After four years of disruption in the process of receiving international resources, the Amazon Fund is back and at the center of the global debate on responsible preservation and production in a biome which has been increasingly facing events of fires and deforestation and that is home to 66 municipalities among those with the worst Human Development Index (HDI) in Brazil.
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During the World Economic Forum, held this month in Davos, Switzerland, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Marina Silva, said she expects the Fund to reach the R$10 billion mark in resources, based on the expansion of the number of financing countries – today still restricted to Norway and Germany. However, how shall the Amazon Fund work and who will manage these resources?
Resumed on the first day of the current government, according to the Official Gazette, the Amazon Fund is still undergoing a restructuring mechanism. Actually, it is still managed by the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) and also falls back on the two committees: The Technical Committee (CTFA), which will be formed by six specialists appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, after consultation with the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change, whose role will be to certify the effective reduction of Carbon Emissions resulting from Deforestation; and the Guiding Committee (COFA), which, in addition to government agencies, will also include representatives from civil society organizations.
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COFA will be responsible for ensuring the loyalty of the Amazon Fund's initiatives to the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon (PPCDAm) and to ENREDD+, the latter being the National Strategy for REDD+ (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). COFA will also establish the guidelines and criteria for the application of resources.
For the physicist, climate scientist and professor at the Institute of Physics of the University of São Paulo, Paulo Artaxo, who is currently representing the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC) at COFA, the Fund's priority should be the reorganization of public policies with support of society towards zero deforestation. “We are committed to zero deforestation by 2030, however it is possible and desirable to accomplish this goal sooner”, says the professor, who is also a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
According to Artaxo, the role of the SBPC will be to represent all those interested in scientific and technological development that views Amazon as the solution for a better world. "For this, it is necessary to mobilize scientists, researchers and, of course, the native peoples, holders of ancient knowledge in the region. It is time to support research institutes and universities in the Amazon to discover and implement new economic activities that generate income and reduce the destruction," he says.
Paulo also advocates the Fund needs to focus on investments that have as a priority the combat against organized crime, dismantling illegal mining routes and invasion of indigenous lands and conservation areas. "It's a multidisciplinary effort. But reducing inequalities with the forest standing is possible. That's what we're going to prove to the world", he points out.
Resources need to reach small farmers
Sandra Bonetti is the secretary for the environment at the National Confederation of Agricultural Workers (Contag), which also integrates COFA. Since the first signs of resuming, the release of resources for the Fund, which have already been confirmed by both Norway and Germany (and involve resources of R$3.7 billion), she saw the hope of reinstituting an incentive that was lacking to farmers in recent years. "The resource was not accessed by farmers and those who really needed it. It had a very different focus and a significant decrease. We did not see the resources applied at the base, at the end. This made a difference in everyday life, unfortunately", she recalls.
According to Bonetti, CONTAG’s priority at COFA is to ensure that small farmers and extractivists can access resources to develop sustainable activities. The challenge is to encompass the diversity of demands in a region with so many differences that cannot be seen as homogeneous. "Our farmers need public policies to produce with quality. More and more they are expelled from their own territories. Public policy is not just credit. It is sanitation, health, safety, and above all, it means access to land. Large projects and large estates drive out small producers. And if you don't have land, you don't have where to produce. Brazil needs to recognize that family farming is responsible for more than 70% of what reaches the table of Brazilians", he points out.
The National Confederation of Industry (CNI), in a note, states that its role in COFA is to ensure that supported projects present impact on the reality of the place where they were developed in addition to concrete and measurable results. Besides CONTAG, CNI and SBPC, the civil society entities that make up COFA are: Fórum Brazilian Forum of NGOs and Social Movements for the Environment and Development, Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB); and the National Forum of Forest-Based Activities.
Investments can bring to life the “Restoration Arc”
Carlos Nobre, one of the greatest international authorities when it comes to the environment and climate and currently the co-chairman of the Scientific Panel for the Amazon, was appointed on January 20 as a member of the board of directors of the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES). Nobre highlights the importance of having resources to support actions that fight environmental crimes, enable protection of Conservation Units (CUs) and Indigenous Lands (TIs), without leaving apart the effort of establishing partnerships that guarantee resources for other fronts.
"I said in Davos that, ideally, the Fund (Amazon) should not be less than R$10 billion. We need a lot of donations to be able to reach zero deforestation, recover areas of degradation and create efficient agroforestry systems", he says. Agroforestry systems are those that recover the degraded area of agricultural production, in a model that associates trees with agricultural crops and, sometimes, also with animals. “Today, our local institutions are a sea of knowledge, they can help in the production of seeds and seedlings to have a restoration area greater than 50 million hectares. We have to save the Amazon and I am convinced that this is the way to go”, he adds.
After the change in Brazilian environmental policy and the return of the Amazon Fund, Nobre hopes to move forward on the proposal to create the “Arc of Restoration” of the Amazon, presented by the Scientific Panel for the Amazon this year, at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP- 27), in Egypt. The initiative involves a set of actions aimed at replanting one million square kilometers of forest. According to him, there are a lot of projects for the recovery of degraded areas that have already been supported by the Fund and which should now receive investments again to expand the work of recovery of degraded areas, contributing to the ambitious goal of the “Arc of Restoration”.
