... Much of the current debate on the slowdown of deforestation and territorial sustainability has to do with improving the sustainability of cattle ranching...
Improving sustainable cattle production in the Brazilian Amazon
Why slowing deforestation is only the first step in the transition from a zero-deforestation model to one of territorial sustainability
Pablo Pacheco, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
17 Mar 2017
Brazil - The successful Brazilian experience in slowing down deforestation in the Amazon has captured a lot of attention in the global arena, but serious concerns linger about its possible resurgence.
While it is important to strengthen public and private arrangements to reach zero deforestation, or at least to stabilize it at relatively low absolute levels, more attention needs to be placed on the actions necessary to facilitate the transition from a zero-deforestation model to one of territorial sustainability.
This is the focus of a recent infobrief produced by scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD) and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) in the context of the TerraCert Project, which is implemented in the Municipality of Paragominas in the State of Pará.
The paper’s main argument is that while constraining deforestation expansion on farms is a necessary condition, it is not enough to facilitate the adoption of more sustainable land uses and production practices at the farm and landscape levels — both of which are essential to increasing territorial sustainability in the Amazon.
Much of the current debate on the slowdown of deforestation and territorial sustainability has to do with improving the sustainability of cattle ranching, which is seen as the main culprit of forest loss in the Amazon. Pasture expansion is responsible for more than two-thirds of the total accumulated deforestation in this region. Deforestation is generally associated with large and medium-scale ranching, but it also involves smallholders.
In light of this evidence, common thinking suggests that halting deforestation while simultaneously supporting the intensification of cattle production (i.e. allowing more intensive agriculture to replace low productive pasture lands) and promoting integrated crop-livestock-tree farming systems could constitute effective ways to support more sustainable landscapes in the Brazilian Amazon.
Up until now, a governance approach combining public policy and private initiatives has been effective in slowing down deforestation, but it has been unable to support a transition to more sustainable production systems. Building on current successes in reducing deforestation, new steps are necessary to achieve territorial sustainability. These require combining institutional arrangements and sociotechnical options.
New technical intensification models must be identified for low-productivity systems in degraded lands and adapted to the biophysical, social and technical conditions of the Amazonian landscapes. But since multiple constraints inhibit the uptake of these intensification options, reversing them requires that all constraints be addressed in a coordinated way.
Based on our research, we suggest three sets of actions to support making that vision a reality by involving the use of adapted production technologies, adopting monitoring systems that empower local actors, and implementing new public-private institutional arrangements.
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