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Amazon resettlement areas with disproportionate amount of deforestation

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Flickr/Neil Palmer/CIAT

Amazon settlement study disputes deforestation claims

“Deforestation rates within the settlements are following the same rates that apply outside the settlements since 2004” – Pedro Bruzzi,  Brazil’s National Institute for Colonisation and Agrarian Reform (INCRA)

by Gareth Willmer

Speed read

  • About 1.2 million have migrated to Amazon through official programmes
  • The government says most tree loss occurs before smallholders arrive
  • But resettlement areas found to cause disproportionate amount of deforestation

The resettlement of smallholder farmers in Brazil has spurred deforestation in the Amazon, according to fresh research on nearly 2,000 settlements in the region.

The findings undermine government claims that most deforestation occurs through logging before resettlement takes place. A study funded by Brazil’s National Congress published in PLOS One yesterday found that resettlement areas account for 13.5 per cent of deforestation in Brazilian Amazonia since the 1970s, despite covering only 5.3 per cent of the land.
Around 1.2 million people have been resettled since the 1970s, when the government encouraged migration into the Amazon. Other resettlement programmes aimed to give more land to the poor and reduce wealth disparities, but these have exacerbated deforestation as settlers clear jungle for farmland, the paper says.

The two researchers behind the study looked at satellite data of settlements and their wider environmental impact through farming as well as construction of infrastructure such as roads. Study author Maurício Schneider, a researcher at the National Congress, says deforestation rates are worse in settlements created between 2000 and 2010.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.