Brazilian Government Land Settlement Schemes Driving Amazon Deforestation

July 6, 2010

Greenpeace has released evidence showing that the Brazilian government’s Agency for Land Reform (INCRA) is creating “land settlements” in areas of the Amazon rainforest containing valuable timber. The land settlement program’s agents in Santarém, in the state of Para, encourage links between logging companies and unregulated “land settlers associations” that facilitate the gross exploitation of the newly-formed “settlements.” The release of the investigation’s results, which took nearly eight months to secure, comes only days after the Brazilian government was celebrating reductions in Amazon deforestation. Land distribution for poor communities is a key social program of the government of President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva.

In 2006, INCRA created 97 land settlements for 33,700 families
in the Santarém region of Para state, covering an area of 2.2
million hectares.  However, many of these were set up in areas of
high timber value and, in five cases, inside the fully protected
area of Amazonia National Park . Minutes of meetings and contracts
seen by Greenpeace show that INCRA then creates partnerships with
logging companies to construct infrastructure, creating a
development cycle which encourages uncontrolled logging-and further
deforestation- from which the logging companies benefit.

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

“While 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,” said Andre Muggiati, Greenpeace Amazon
campaigner.  “This opens the door to further forest destruction and
increases in global warming, while we lose the opportunity to
responsibly manage these areas and provide real solutions for the
communities,” he continued.

Brazil is the world’s fourth 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 stop Amazon destruction.  Brazilian
governmental 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.

VVPR info: Steve Smith, (202) 319-2432 or [email protected]

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