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Apr 7, 2010

Brazilian Farmers Learn to Profit From Conservationing

Mato Grosso is Brazil's top soy producing state with an annual harvest of 18 million tons. 

Between 1988 and 2008, Brazil cleared more than 130,000 square km (50,000 square miles) of Amazon rain forest in Matto Grosso. 

John Buchanan, senior director for agricultural markets at Conservation International explains that in order to get Brazilian farmers to understand conservation, "[w]e have to define what's in it for the farmer. ... The private sector is too important a stakeholder not to have on board."  Conservation International has been working with Brazilian farmers since 2001, teaching them how to "comply with confusing environment laws, negotiate government bureaucracy and identify environmentally important land, such as parcels housing rare species."

In 2009, Brazilian national deforestation was approximtely round 7,000 square km (2,700 square miles), a record low in two decades.  Environmental groups are emphasizing the long-term economic losses resulting from deforestation.

The shift in attitudes is exemplified by "soy king" Blairo Maggi who was once given the "Golden Chainsaw" award by Greenpeace due to negative attitutude towards conservation.  Today he is "calling for a balance between agriculture and the environment."  He now backs the carbon-financing mechanisms known as REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), under which rich countries can offset their carbon emissions by paying for avoided deforestation in countries like Brazil.

Marcos Amend, the executive director of Conservacao Estrategica, a Brazilian offshoot of the Conservation Strategy Fund notes "[c]onservation is basically putting order to economic activities."

From the Brazilian farmers perspective, they're "feeding the nation -- and boosting the economy." Brazil is the world's top exporter of beef, poultry, coffee, sugar and orange juice.  According to Egidio Raul Vuaden, a farmer in Lucas do Rio Verde. "Ultimately, numbers drive the bottom line ... If there's demand in the market, man will go in search of money."

For more see:  Lopez, Luciana, "Brazil farmers shown how to profit by conserving; Talk of ecological diversity or saving rare species does not fly very far in Mato Grosso," Reuters, Sorriso, Brazil, 7 April 2010.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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