Volume 13 Issue 4 - April 2, 2010
Add Bookmark RSS Subscribe BANYAN
Virgilio Viana
Seeing REDD
Da Hsuan Feng
A Historical Visit By Taiwan's T3 System to University of California Board of Regents Meeting
A Lesson on University System
Article Digest
Tzong-Yow Tsai
Saturable-Absorber Q-Switched All-Fiber Ring Lasers
Ching-Chuan Huang
Internal Soil Moisture And Piezometric Responses To Rainfall-Induced Shallow Slope Failures
Bor-Shyang Sheu
Body Mass Index Can Determine the Healing of Reflux Esophagitis with Los-Angles Grades C and D by Esomeprazole
Article Digest
Hua-Li Jian
The Role of Electronic Pocket Dictionaries as an English Learning Tool among Chinese Students
News Release
NCKU Press Center
2010 NCKU Student Forum Invited Tittot Founder Heinrich Wang
NCKU Press Center
US Air Force Academy Visited NCKU
Banyan Forum
Editorial Group
Seeing REDD
Virgilio Viana
director-general of the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation and an IIED Visiting Fellow
This article has been published in Chinadialogue on April 01, 2009.
In Brazil's biggest state, people are using an approach called REDD to conserve their forests in return for credit. Virgilio Viana explains the implications of the project for the struggle against climate change.
Deforestation remains an entrenched and ongoing issue in the Amazon, the world's largest and naturally richest rainforest. But Amazonas, Brazil's largest state, is seeing significant signs of change.

Amazonas harbours some 1.57 million square kilometres of rainforest – an area 10 times the area of the United Kingdom. It is also the site of the Juma Sustainable Development Reserve Project, the Amazon's first independently validated project where locals are being rewarded for protecting their forests, and reducing carbon emissions in the process.

Dubbed REDD for “reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation”, such projects are up against a formidable status quo in the Amazon. Deforestation there has an economic and social logic. It is the result of a perverse system that financially rewards those who clearfell, from land grabbers and illegal loggers to agribusiness. Cattle farming, for instance, is a highly profitable enterprise. From 1996 to 2006, numbers of cattle in the Brazilian Legal Amazon – that part of Brazil within the Amazon basin – rose from 37 million to 73 million. Deforestation is not a result of irrationality, ignorance or stupidity: people do get, or expect to get, real benefits from deforestation and unsustainable forest harvesting.

Besides the environmental impacts of expanding agribusiness and poor forestry practices, unsustainable development in the Amazon has also led to significant poverty and social inequality, notably the highest concentration of slavery cases in Brazil. Similar social injustices, targeting indigenous and traditional people in particular, occur on other deforestation fronts throughout the tropics.

Over the last few decades, a cautious optimism has emerged as isolated attempts to curb deforestation have yielded positive results. In Amazonas, deforestation has been in continuous decline, from 1,582 square kilometres in 2003 to 479 in 2008 – a 70% decrease. As a result of political change in 2003 with the election of governor Eduardo Braga [pdf], the state enacted a set of public policies aimed at reducing deforestation and improving livelihoods of forest dwellers. Lessons learned there and elsewhere can be expanded, adapted and replicated.

Obviously, the solution is not a simple, technical one. The starting point is no less than a radical change in the development paradigm. Forests have historically been seen as valueless, and forestry as backwards – neither of them worthy of inclusion in 'development' strategies, or of the usual set of policy instruments encouraging proper investment, such as tax incentives and appropriate credit.

Yet the major drawbacks being felt through deforestation now suggest that forests need to be regarded as valuable assets to individuals, families, business and governments. This paradigm shift has to be translated into broad cross-sectoral policies in areas such as finance, education, health , energy, and sustainable land use systems. In short, public, non-profit and private sector policies have to be guided by a simple message: 'forests are worth more standing than cut'.

And some valuations of standing forests in the Amazon have produced very positive results. On the one hand are the results of public policies aiming to increase the value of forest products – such as honey and managed timber – supporting private sector investment and social-environmental entrepreneurship . In Amazonas, the price paid to producers of andiroba oil, derived from the nut of the Carapa guianensis tree, increased 3.6 times from 2003 (when sustainable development policies began to be rolled out) to 2008. The more profitable sustainably harvested forest products become, the less attractive deforestation is, and the greater the economic stimulus to conserve forests.

Copyright National Cheng Kung University