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Keeping an eye on deforestation

Posted on 06 May 2013

Collaboration on forest monitoring outside Brazilian Amazon is announced
The Brazilian Amazon Fund will be providing 23 million Brazilian reals to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation (ACTO) to support a project for monitoring deforestation in other countries of the Amazon region. The decision, announced on Friday, 3 May, inaugurates the Amazon Fund’s support for other countries with tropical forests.

The Amazon Fund is a tool to promote reduction of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, defined under leadership of the Ministry of Environment. It is funded mostly by Norwegian resources, with contributions also from Germany and other countries, and is managed by Brazil’s National Social and Economic Development Bank (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social - BNDES). Part of the fund can be used to collaborate on forest monitoring outside the Brazilian Amazon.

The ACTO Amazon Region Forest Cover Monitoring Project has the support of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Environment. The National Space Research Institute (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais - INPE) will also participate in the project providing training and forest cover monitoring technology.

The 60-month project will support all the ACTO member countries except Brazil - Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela - with initiatives for structuring and implementing observation rooms, providing access to forest cover monitoring technology, elaborating national monitoring plans and improving, harmonizing and standardizing their institutional capability to conduct surveillance of land use changes.

Brazil’s interest and possible support for developing deforestation and land use change monitoring capacity in other Amazon countries had already been announced by Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira at the Rio+20 Conference in 2012, and on other recent public events. The environment minister has also emphasized the willingness to collaborate further with other conservation and sustainable development actions, including in protected areas.

With this latest approval, the Amazon Fund now has a portfolio of 37 projects receiving support to the amount of 462.8 million Brazilian reals in the bid to curb deforestation and stimulate sustainable development in the Amazon, including support to ARPA – the Brazilian Amazon Region Protected Areas Programme. ARPA counts now also with a new initiative called ARPA for Life, co-led by WWF, to raise more funds for one of the most successful in situ conservation projects in the world.

Lessons learned

In the last 10 years, Brazilian deforestation rates have been falling due to the multi-institutional and higher level engagement of the national government in areas such as land use planning - mostly creation and strengthening of protected areas - control and patrolling, and promotion of sustainable economic activities.

Nevertheless, the deforestation pattern in Brazil seems to keep evolving toward greater dispersion and smaller areas, requiring improvements of monitoring technology. But, the future is uncertain, because the policies have not been embedded in mainstream government policies in sectors such as hydropower, finance, mining, forest economy, transportation, and agriculture and ranching. Moreover, other countries still need to benefit from a consistent program to understand and monitor deforestation in their portions of the Amazon.

Unfortunately, the tendency of deforestation rates in other Amazon countries is of growth. It seems that in the Andean-Amazon countries there are tendencies of demographic and economic movement from the Andes mountains toward the lowlands of the Amazon. Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia have been facing an increase in deforestation due to different social and economic drivers, the dynamics of which are still not completely clear.

In the case of Colombia and Ecuador, the major drivers of deforestation are probably the increase in cattle ranching and plantations, even though they are on a smaller scale individually. Small and larger scale ranching and farming seem also to be crucial elements in Bolivia. Gold and other mining, as well as transportation, and energy (oil and dams), seem to be behind the deforestation tendencies in Peruvian and Ecuadorean Amazon. The trends in Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, although relatively small, also seem to be increasing.

“Deforestation tendencies of the Andean Amazon countries together indicate that deforestation is probably increasing, due to demographic and economic movements toward their Amazon areas. There is a need to increase cooperation between Brazil and other Amazon countries in order to exchange technology, experiences and lessons learned,” explained Claudio Maretti, WWF Living Amazon Initiative.

“The support Brazil gives to ACTO and other countries is a good beginning. We should understand that monitoring is the first stage, but with that we have to promote awareness and support policy and markets decisions. Those fronts need to continue, and in some cases be strengthened in Brazil, and clearly need to be established or strengthened in the other Amazon countries,” concluded Maretti.

(With information from the Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social – BNDES)

Deforestation in the Amazon Biome based on data from 2009 for Brazil and 2007-2008 for the other countries.