11 May, 2011

Can local sustainable development save the Amazon?

Sergio Abranches

Local sustainable development 2.0, that’s how we should call what is happening in 80 municipalities of the Brazilian giant state of Pará, in the Amazon region. Pará is 1.8 times the size of Texas. These 80 towns are basically dominated by cattle-ranching and some timber production. Beef, timber, and soybean have been the main culprits for a long history of illegal logging, that has claimed about 20% of the Amazon rainforest, and 27% of Pará’s forest cover.

Until recently, local development in the Amazon has been based on small scale cooperative-based extractive activities for the production of rubber, fruit or fish. Now local development has to address large-scale production, usually for beef, soybean, and wood products exports.

Deforestation has declined sharply over the last five years, from more than 25,000 sq. Km a year to around 7,000 sq. km. Forest degradation, though, has been rampant, especially over the last three years. Degradation has two main sources. One, is selective logging for  timber production. Loggers cut the most valued species and leave those with less or no commercial value. The other is land clearing for pasture or soybean production. Loggers also cut selectively, to hide the process from common satellite detection, until it is too late for authorities to prevent full clearing.

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