[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
New trees to reclaim Amazon lands
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, Rio Branco

Mahogany seedlings.  Image: BBC
Seedlings of mahogany abound at the Rio Branco nursery
A Brazilian state intends to make cattle ranchers reforest land which they have cleared for grazing.

The government of Acre in the Amazon has established a nursery growing seedlings of species such as mahogany which they will issue to ranchers.

Ranchers may be made to reforest up to 30% of their land.

The government sees this as a vital component of its longterm aim to develop sustainable forestry as a key income generator for the state.

We see this as a model for other Amazonian states where logging is unsustainable
Governor Jorge Viana
Until a decade ago, private landowners were allowed to deforest 50% of their land. Now legislation has amended the figure to 20%; but many ranchers have not replanted at all.

Luis Menezes from the environmental group WWF, based in the Acre capital Rio Branco, says the impact of deforestation is being felt locally.

"Acre is only about 11% deforested, but most of that is around the capital," he told the BBC's One Planet programme, "so there are municipalities which have already lost more than half of their forest cover.

Locator map of Acre
"Already they are seeing a decrease of the available water supply."

Earlier this year, the Acre government inaugurated a nursery on the outskirts of Rio Branco.

There, row upon row of mahogany, acai, Brazil nut, palms and other trees are cultivated, the majority of seedlings as yet less than half a metre high.

"We are planning a big project here," said Acre's governor Jorge Viana, a former forest engineer.

"In this nursery we will produce about four million plants each year."

Pioneering plants

Cattle and rainforest. Image: BBC

"I believe this is the first time that any Brazilian state has embarked on reforestation as a public policy," commented Mr Menezes.

"There have been some research projects, and the federal government runs a programme called ProAmbiente which rewards small landowners for tree planting; but there have been some problems with that."

Whether Acre's plans will be problem-free is yet to be determined. Cattle ranching has a history of non-conformism here, the most notable incident being the murder of rubber tapper and social activist Chico Mendes in 1988.

Mendes remains a towering figure in Acre, and his concept of sustainable forestry is the inspiration for Jorge Viana's government as it seeks to move away from a model of economic development based on burning forest and grazing cattle to one where the local economy rests largely on forest products.

House of Chico Mendes. Image: BBC
Chico Mendes remains a huge figure 18 years after his murder
Sustainably logged timber, Brazil nuts, berries, rubber and medicinal plants would all be developed, with as much processing done inside the state to enhance the economic return.

"We see this as a model for what can happen in other Amazonian states where logging is unsustainable," said Mr Viana.

Last year a report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization found that although deforestation is decreasing globally, in Latin America the area logged each year is rising, and now accounts for more than half the global total.

One Planet from Acre, Brazil, is broadcast on the BBC World Service from Wednesday 27 to Friday 29 September


Bumpy road to Amazon sustainability
27 Sep 06 |  Science/Nature
Soya producers 'will do better'
24 Jul 06 |  Science/Nature
Diary: The Amazon rainforest
19 Jul 06 |  Science/Nature
Brazil clears way for Amazon road
06 Jun 06 |  Americas
Nations want cash not to fell trees
30 Nov 05 |  Science/Nature
Deforestation slowing - UN
14 Nov 05 |  Science/Nature

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific