Brazil is known as the nation of forests. Yet its lush landscapes are increasingly under threat as a result of its resource-intensive economy.

Land degradation, deforestation, biodiversity loss, pollution and water shortages are consequences of Brazil's current development path. According to Global Forest Watch, Brazil lost 25 million hectares of primary forest between 2002 and 2019, an area larger than the UK. Land use and agriculture account for almost 70% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.  

There is a better way to sustain economic growth—one that helps local people restore their forests, farms and natural ecosystems. Reconciling agriculture with the conservation of natural resources and social inclusion can generate economic, social and environmental gains.

Growing native tree species that bring economic prosperity to local people and adding billions of trees to farms through agroforestry systems can revitalize millions of hectares of degraded land. The investment is worth it: Research shows that every hectare of land restored in Latin America adds $1,140 to the rural economy, creating jobs and boosting farmers’ yields while providing clean water and ample food. It can also suck millions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, helping Brazil meet its commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Brazil already has the plans and laws necessary to leverage a new restoration economy. And thanks to networks like Initiative 20x20, land restoration is gaining attention from private investors.

How can more farmers benefit from this potential and help achieve the national goal of restoring and reforesting 12 million hectares of degraded land by 2030? We can learn from the pioneers showing us that agriculture and forestry can work in harmony to build healthy landscapes and halt deforestation. Their examples can inspire others to join this journey, present investors with opportunities, and prove to government officials that with the right incentives, a forest-friendly economy can thrive.

Five champions revealed to us how they are restoring trees, overcoming challenges and renewing the landscape – along with their lives. They are Brazil’s Faces of Restoration.