Selected category: Brazil

Local government must lead zero-deforestation efforts at jurisdictional levels

Véu de Noiva Waterfall in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil | Photo credit:Robert L. Dona via Wikipedia comms

Major consumer goods companies that have pledged to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains need support from their local governments to accelerate and scale up the implementation of their commitments, according to analysis from Environmental Defense Fund published in the latest journal from the European Tropical Forest Research Network (ETFRN).

Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, and hundreds of consumer goods companies that purchase soy, palm oil, timber & pulp, and beef—the big four commodities that contribute significantly to deforestation—committed to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains.

But a vast majority haven’t yet acted on their zero-deforestation commitments or reported their progress—and leadership from local government can help.

Why local government leadership is needed

One way companies are trying to reduce deforestation in their supply chains is by using global certification processes. But because the processes didn’t include local governments when designing their certifications, the certifications have not solved the underlying governance issues at the heart of deforestation. 

Global certification processes have not solved the underlying governance issues at the heart of deforestation

A more inclusive and comprehensive solution to illegal deforestation focuses on resolving deforestation from all activities located in a state, province, or within national boundaries, i.e. a “jurisdiction”, instead of focusing solely on the supply chain of one commodity or company. This means the local government leads a multi-stakeholder process including producers, purchasers, civil society, and other relevant actors.

Leading multinational private sector companies such as Unilever, Marks & Spencer, and Mondelez have adopted the jurisdictional approach to implement their zero-deforestation commitments.

Mato Grosso: an example of local government leadership

Mato Grosso’s jurisdictional approach, known as Produce, Conserve, and Include (PCI), provides a good example of how local governments can take the lead.

Launched in 2016, the initiative encapsulates the state government’s ambition to decrease deforestation while increasing agricultural production. The government is collaborating with local soy and beef producer associations, soy buyer Amaggi, beef packer Marfrig, and civil society organizations to grow the agricultural economy, improve incomes and services for the state’s small farmer families and maintain the 60% of the state under native vegetation cover.

While economic and political turmoil have slowed progress on implementing the ambitious strategy, it may nonetheless already be making a contribution to reducing deforestation: in 2016, deforestation decreased by 6% in Mato Grosso, while Brazil’s national deforestation increased by 29%.

How a jurisdictional approach should be implemented

In the analysis, EDF proposes a blueprint of how a jurisdictional approach should be implemented. Specifically, it provides guidance on:

  1. Which actors need to be involved and their roles
  2. Important definitions to be decided upon such as what is deforestation in the local context
  3. Process infrastructure needed such as a robust multi-stakeholder platform
  4. Where to find the funding for implementation

To move forward with zero-deforestation efforts, companies must build on the existing platform of global certification processes and speed up local governance solutions. Local governments must be involved and lead the process to tackle deforestation.

The new ETFRN journal serves as a timely guidebook for companies to work together with local governments and other stakeholders to accelerate and scale up the implementation of zero deforestation commitments. EDF will continue to work with our corporate and government partners to implement these lessons.

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Is Brazil stepping back from environmental leadership, just when it’s needed the most?

Michel Temer in April 2016. Credit: Fabio Rodrigues-Pozzebom/ Agencia Brasil via Wikimedia Commons.

Every conversation I have with my Brazilian friends and colleagues these days starts off with a discussion of whose political crisis is worse. It’s a hard question. But Brazil’s President Temer has the chance to show a little real leadership June 19th if he decides to veto a blatant giveaway of a large swath of protected Amazon forest to land grabbers and environmental lawbreakers.

U.S. and Brazilian presidents: The 19th-century take on development and the environment

Wildly unpopular U.S. President Trump was elected by maybe a third of eligible voters, with a substantial minority of votes cast. He is doing everything he and his staff can think of to roll back environmental protections in the United States and stymie progress on climate change globally. His ill-conceived scheme to pull the United States out the Paris Agreement would have us abdicate international leadership and surrender the enormous economic opportunity of the new, renewable, energy economy to China and other competitors.