Nobre highlights that the Amazon already exceeds 830,000 km² regarding deforested area and that 500,000 km² is currently undergoing the process of degradation, which could cause a loss of 200 billion tons of carbon dioxide capture, impacting on achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement , signed in 2015, which proposes global targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Due to the Amazon Fund, there is a tendency, according to Nobre, for sustainable agroforestry systems to gain more space in abandoned areas. "And 20% of these areas were abandoned by livestock farmers. The secondary vegetation is growing, especially in the south of the Amazon. We need to stop deforesting and recover all indigenous territories and also conservation areas. If we also manage to recover the Federal areas that have no destination, they represent more than 540,000 km2. It is complex, but possible", he explains. "The rest, of course, would have to come from the restoration of private property areas. It is more challenging, since there is a lot of illegal deforestation on private property. But we have to determine public policies and step in. There are no simple solutions", he adds.
Technology - Carlos Nobre also states that resuming the Amazon Fund may attract investments such as the implementation of technology institutes, similar to the renowned MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), one of the main science and technology institutions in the world, located in the United States United. According to him, the project has already been presented to the Ministry of Science and Technology and should soon reach the BNDES desk. "We want the Amazonian, international and Brazilian scientific community to build an institute of the highest scientific quality. To bring into it the knowledge of traditional peoples and enhance development and the economy", he says.
Associations bet on the returning of investments
The Centro de Tecnologia Alternativa do Mato Grosso [Mato Grosso Center for Alternative Technology] was one of the beneficiaries of the Amazon Fund, between 2015 and 2018, before the interruption of funding during the previous federal administration. It is an association of family farmers and rural technicians focused on agroecology practices, that supports producers from the harvesting stage to the tactics of sharing added value and marketing for the commerce. The project's technical assistance currently impacts 1,200 families. The estimate by Saguio Moreira Santos, the Center's management coordinator, is that 50,000 people will benefit indirectly from the project. Using investments from the Fund, the project installed six community animal nurseries and implemented agroforestry systems in 250 rural properties, in addition to promoting training courses and beekeeping workshops.
"The direct beneficiaries are the communities, indigenous villages, family farmers, settled or not", explains Saguio. “There are many demands for the recovery of degraded areas and, by solving them, we can implement agro-silvopastoral systems with a focus on carbon sink", he adds.
Saguio regrets the lack of investments from the Fund in the last four years, but he believes that now all he has to do is to wait for the public calls for project selection to be launched. Paulo Roberto Souza agrees. He is a research and development analyst at the Mamirauá Institute, which also benefited from the Amazon Fund, from 2013 to 2019. The research institution operates in the region of the middle Solimões River, in the state of Amazonas, and has a fruitful project focused on the management of fishing resources, mainly in the pirarucu breeding chain, in addition to community forest management in floodplain areas. According to Souza, the Amazon Fund fostered several projects related to management, environmental education, research and extension, in addition to expanding the institute's activities.
"We experienced this struggle of lack of resources and how they impact on the forest conservation. Everyone involved was very sad about the interruption. So, we hopefully wait for this new opportunity", he says.
Almost a decade of positive results for the region
According to the document entitled “Síntese do Monitoramento dos Indicadores Regionais” [Summary of the Monitoring of Regional Indicators], a report related to the actions of the Amazon Fund, until 2018, before the interruption of transfers and registration of new projects, the gradual growth of the relevance of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the Amazon in relation to Brazil reached a participation of 8.9%, an increase of 1% in comparison with the figures of 2009, when the Fund started. There was also a 16% increase in the volume produced in the region and a 35% increase in revenue generated by the set of extractive products monitored by the Amazon Fund, in the period from 2009 to 2019. That is, in absolute numbers, the Fund generated revenue of R$254 million, obtained from the sale of products that impacted 207,000 beneficiaries. Due to the support from the Fund, there was also a 63% growth in the number of patent applications at the National Institute of Industrial Property by residents in the states of the Legal Amazon. In addition, the number of federal conservation units grew by 337%, as the Fund also provides resources for the management of these areas.
So far, climatologist Carlos Nobre cannot measure the impact of the interruption of international transfers to the Amazon Fund. "The interruption was a great pity, but it (the Fund) was supposed to save the Amazon and the previous national administration had a perspective for the Amazon closer to the 70s. The Fund became an enemy. The agreement did not allow resources for livestock and mining, but it was what the previous government wanted. It has been four years treating the trees as obstacles", he regrets.
After the returning of the Amazon Fund, in addition to the current financiers (Norway and Germany), other countries, such as the United Kingdom, have already stated that they are interested in investing. Besides governments, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation intends to raise R$519 million with the support of private companies. The interest is also shared by the Bezos Foundation, owned by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, one of the largest technology companies in the world.
With so many doors being opened, Sandra Bonetti, CONTAG's environment secretary, points out that society should have hope and be aware of the importance of investments to positively change the courses of the region. "As Brazilians, we have to be aware of how important we are for maintaining a healthy planet. It is for this mission that the Amazon Fund needs engage everyone to participate", she concludes.