (FPNDs, its acronym in Portuguese) were illegally registered as private property in the system.
“People and companies hardly enter areas to grab land without knowing that they are public. Most of the time, the land grabbers identify if it is public land, flat, with easy access to water and roads. Then a cycle begins: they enter the area, forging the property document; they deforest that area; and then a process similar to real estate speculation begins, to sell the areas for grain production or other activities,” said Cardoso.
In addition to being a major threat to the socio-biodiversity of the Amazon, land grabbing and deforestation contribute to climate imbalance and, consequently, negatively impact food production and the country’s economy, and jeopardize the well-being of future generations worldwide, explained the researcher.
Solutions to combat land grabbing
The incidence of land grabbing has increased significantly with the weakening of environmental enforcement in recent years, but the good news is that there are solutions to combat that crime. One is the designation of FPNDs, where a big part of the deforestation on public lands occurs.
FPNDs are public lands that 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. As Cardoso explains in the first episode of Amazoniar’s series, according to the Public Forest Management Law in Brazil, these areas must be designated for conservation or for the sustainable use of their resources, especially by native and traditional populations.
“We have a vast area of public forests that are not yet designated and that are in the sights of land grabbing. The size of this area is equivalent to twice the size of the state of São Paulo. We need to look at these forests as a possibility to reduce deforestation,” she warned.
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.
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