Wildly unpopular Brazilian President Temer was put in power by an even more wildly unpopular Congress in an ultimately failed bid to shut down judicial investigations that are sending herds of them, and their business associates, to jail for massive graft and corruption. He (and his predecessor, who mismanaged the economy into the worst recession in Brazil’s modern history) has totally dropped the ball on controlling Amazon deforestation, which, in the absence of budget for enforcement has increased for two years running for the first time since 2004.

Brazil’s Amazon at risk

Since the weight of corruption scandals Temer is personally implicated in has him clinging to power by his fingernails, the yahoos in the “rural caucus” of the Congress (the voting bloc of big ranchers’ and agribusiness’ representatives) are taking the opportunity to run hog-wild with proposals to gut forest protections and roll back indigenous territories – two of the major reasons why Brazil became the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing deforestation by about 80% from 2004–2014.

By June 19th, Temer has to decide whether to veto measures that would deliver 600,000 hectares in an Amazon protected area to land-grabbers – and rampant deforestation. It's not just 600,000 hectares of forest at stake – caving to a flagrant play to carve up a federal conservation area to benefit slash-and-burn land grabbers is a terrible precedent for all of the Amazon protected areas.

All of this is rapidly eroding Brazil’s international climate leadership, and is bad news for the Paris Agreement. Brazil’s demonstration that a major emerging economy could reduce large-scale emissions while growing its economy and bringing millions out of poverty was a beacon of light in the climate negotiations that is dimming by the moment.

Brazil’s President Temer can show a little real leadership if he vetos a blatant giveaway of a large swath of protected Amazon forest to land grabbers and environmental lawbreakers

The abandonment of Brazil’s successful deforestation control program by President Temer and former President Dilma, if continued, will only hinder Brazil’s economic prospects in the 21st century global economy – like President Trump’s radical misreading (or ignorance) of the economic implications of the Paris Agreement for the United States. Increased deforestation will likely cause Brazil to lose market share as major commodity traders and consumer goods companies that have committed to zero-deforestation beef and soy supply chains curtail market access. Rampant violence and human rights abuses against indigenous peoples and grassroots environmental activists will expose public-facing companies to increasing reputational risk – and send them looking for lower-risk places to source.

On the other hand, support for sustainable development first movers such as Acre state and agriculture powerhouse Mato Grosso could make Brazil the go-to supplier for zero-deforestation commodities worldwide. And, as Amazon states, civil society and green business leaders have consistently advocated, if Brazil opened up to carbon market crediting for reduced deforestation in emerging international markets, it could unlock the finance needed to end deforestation in the Amazon and Brazil’s other mega-diverse biomes; make family and industrial agriculture 100% sustainable; and create sustainable prosperity in the 200 million hectares of indigenous territories and protected areas of the Amazon.

It’s hard to say whose loss is worse under U.S. and Brazil’s lamentable current policies, but maybe even harder to say whose gain would be greater if Trump and Temer would wake up and recognize the real opportunities in the 21st century economy.

Also posted in Deforestation, Indigenous peoples, News, REDD+| Leave a comment

Three reasons why it’s not too late to save the Amazon

Amazon Forest

Amazon Forest. Photo by Joseph King/Flickr

The latest New York Times Retro Report, “The Fight to Save the Amazon,” shows how Chico Mendes's ideas, his story, and the indigenous and local forest communities’ fight for their land rights that he gave his life for, have changed the Amazon, Brazil and the world – and how very far from over the fight is. My last post discussed what hasn't changed in the Amazon rainforest in the 28 years since Chico Mendes was assassinated. Here, I discuss three major changes to which Chico and indigenous leaders, including the Kayapô leaders Raoni and Megaron, profiled in the story, made major contributions.

What has changed since the fight to save the Amazon began in the 1980s?

1. The whole idea of development has changed.

Part of what gave the ranchers and land-grabbers who killed Chico such confidence that no one would be held to account for the crime was they thought they were on the right side of history. “The gringos cut down all their forests and got rich – why shouldn’t we?” was the received wisdom. When Chico said “We realized that in order to guarantee the future of the Amazon we had to find a way to preserve the forest while developing the region’s economy,” he was way ahead of the curve.

