March 31, 2011

The Program "Amazonia without Fire" being Promoted in Bolivia

A decade ago, Brazil started a program called "Amazonia without Fire" (Amazonia sem Fogo) with the goal of reducing the amount of fires and deforestation in the Amazon Region of Brazil while at the same time still improving the lives of rural residents in the region. The program has been successful in the Brazilian states of Acre, Para, and Mato Grosso and it is now being considered for Bolivia and Ecuador. The program originally grew out of a cooperative effort between the Brazilian Environmental Minister and the Italian Embassy in Brazil.

It was determined that the best way to reduce the amount of land being cleared was to increase the productivity of the land that had already been cleared. As a result, an integral part of the program was to set up a series of demonstration plots that illustrated just how to improve the productivity of land that has already been cleared. The vast majority of land that has been cleared in the Amazon Region was planted to pasture for cattle ranching. The demonstration plots show ranchers how to increase the carrying capacity of their pastures instead of clearing new land in order to expand their operations.

Nationwide, the carrying capacity of Brazilian rangeland is 0.9 head per hectare. The figure is even lower in areas where the pastures have been degraded either by poor maintenance or by high amounts of erosion. Typically, the soils in the Amazon Region are highly erodible especially under the torrential rains typical of the region.

In the municipality of Guaranta do Norte in Mato Grosso, the number of fires have been reduced 93%. In the municipality of Alta Floresta also located in Mato Grosso, the reduction has been 98%. In fact, the municipality of Alta Floresta received a prize of R$ 300,000 in 2008 for being the municipality in Mato Grosso with the least amount of fires.