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Minutes of Open Session
CIFOR, August 9, 2004

Full English Report [177kb]

Brazil by Mr. Everaldo Almeida and Dr. Cesar Sabogal

The colonization process in the Brazilian Amazon began after the World War II. In the 1960s and 70s public policies favoured road construction and big development projects. Government incentives for livestock production in the 1980s increased the rate of deforestation in the region. Large natural resource assessment and monitoring programmes also began in this decade along with several unsuccessful reforestation projects funded through public taxes. The 1990s saw a boom in NGO activity and public pressure against deforestation. An environment law was enacted restricting deforestation to up to 20% of all rural properties in the Amazon. The situation today still reflects conflicts between development and conservation agendas. Several promising initiatives are underway to resolve the differences, in many cases as a joint effort between the government and the private sector.

The study focused on the region of the Amazon Basin known as “the deforestation arc” and comprising five states. In this region, several decades of intensive timber extraction, agriculture and cattle ranching resulted in vast degraded areas, making up about 70% of the estimated 64 million hectares of deforested/degraded land in the Brazilian Amazon. In collaboration with several institutions, a database consisting of over 350 different experiences with land rehabilitation in the Amazon was developed. This was the basis for selecting cases for further evaluation. A total of 28 initiatives, most of them involving collective projects or individual experiences of small-scale farmers, were finally evaluated in five States (Pará, Tocantins, Mato Grosso, Rondônia and Acre).

The average size of the rehabilitation efforts was around 4 ha or 5.5% of the average farm size of 67 ha. Most rehabilitation work was taking place on areas previously used for slash-and-burn agriculture. Farmers’ motivations to initiate the rehabilitation efforts were the application of what they learned in training courses, to complement family income, the desire to have trees on their property and the need to avoid the use of fire. The main problems they faced were labour constraints, limited knowledge on how to manage different tree species, delays in getting seedlings and quality seeds, poor technical assistance and insecurities regarding product commercialization.

Among the lessons learned from the study for successful implementation of rehabilitation initiatives, the following can be highlighted:

  • Farmers with demonstrated interest and commitment to actively participate in the rehabilitation process should be chosen.
  • Farmers’ groups should be created and strengthened to enhance chances of successful implementation. The need to have a working organization is more evident during the phases of product harvesting, processing and commercialization.
  • Need commitment from the executors and the beneficiaries to fulfil their roles and responsibilities in the rehabilitation process.
  • Selection of appropriate species to meet livelihood needs and generate additional income for investment in rehabilitation is key to the long-term sustainability of these initiatives since for farmers, rehabilitation means switching from their current land use practices.
  • There is a need for effective and timely technical assistance to land users/farmers which calls for partnerships between the government agencies and the civil society.
  • There is a need for training courses on various production options (such as agroforestry consortia, pasture management, bee-keeping and pisciculture) to help farmers diversify their traditional management systems.
  • It is necessary to add value to products coming out from rehabilitation interventions. This requires ensuring sufficient financial resources from the start of a project for product industrialization and commercialization.



  1. Criteria used to select the 28 initiatives for case study analysis: (a) existence of a tree-based component for rehabilitation; (b) at least one year of implementation of the initiative, and (c) an area of at least 0.5 ha under rehabilitation.
  2. In Brazil, small-scale farmers are actively engaged in rehabilitation efforts. Government involvement is mainly in the form of providing incentives and schemes for farmers’ participation. They do not have a big top-down rehabilitation program.

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