Now no one says that deforestation is the price of progress anymore – and deforestation was down about 80% between 2004 – 2014, while cattle and soy production increased. Brazil’s Agriculture Minister, mega-soybean producer Blairo Maggi, says that nobody is more conscious of the need to stop deforestation than farmers, because they know that standing forest is critical for the rain they need. Maggi – as well as agribusiness, state governments, indigenous groups, grassroots social movements like the rubber tappers’ movement, and many in the federal government – now agree with Chico that the Amazon needs real economic incentives to make forest protection a viable environmental asset.

2. Environmentalists recognize that indigenous and other forest peoples’ land rights are central to forest protection – and Amazon social movements see environmentalists as allies.

When Chico was alive, mostly environmentalists thought that people in the forests were the problem and that real conservation was about finding the highest-biodiversity and most remote, inaccessible pieces of forest possible and setting up parks with guards. While defending remote high-biodiversity forest is a good thing, leaders like Chico, Raoni and Megaron , showed the world that their people were holding the line against the advance of the lawless, entirely unsustainable frontier. Environmentalists – and increasingly, Brazilian public opinion –came to support indigenous and forest peoples’ rights and recognize that protecting the forest is a valuable service. This has greatly helped swing numerous local struggles to the Indians’ and forest peoples’ side.

Today, nearly half of the Amazon (think of half the land in the continental US west of the Mississippi) is officially recognized indigenous territories and environmentally protected areas (almost all of which are occupied by forest communities like Chico’s) and these territories are a big part of the reason Brazil is the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas pollution because of its success in reducing Amazon deforestation.

3. Companies are getting on board with deforestation-free commodity supply chains.

In Chico’s day, a lot of economic activity in the Amazon wasn’t very efficient and was heavily subsidized. Global markets, with the partial exception of timber, didn’t really connect with the Amazon.

Since then Brazil has become an export agriculture powerhouse, and major multinationals like Cargill and Walmart source a lot of soy and beef in the Amazon. But, as Fight for the Forest explains so well, Amazon deforestation became a global issue after Chico’s assassination and the Kayapo convergence against the Belo Monte dam, and it has remained on international public opinion and decision makers’ agendas. Big consumer goods companies like Walmart, Unilever and Marks and Spencer found out that having their brands stained with the ashes of dead forests was bad business, so many of them have committed to zero-deforestation supply chains, and are telling their suppliers they’ll need to comply to do business. That’s a message farmers and ranchers get – even though the last three years’ increases in deforestation show that the gap between taking the pledge and making it happen is large, and governments need to stop backsliding on law enforcement.

The people who killed Chico were fundamentally wrong. Chico died, but he didn't lose.

It’s worth remembering, as we head into what could be a time of great trial and trouble for the environment, that when Chico started out, the odds were seriously stacked against him. Dirt poor, illiterate, and under the thumb of an unenlightened  oligarchy at the end of world isn’t a great resume for most-likely-in-class-to succeed.

Chico started from a position far more disadvantaged, and had to overcome greater challenges than just about anyone who will read this. But he changed the world. Let him be an example to us.

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28 years after Chico Mendes’s death, four environmental challenges still facing the Amazon

caption

Chico Mendes in the window of his home with Sandino, his son, in Xapuri, state of Acre, Brazil. Author: Miranda Smith, Miranda Productions, Inc. November 1988. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I was at home on the evening of December 22nd, 1988 when I got the call from Brazil telling me that Chico Mendes had been murdered a few hours earlier.

Chico Mendes's ideas, his story, and indigenous and forest communities’ fight for land rights that he gave his life for have changed the Amazon, Brazil and the world. But the fight is far from over.

I, and Chico’s other friends, had thought that drawing media attention to his struggle to protect the forest and forest communities against the depredations of land-grabbing cattle ranchers would protect him. We were tragically mistaken.

But the cabal of land grabbers and their hired guns who killed Chico were wrong on a deeper level. They thought that his murder would go unnoticed, and that even if it didn’t everyone would know that cutting down the forest and driving a few poor rubber tappers off the land was the price of progress – inevitable.

The latest New York Times RetroReport, “The Fight to Save the Amazon,” does a very good job of showing both how very much Chico’s ideas, his story, and the indigenous and local forest communities’ fight for their land rights that he gave his life for, have changed the Amazon, Brazil and the world – and how very far from over the fight is. My next post will address what’s changed over the past 28 years, but here I’ll address four things that haven’t.

