Brazil’s leading agriculture lobby is recommending that farmers in the world’s emerging bread basket plant trees as a way to boost financial returns while offsetting carbon emissions, according to a report it released Dec. 6.
Parts of Brazil’s agricultural sector have come under fierce criticism from the country’s international competitors for allegedly expanding output at the cost of destroying native forests.
CNA, an influential farm lobby that represents over one million farmers, is investing 40 million reais ($23.7 million) to fund a more detailed, nine-year study that will propose technical solutions for farmers to protect the environment and raise their income.
The initiative may signal a gradual change in outlook in a sector that until recently has been slow to adapt to growing international demand for green products.
Planting and preserving trees not only helps rebuild environmentally fragile rural properties but also allows farmers to diversify their business and reduce market-related risks, the report on the Biomes Project said.
“We aim to correct possible mistakes (made by farmers), educate them and make sustainable research (more available),” Katia Abreu, CNA president, told Reuters before travelling to present the project to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Mexico.
“Our idea is to set models adapted to each biome that could serve as a guide for farmers to adapt their properties, mainly medium and small ones, who don’t have money to hire their own consultants,” said Abreu, who is a senator and a farmer.
The Biomes project is being developed in cooperation with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corp. (Embrapa).
The study coincides with a fierce public debate over a bill in Congress to overhaul Brazil’s 1965 forestry code. If approved, it would give amnesty to farmers fined for deforesting beyond current limitations. It could also cut the amount of forest land owners would be required to conserve.
A new forestry model for farmers would be a major contribution to ensure long-term sustainability of Brazil’s agriculture, Abreu said.
Brazil has nearly 5.2 million rural properties, the majority of which are owned by small-scale farmers.
The South American giant is a major producer of agricultural commodities and also home to the the world’s largest rainforest and other biologically diverse ecosystems.
The Amazon forest is seen as a vital global climate regulator because of the vast amount of carbon and fresh water that it stores. It is threatened mainly by loggers and cattle ranchers.
Agricultural expansion elsewhere in the country may also fuel deforestation by drawing displaced farmers and ranchers into the forest in search of cheaper land, environmentalists say.
Research on two biomes – the Atlantic rainforest and savannas started earlier this year, and a third one will begin in 2011, Embrapa said.
Changing ways:A seedling pokes
through the ground in an area of the Amazon jungle that was deforested for
an illegal settlement, near Manaus.