Selected category: Brazil

Case Studies: Scaling Indigenous and Community Enterprises in Brazil, Challenges and Opportunities ahead

An indigenous woman of the Xingu Seed Network at work | Photo courtesy: Tui Anandi and Danilo Urzedo (ISA)

Brazil is a great laboratory for studying indigenous and community enterprises that support forest conservation and community development. It has abundant and diverse indigenous and community projects and enterprises across the Amazon.

As part of an initiative to foster the growth of these enterprises, EDF catalogued as many examples as we could find and used the Canopy Bridge Atlas to map indigenous enterprises in the Amazon Basin. We selected three cases to investigate further, which are unique in different ways, but face similar challenges.

By studying the three cases, we found that:

  • Securing operating and sanitary licenses from the government has been the most significant challenge for the enterprises due to bureaucratic hurdles. They either are currently experiencing problems in obtaining these licenses or encountered significant problems in the past.
  • Government is also a key source of initial and steady demand, either directly or indirectly, of the products of these enterprises.
  • The enterprises have partnered with allies for technical assistance, start-up funding, and/or continuing funding, in order to scale and maximize impacts.

The Babassu Nut Collecting Cooperative

The Cooperativa Interestadual das Mulheres Quebradeiras de Coco Babaçu (CIMQCB) is a decentralized cooperative formed by women from forest communities who collect and process babassu nuts in Brazil. CIMQCB sells its main products, babassu nut soap, oil, and flour, to various types of local, regional, and national customers.

While obtaining sanitary licensing from the government has been an obstacle for CIMQCB to accessing some markets, the federal government’s school food acquisition program is also a consistent and large client for one of its sub-groups.

Partnerships with foreign development programs have been essential for its organizational development. The European Union and the German Development Bank were some of its first donors. Currently, the cooperative receives supports from the Program of Small Ecosocial Projects.

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The Jupaú Cassava Flour

The Jupaú indigenous people, also known as Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, who were officially contacted for the first time forty years ago. Their traditional processing techniques create a unique flavor and have attracted significant demand for their product.

However, the Jupaú are not formally organized as a business and are faced with the challenge of meeting sanitary and business regulations as well.

To help them overcome the challenges, Kanine, a local non-profit, is working with the Jupaú to find a culturally appropriate manner to increase their production and secure appropriate licenses from the state, while maintaining their unique and traditional processing that makes their product special.

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The Xingu Seed Network

The Xingu Seed Network (RSX) was officially established in 2007 by an association of individuals and organizations working on community development in the Xingu River region. The network sources seeds for 200 different native species that are used for reforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado regions. In RSX, indigenous women are the majority of the seed collectors and the activity is an important source of income for them.

Financial and technical support from donors has played a key role in RSX’s growth. It is on the pathway to financial sustainability from its seed sales ($95,000 in 2015).

Similar to the other cases, business regulations and obtaining the proper licenses have been challenging for RSX. The Brazilian Forest Code drove a significant amount of early demand for their seeds, recent changes to it depressed demand.

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Overcoming bureaucratic licensing hurdles, finding right partners, connecting with government programs, and complying with government regulations are the key challenges and opportunities the enterprises highlighted here and many others face.

In the future, EDF and our partners will continue to work with these indigenous and community enterprises throughout the Amazon to help them to overcome the challenges, scale their businesses, and maximize their impacts. There is still much to be done to conserve what is left of the Amazon forest.

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Lessons from Brazil on how to turn companies' zero-deforestation commitments into action

By Michelle Mendlewicz, EDF Global Climate 2016 Summer Fellow and Dana Miller, Policy Analyst

Cattle ranching in Brazil | Photo: Scott Bauer via Wikimedia Commons

Hundreds of major consumer goods companies that have driven the demand for soy, palm oil, timber & pulp, and beef – the big four commodities that contribute significantly to deforestation – have committed to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains. However, a vast majority haven’t yet acted on their zero-deforestation commitments or reported their progress.

According to a report by Forest Trends’ Supply Change, the majority of companies do not disclose their progress on zero deforestation commitments, with only 23% to 27% of commitments backed-up by data.

An analysis by The Sustainability Consortium found similar results, with 25% to 40% of companies reporting any information on deforestation for beef, soy, and palm oil.

Cutting and burning trees adds as much pollution to the atmosphere as all the cars and trucks in the world combined, which is why it’s important that more than 400 companies, including Walmart and Unilever, that have committed to achieving zero net deforestation by 2020 actually follow through on their pledges.

Two examples from Brazil, home to the largest remaining area of rainforest in the world, show that collaboration with governments and civil society can help companies turn their zero-deforestation commitments into action.