What hasn’t changed since the fight to save the Amazon began in the 1980s?

1. The frontier is still lawless.

Even though government and state agencies have stepped up enforcement, particularly since the 2004 Plan to Prevent and Control Amazon Deforestation, about 30% of the Amazon is still at risk for illegal logging, deforestation, gold mining and land grabbing.

Deforestation went down from about 27,000 km² in 2004 to a little over 4,000 km² in 2012 – but since then has oscillated around 5,000 km² and now has increased two years in a row, to an alarming near-8,000 km² this year.

It seems that a big part of the residual deforestation is linked to illegal activities, if not organized crime. Environmental/land rights activists like Chico don’t get killed in his home state of Acre, where ten years after he died, his people came to power and have made the state a sustainable development leader. But Brazil is still the world leader in killings of environmental activists, such as Luiz Alberto Araújo, municipal secretary of environment, murdered in Altamira, Pará on October 13th. Dismantling land grabbing and illegal deforestation gangs (as the Federal Police have clearly shown they can do in the last few years) and aggressively prosecuting their leaders need to be high priorities, and gathering the intelligence to do it needs dependable support.

2. The forest is still worth more dead than alive.

Chico’s prescient ideas on the need for forest protection while developing the Amazon economy have won the rhetorical war – but the actual incentives needed to create robust economic alternatives for indigenous peoples and forest communities, compensate good-actor landowners willing to forgo legal rights to clear forest, and fund the shift to high-value, zero-deforestation agriculture for family farmers and agribusiness alike have yet to materialize, and Brazil’s climate negotiators are not helping. Brazil should open up to emerging carbon markets to fund the elimination of deforestation in the Amazon and other biomes, while also pursing public donor funding.

3. Technology and capital to build 21st century supply chains and develop markets for sustainable forest products are still lacking.

After Chico was killed and his story went viral a wave of newly minted MBAs washed over the Amazon, full of passionate conviction that commercially viable sustainable alternatives based on non-timber tropical forest products were there for the taking (Full disclosure: I thought so too, at the time.) Then they figured out that bringing products of highly variable supply and quality to market over continental distances and no infrastructure wasn’t all that good a recipe for business success.

In some places, though, governments and NGOs kept at it, and developed alternatives that yield real benefits for local people. In Acre, for example, the government has invested heavily in things like fish farming on already cleared land, a high-tech condom factory using native rubber latex, and scaled-up Brazil nut processing technology.

In the Xingu indigenous territories and protected areas, NGO Instituto Socioambiental has brought in state-of-the-art technology to add value through local processing of fruits, nuts and oils, while training local people to collect native tree species seeds for sale to famers obliged by law to restore degraded lands. Alternatives like these raise incomes and help the communities get access to the market, and with investment, could help landowners derive sustainable value from the 80% of their holdings they’re required to keep under forest cover. But with over 2 million km² (equal to the size of four Californias) of indigenous territories and protected areas, these innovative pilots will need major investment and a world of new technology to come to scale.

4. The weather in the Amazon is still changing for the worse.

Chico saw before almost anyone else that the weather in the Amazon was changing. The combined effects of climate change and deforestation on regional and global rainfall regimes are provoking more frequent and intense droughts, and causing runaway forest fires in places that were always too moist to burn, even in the dry season. About half the rain that falls in the Amazon is from moisture cycled into the atmosphere by the forest itself – about 20 billion tons of water a day.

If climate change, deforestation and fires continue feeding off of each other, the Amazon ecosystem could unravel, and large parts of the forest could change into savanna. This could affect rainfall patterns as far away as California, and seriously reduce agricultural production in Brazil and other countries.

In one of the last interviews Chico gave before he was killed, he talked about the death threats he was getting and said he wanted to live to save the Amazon. In my next post, I’ll talk about some of the things that have distinctly changed for the better in the last 28 years – in no small measure because of Chico’s life and story – that make saving the Amazon a real possibility.

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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.

Read full case study 

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.

Read full case study

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.

Read full case study

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 Zerodeforestationcattle.org.

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