Amazon deforestation halted through local action

By RTCC Staff

Policies to reduce deforestation in Brazil need local support if they are to succeed, according to the head of the Minas Gerais region’s climate forum.

Deforestation has been a major issue for Brazil over the last five decades, with thousands of hectares of forest being removed each year. Since 2004, however, the rate of deforestation has dropped 80% to its lowest levels since records begun.

Milton Nogueira Silva, Executive Secretary of the Climate Change Forum of Minas Gerais, Brazil, said that the positive trend was due to policies that included local people.

“[It] came from implementing the law together with communities and the association of farmers; and from associating with the police, the judiciary, the environmental visuals, the environmental satellites images,” he told RTCC.

Data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) showed deforestation across the Amazon region had been reduced by 23% between August 2011 and July 2012.

Silva said the work continues at a community level, and that villages can teach governments about how to adapt to climatic and environmental changes.

“Without the big discussion; they just do it. Because they have been doing it for centuries,” he said. “[Look at] villages, cooperatives, associations of farmers, what they do with their own skills and their own hands to avoid floods, heatwaves or long droughts, or other affects of climate change, like the migration of birds or the migration of mosquitoes bringing diseases.

“Communities can defend themselves, given a little help.”

In terms of the environment, Brazil is one of the world’s mega-diverse countries. These are states that are home to the majority of the Earth’s species. But much of Brazil’s biodiversity remains under threat to expanding urbanisation and growing agribusiness.

The government has come under criticism over the last year for changes to its Forest Code, which is in place to help protect the country’s forests from being lost to agriculture and mining activities.

Campaigners warned the changes could threaten the country’s vast Amazon Rainforest.

Silva, however, warned against focusing on the Amazon region at the expense of the country’s other biodiversity hotspots – such as Minas Gerais’ Cerrado region.

“The Cerrado is a savannah like region, as big as the Amazon,” he said. “This is a place where agribusiness expands for sugar palm plantations, forest plantations, mining, cow raising, and soya plantations and so on. This is a big threat to biodiversity. Why? Because the Cerrado is a mega-diverse region of Brazil.”

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