Mato Grosso’s ambitious strategy

Brazil successfully reduced Amazon deforestation by about 75% from 2005 to 2013 while maintaining robust growth in beef and soy production. Its success can be largely attributed to joint efforts between companies, government agencies, and environmental communities.

Brazil’s experience shows it takes more than commitments from companies to accomplish zero deforestation — businesses must focus on implementation and monitoring.

An example of this collaboration is Mato Grosso’s “Produce, Conserve, Include” (PCI) strategy, launched at the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015. The State of Mato Grosso contributed to 50% of Brazil’s deforestation reduction between 2005 and 2013, while increasing beef and soy production. It is the largest agricultural commodity producer in the Amazon, producing 27% of the soy, 25% of the corn, and 19% of the beef in Brazil. The PCI plan aims to simultaneously reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 90% by 2030, increase agricultural production, and promote socioeconomic inclusion of smallholders and traditional populations.

Major soy and beef merchants Amaggi and JBS, non-governmental organizations such as EDF and partners in Brazil, and the Government of Mato Grosso worked together to develop the plan and continue to collaborate on its implementation.

As PCI’s coordinator stated, the ambitious strategy is only possible because it was “embraced” by society, and due to local partners and international supporters of the initiative.

Brazil’s businesses, governments and civil society successfully reduce deforestation from beef production

Another example of collaboration between businesses, governments and civil society has already shown success in reducing deforestation from commodity supply chains in Brazil. An agreement between Greenpeace and food processing companies in Brazil, Marfrig, JBS, and Minerva, requires farmers to provide information about their suppliers. This information is then cross-checked with government agencies, including the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (Ibama) and the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Ministério Público), to eliminate environmental or socially harmful practices. According to Marfrig, of the 8,303 properties monitored in the Amazon region, 6,471 are approved to supply cattle, while the remaining 1,679 properties are banned.

Meatpacking companies also signed a Term of Adjustment of Conduct (TAC) with the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) to stop purchasing cattle originating from properties that cause illegal deforestation, are located on indigenous territories, are not registered with the government’s system, or are featured in the Ministry of Labor’s list of labor analogous to slavery.

A study published in 2015 found that both agreements – the one with Greenpeace and the TAC with government agencies – have incentivized behavior change by companies. Ranchers supplying to these companies complied with laws to register their properties with the government’s system two years before nearby ranchers. Only 2% of purchases by JBS were with registered properties before the agreement was signed, while 96% of transactions were with registered companies by 2013. Purchases by slaughterhouses from recently deforested properties fell from 36% in 2009 to 4% in 2013. According to Supply Change, JBS and Marfrig have self-reported 100% progress on commitments to zero-deforestation cattle, among other commitments.

Implementing, monitoring and collaborating on zero-deforestation commitments

Challenges remain, however, in eliminating deforestation from beef supply chains. Marfrig, JBS, and Minerva control around half of beef slaughter in the Amazon, while companies that control the other half have no monitoring systems or commitments in place. The limited scope of the agreements can cause issues including “laundering” – when ranchers raise cattle on noncompliant properties and move the animals to compliant ranchers before selling them to slaughterhouses – and “leakage,” when cattle produced on recently deforested land are sold to slaughterhouses that do not have monitoring systems in place.

Greater collaboration between a larger number of companies, producers and governments within a region can reduce the risk that deforestation will leak to other suppliers.

Brazil’s experience shows that it takes more than commitments from companies to accomplish zero deforestation. In order to achieve real progress, businesses must focus on implementation and monitoring. By collaborating and engaging with government agencies and environmental communities, companies can overcome the challenge of traceability and advance the fight against climate change.

For more information on efforts to reduce deforestation from cattle supply chains, visit

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True crime is jeopardizing the future of the Amazon, but indigenous groups and Brazil’s police are fighting back – together


Indigenous groups and law enforcement in Brazil are working together to reduce illegal mining and logging in the Amazon. About 80% of Amazon timber is produced through illegal extraction, which degrades biodiversity and carbon stocks. Photo: © Brasil2 /

A new operation against land grabbers and illegal loggers in Brazil’s state of Pará is showing how collaboration between indigenous and forest communities and law enforcement can take on the biggest ongoing threats to the Amazon forest: illegal logging and illegal deforestation for land grabbing.

Launched June 30th, the operation started with an investigation two years ago after leaders from the Kayapô indigenous group reported clandestine deforestation on the western border of their territory to the Brazilian federal environmental enforcement agency, IBAMA. 

