Greenpeace exposes Brazilian Government Agency's 'land settlement' scheme driving rainforest destruction.

Press release - 20 August, 2007
An Agency of the Brazilian Federal Government, which only days ago was celebrating reductions in Amazon deforestation, is allowing logging companies to destroy large areas of the rainforest by assigning them as 'land settlements' for poor communities, according to an eight month Greenpeace investigation(1)

The investigation revealed that the Brazilian Government's Agency for Land Reform (INCRA) in Santarém, Pará State, is setting aside large 'land settlements' in rainforest areas of great value to the timber industry, instead of placing these settlements in already-deforested areas.

Land distribution for poor communities is one of the key social programs of Lula's government. Once set up, the Santarém agents encourage links between the logging companies and unregulated 'land settlers associations', which facilitates the gross exploitation of the newly-formed 'settlement'. In 2006, INCRA created 97 such land settlements for 33,700 families in the Santarém region of Para State, covering an area of 2.2 million hectares.

However, evidence uncovered by Greenpeace shows that many of these were set up in areas of high timber value and, in one case, inside the fully protected area of Amazonia National Park (2). Minutes of meetings and contracts seen by Greenpeace show that INCRA then creates partnerships with logging companies to construct infrastructure such as roads and schools, creating a development cycle which encourages uncontrolled logging (and further deforestation), from which the logging companies benefit.

The investigation also showed that many of the 'land settlers associations' were not composed of local people, but 'settlers' with no background of sustainable use of the natural resources, often registered in cities and communities far away from the settlements they are appointed to.

"While the Brazilian environmental authorities celebrated a third consecutive annual drop in Amazon deforestation a few days ago, other sectors of the government, instead of helping the official efforts are putting in place mechanisms to ensure the supply of timber to loggers.

This opens the door to further forest destruction and climate change, while losing the opportunity to responsibly manage these areas and provide real solutions to the communities", said André Muggiati, Amazon Campaigner. Brazil is the world's 4th largest emitter of greenhouse gases, mainly due to forest burning as part of the deforestation and land clearing process in the Amazon.

"There is no time left to lose in stopping Amazon destruction. Brazilian Government efforts to reduce deforestation need to be embraced by every branch of the state. INCRA must ensure land reform settlements are only created in already deforested areas or where real sustainable management by local communities can take place.

The logging industry operating in the Amazon must commit to live up to responsible and certified production, to help put an end to Amazon deforestation in the near future", Muggiati concluded.

Other contacts: Daniela Montalto, Greenpeace Internatinal Forests Campaigner, in Manaus, Phone +55 92 40 09 80 00 Mobile +55 92 99 95 20 70

Notes: (1) On August 10th, the Brazilian Federal government announced that the deforestation rate in the Amazon rainforest for the period August 2006-August 2007 had dropped to an estimated 9,600 square kilometers, the lowest rate since INPE (National Institute for Space Research) started to monitor deforestation in the region in 1988. (2) Amazon National Park is located on the north-west of Pará State, and consists of over 994.000 has. of rainforest. The park's mammal population is one of the most diverse in the world and includes jaguars, anteaters and wild dogs. Also a variety of reptiles, turtles, alligators and birds such as the Royal Falcon live in the region. The park is permanently threatened by loggers, cattle ranchers and farmers.

Exp. contact date: 2007-08-30 00:00:00