Monday, 4 July 2011

The Brazilian Paradox. In 2011 the year celebrating forests, the National Congress of Brazil is discussing a modification of the Forest Code that will put in danger the Amazon rainforest

Few days ago, the Brazilian José Graziano da Silva (left photo) has been elected new Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Mr. Graziano played an important role in setting up the successful Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program in Brazil. This program which supported small holder farmers and recognized women’s rights to resources and access to land have produced impressive results. The Brazilian presidential advisory body on food security and nutrition has shown that effective institutions, with the participation of civil society, can help deliver food security. A number of donors in the international community wish that these successful policies to be replicated at the global level. However, I think that another pressing issue will request his intervention.

National Congress - Brasilia
The Brazilian House of Deputies’ decision on May 24 to loosen environmental protections contained in the Forest Code invited plenty of international criticism. Brazil’s Forest Code, established in 1965, requires private landowners to keep 80 percent of protected areas forested, among other provisions.The main force pushing the reforms is Aldo Rebelo, head of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCDoB). His rationale is that the current code works against small-scale farmers. Among the reforms, restrictions on clearing forests along rivers and on the tops of hills will be eased. There will also be an amnesty for small-scale landowners who illegally chopped down trees prior to July 2008. Environmentalists view the proposal as a step backwards in the country’s fight to protect the Amazon rainforest. It would be extremely important if the new elected Director General could play his part in pressing the National Senate to repel the amendments of the Code voted by the House of Deputies.

Sure, farmers can exploit more of their land if they clear hilltops and riverbanks. But what happens if strong rains come? How are the chances increased that water will pour down the newly naked slopes and wash soil away? If drought comes to the Amazon again, as some climate forecasts suggest it will in ever stronger form, how will the removal of riverbank protection exacerbate water shortages that will affect everyone - farmers included?

More info:
Código Florestal - 2ª Edição (Portuguese)
Brazil's Proposed Reform of Forest Code Sparks Environmentalist Outcry

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