Guided by the Indians, IBAMA agents discovered encampments of workers who were clearing the forest in the indigenous territory and on adjacent public land, while leaving the tallest trees; this hid the illegal deforestation from satellite monitoring. The workers, who according to police labored under semi-slave conditions, would then burn the understory and plant pasture grass. Meanwhile, another part of the gang surveyed and forged land registry documents to sell the land. IBAMA agents shut down the camps, detained personnel and issued fines – and brought in the Prosecutor's Office and Federal Police to investigate.

We can protect the Amazon from degradation and deforestation. Both problems have the same solution.

That investigation led to an impressive 24 arrest warrants, nine subpoenas, and 18 orders for search and seizure, in five states, in what Federal Police, Prosecutor’s Office, Internal Revenue Service and IBAMA call the biggest illegal deforestation and landgrabbing mafia in the Amazon. Several of the gang’s leaders have already been imprisoned and face tens of millions of dollars in fines – as well as, potentially, stiff jail sentences.

The gang’s operation shows how the illegal value chains work.

First, the operators deploy semi-slave labor to invade reserves or occupy public land not designated for any particular use. They extract the highest-value hardwoods, then slash and burn the forest, and plant pasture. Meanwhile higher-up gang members draw up fraudulent documentation and sell the land to investors. The bosses of this high-tech organized crime enterprise run the “ranches,” coordinate a marketing group, hire surveyors and remote sensing specialists, and use family networks to launder illegal revenue. Prosecutors estimate that the group had revenues of almost $600 million between 2012—2015.

Organized criminal enterprises like this one are behind most if not all of the high-value illegal activities in the Amazon frontier zone – illegal logging, use of semi-slave labor, illegal deforestation for land grabbing and fraudulent sales, and tax evasion in the approximately 30% of the region under near-term threat of destruction or degradation.

Taking down a gang like the western Pará outfit is better than a two-for-one deal.

Operation Flying Rivers

The now-formalized program that just launched – a joint effort of Brazil’s Federal Police and the Federal Prosecutor’s Office – is called “Operation Flying Rivers,” after the huge quantities of water vapor the Amazon forest releases into the air, responsible for rainfall regimes as far away as California, which by some estimates approximates the volume of water flowing in the Amazon river.

The program is a good example of how effective collaboration between local forest communities and government authorities can be. And “Flying Rivers” goes way beyond stopping a particular invasion here, or apprehending some timber there; it aims to take apart the command structure of an entire criminal enterprise with multiple illegal value chains extending over much of western Pará.

This kind of persistent, integrated, multi-agency, enforcement campaign is central to addressing the real causes of continuing illegal deforestation and forest degradation, as well as land fraud – and critical to establishing the forest governance needed for long-term sustainable use of forests, including at-scale economic incentives for stopping legal deforestation and finance for eliminating illegal forest clearing through carbon markets and other sources.

Deforestation in Brazil

Brazil has made huge progress in reducing deforestation – but momentum has stalled. Since 2011, deforestation has been hovering around 5,000 km²/yr – not heading for zero, as an increasingly solid scientific consensus advises. This is way less than the 19,500 km²/yr average from 1996—2005, but still much too much. And, in lawless frontier regions, like southwestern Pará, illegal logging is degrading biodiversity and carbon stocks over vast areas.

It is generally held that about 80% of Amazon timber is illegally extracted, with the lion’s share sold in Brazil. That is about the same proportion of the Amazon’s current deforestation estimated to be illegal.

But you only have to look at the satellite photos to see why indigenous territories and other kinds of protected forest areas have been so important to Brazil’s success in reducing Amazon deforestation over 70% in the last decade, making it the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

Kayapô, Panará indigenous territories and Xingu Indigenous Park (dark green), with fires and smoke plumes on their borders. Indigenous territories and protected areas are effective barriers to deforestation and fires.

Kayapô, Panará indigenous territories and Xingu Indigenous Park (dark green), with fires and smoke plumes on their borders. Indigenous territories and protected areas are effective barriers to deforestation and fires. Photo: NOAA satellite.

EDF’s partners in the Xingu River basin – indigenous and traditional forest communities, including the Kayapô and 17 other indigenous peoples – monitor and defend a continuous area of protected forest more than twice the size of New York state. They have mobilized a lot of successful enforcement operations to stop illegal logging and land grabbing, including the “Flying Rivers” program.

This is why the law enforcement operation launched in Pará is so important and promising.

We can look at it as a version of “bad money drives out good” – no legitimate forestry or agricultural enterprise can compete with unrestrained organized crime. “Flying Rivers” is an excellent example of what’s needed to level the playing field. We can protect the Amazon both from degradation and from deforestation. Both problems have the same solution.

