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The Amazon Forest is considered one of the most biodiverse in the world, and is relied on for multiple ecosystem services, especially water regulation. The Amazon biome covers around 49% of Brazil’s total land area. Brazil currently has 197 forest-dwelling indigenous groups.

The Amazon faces a number of significant pressures, including agricultural expansion, mining, and the growth of infrastructure. In the past ten years, the government of Brazil has taken numerous steps to improve the management of the Amazon forest and reduce deforestation, including granting lands to indigenous peoples, implementing environmental regulations and licensing programs to manage agricultural, forestry, and infrastructure expansion, and instituting command and control programs. In 2012, Brazil announced a decline of 27% in the rate of deforestation in the region from August 2011 to July 2012, contributing to a 76.27% overall reduction compared to its 2004 baseline of 27,000 square kilometers of annual deforestation.

Despite these significant results, however, the rate of deforestation and forest degradation in the Brazilian Amazon is still high enough to be considered a threat to the ecosystem. Data released by INPE—Brazil’s National Space Research Institute—in May 2013, reveal a rise in deforestation in the Amazon, with levels of forest loss in May 2013 five times that of May 2012. Changes in policies, like the Forest Code, also present a risk of increased deforestation.

The process of formalizing and administering forest land rights in Brazil remains incomplete. For example, while Brazilian law recognizes several forms of both individual and joint property rights, 1% of the Brazilian population owns 45% of all land and there are nearly five million landless families. It is estimated that about 53% of land in the Legal Amazon has uncertain property rights. There are a number of social and environmental problems are attributed to this situation, for example, Imazon has identified that 76% of deforestation in Pará occurs in areas where property rights are unclear and insecure.

In 2008, Brazil announced a plan to reduce deforestation by 80% by 2020. This target is part of Brazil’s National Climate Change Plan. Following the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the government enacted the National Climate Change Policy (Brazilian Law 12.187), legally confirming its voluntary reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions. This is Brazil’s second significant policy to reduce deforestation, following the Program to Prevent and Control Deforestation in the Amazon (PPCDAM), which comprises of around 200 actions to reduce deforestation in the Amazon forest.

GFI in Brazil

GFI in Brazil works to identify and address key governance challenges to strengthen land use laws and practices, particularly in the States of Mato Grosso and Pará. GFI partners encourage greater accountability and transparency in forest governance by:

Demonstrating important governance gaps that impact the management of forest lands.

  • In 2011, Imazon and Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) analyzed the governance of four environmental and forest funds in Pará and Mato Grosso. They found significant governance weaknesses that jeopardize the funds’ desired social and environmental goals. In one case, state prosecutors investigated further and discovered that substantial funds had been diverted to illegal uses. The money was returned after legal action was taken against those responsible. GFI has continued this work and a review of all the legal Amazon state’s funds will be published this year.

Participating in REDD+ processes in Mato Grosso, Pará, and at the national level.

  • IMAZON and ICV have made both procedural and substantive contributions. Contributions have included improving participation of local actors in policy discussions; substantive inputs into REDD+ safeguard systems discussions at a state and national level; and the development of a REDD Program and REDD+ law in Mato Grosso, as well as clarification of how property rights in Brazil could impact a REDD+ law at the national level, and a study of the existing safeguards in Brazil PES systems.

Assessing the participation challenges in the development of the Mato Grosso state zoning law.

  • This law has currently been put on hold as a result of a state lawsuit and identification by the Federal Zoning Commission of both procedural and substantive problems related to the development of the law.

In addition, GFI Brazil has participated in and produced research to support the implementation of other major policies to reduce deforestation. For example, ICV assessed the challenges with the development and implementation of the first PPCDAM-MT as an input to the development of the 2013- 2015 plan, IMAZON has looked at the tenure challenges limiting the Para Green Municipalities Program, and both are considering the implementation of the Forest Code at the state level.

Photo Credit: CIFOR/Flickr.

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