128 million hectares available for expansion of Agriculture without destroying forests
15 agosto 2011
Agricultural and livestock raising activities in Brazil can expand significantly and contribute to meeting the growing global demand for food without resorting to renewed deforestation.Agricultural and livestock raising activities in Brazil can expand significantly and contribute to meeting the growing global demand for food without resorting to renewed deforestation. That information is set out in a study report entitled ‘Reconciling Agricultural Production with Forest Conservation and Restoration’ presented by professor Britaldo Soares Filho, of the Geosciences Institute at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).
According to the study there are 128 million of hectares of land that could be used to expand agricultural activities in Brazil. Of the total amount, 90 million are in the Cerrado Savannahs and areas of Atlantic forest vegetation. “The heart of the debate is around the question of whether we should make the Forest Law flexible or make it feasible to enforce. I believe we should try to make it feasible”, he declared and added that the current Brazilian legislation is actually ‘well ahead of its time’.
Britaldo Soares Filho underscores the fact that in the last few years Brazil has become the third largest agricultural commodities exporter on the planet while, at the same time, it has been achieving significant reductions in the rate of deforestation in the Amazon. Against that background, he concludes that it is perfectly feasible for Brazilian agriculture to continue making its considerable contribution towards meeting the food needs of the growing world population, and to do so without putting its biodiversity or natural resources at risk.
The UFMG professor identified some policies that could contribute towards the recuperation of degraded areas and to elevating the productivity levels of Brazilian agribusiness, but he warned that they would require more consistent financing mechanisms than those currently in place. Among them would be carbon sequestering projects, international systems for CO2 reduction, wood species enrichment in legal reserve areas, a forested areas compensation market, and the intensification of crop and cattle-raising productivity.
“Our cattle sector raises, on average, 1.1 head of cattle per hectare, a figure that could easily be raised to 1.5 head. That is so true that the United States, with a national herd of 80 million head, produces more meat than Brazil with a herd of 180 million head”, explained Britaldo Soares Filho.
According to WWF-Brazil’s Conservation Director Carlos Alberto de Mattos Scaramuzza, in addition to the carbon market, there are other alternatives that could contribute towards making it feasible to comply with the Forest Code. He pointed to the example of projects like those in South Korea, remunerating proprietors for water resources and supporting green industries.
Scaramuzza also underscored the need to adopt solutions with a scientific foundation and stated that many such solutions are already available in Brazil, based on studies coordinated by highly renowned institutions. “We have an interesting situation here that offers support for the Forest Law decision-making process but, unfortunately, in the current debate that is not happening. Nothing of what Science and Technology have to offer has been used in formulating the proposed changes”, pondered the Conservation Director.