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Brazil’s impeachment crisis puts its climate commitments at risk, threatening a major blow to global climate progress

The corruption and political crisis in Brazil could threaten global progress on climate change — but there are reasons for optimism. Above: Demonstration in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. Image Source: Tânia Rêgo/Agência Brasil

This post originally appeared on By André Guimarães, executive director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), and Stephan Schwartzman, senior director of tropical forest policy at the Environmental Defense Fund.

It may be hard to recall amid all the bad news coming from Brazil these days — the country’s worst recession in 30 years, its unprecedented corruption crisis, and above all the May 12 Senate vote to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and begin an impeachment trial against her — but this country has in recent years occupied a position of critical global leadership on climate change. Brazil is the world’s biggest reducer of greenhouse gas emissions, having slashed Amazon deforestation about 80 percent over the last decade. Brazil also contributed to the success of the Paris climate agreement last December by adopting an absolute, economy-wide emission-reduction commitment — one far more ambitious than those put forward by most developing countries.

The current crisis puts these commitments at risk, threatening a major blow to global climate progress.

Cutting and burning down trees accounts for about 15 percent of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions, and deforestation in the Amazon has ripple effects on weather patterns around the world, including rainfall as far away as California. While Brazil deserves credit for large-scale reductions in Amazon deforestation, progress has stalled in recent years. Since 2011, deforestation has been oscillating around 1,900 square miles a year rather than continuing toward zero — the goal an increasingly solid scientific consensus says is needed to guard against the risk of forest dieback. Inadequate government investment and a lack of positive incentives for forest protection are largely to blame.

The government is unlikely to allocate these needed resources during the circus of impeachment, which could last up to six months. Furthermore, for Brazil’s international climate commitments to come into force, Congress needs to make them into law — also unlikely to happen soon.

Yet we also see reasons for optimism amid the chaos and corruption.

Continue reading on Brazil’s impeachment crisis is bad news for climate change.

In Portuguese:  Impeachment, o ponto da virada

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Amazon states, global leaders in emissions reductions

Two states in the Brazilian Amazon — Mato Grosso and Pará emitted more greenhouse gases in 2004 than all but six nations in the world. More climate pollution than Japan. By 2012 they had cut emissions so dramatically, they dropped beneath 37 other countries.

This progress, achieved through reduced deforestation, is a major reason for the 80%  decline in Amazon deforestation between 2005 and 2014.

At the Paris climate conference, these two states rolled out plans for even more ambitious action.


(source: Observatório de Clima SEEG)

Ambitious forest policy is key to climate progress

Slowing Amazon deforestation has kept over 4 billion tons of CO₂ out of the atmosphere since 2005, several times more than the EU’s emissions reductions from 2005 – 2011. Major causes of the decline include better remote sensing monitoring, ramped-up law enforcement, credit limitations, company commitments to zero-deforestation commodity supply chains, large-scale creation of protected areas and recognition of indigenous territories.

The bad news is that plans positive incentives – payments from polluters to preserve forests — have not materialized.  Consequently, while deforestation dropped to a historic low of 4,500 km² in 2012 (from a peak of 27,000 km² in 2004), it has crept back up to around 5,000 km² in recent years.

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Why and how Brazil should do more to stop deforestation and climate change

Forest fire in Brazil

This post was co-authored by Paulo Moutinho of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and Steve Schwartzman of EDF. See the first part of this reaction to Brazil’s climate target: Brazil's climate pledge is significant, but falls short on curbing deforestation.

Brazil’s climate pledges in advance of the Paris negotiations were significant because it is one of the world’s most important emerging economies, and it’s taking on an absolute, economy-wide emissions reduction target. But, its related goal of achieving zero illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon by 2030 is widely regarded in Brazil as lacking in ambition.

Stopping deforestation, which formerly accounted for about 70% of Brazil’s emissions, would be good for Brazil, good for Brazilian agriculture, and supported by a large majority of Brazilians. It is also doable. Here are three reasons why, and a look at how Brazil could make such policies work.

1) More forest, less poverty: Brazil’s economy can grow without deforestation

Brazil succeeded in reducing Amazon deforestation by more than 80% since 2005 while maintaining robust growth in beef and soy production. There are at least about 56,000 km² of degraded cattle pasture in the Amazon that can be reclaimed for agriculture, as well as ample scope for intensifying cattle raising and improving yields, freeing up even more land.

Agriculture and land-use scientist Bernardo Strassburg argues that by increasing average productivity of pasture in Brazil from the current 30% of its potential to about 50%, Brazil could meet all new demand for commodities until 2040 with no new deforestation. The benefits to smallholders would be also important, considering the already deforested area (12.7 million hectares) available for agriculture expansion in rural settlements. With appropriate technical assistance and credit smallholders could produce more food (smallholders account for 80% of food production in the Amazon) with less deforestation.

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