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A photo essay from São Félix do Xingu, Brazil, where proponents of the REDD+ initiative seek to curb carbon emissions through avoided deforestation. The area faces increasing pressures from changes in land use due to conversion of forest to agriculture, among others. More details at http://blog.cifor.org/25668/redd-on-the-ground-unintended-consequences-in-a-microcosm-of-the-amazon
Lessons from REDD+ case studies: Sustainable landscapes in São Félix do Xingu
Sustainable landscapes in
São Félix do Xingu
Photographs by Rodrigo Calvet
In the 2000s, São Félix do Xingu, a municipality in the Brazilian state of Pará, recorded
some of the worst deforestation in the Amazon – leading to a series of local, national
and global efforts to tackle the problem.
Burning the forest to clear land for cattle ranching and agriculture caused so much
deforestation, São Félix do Xingu was one of 42 municipalities on the Brazilian
government’s ‘blacklist’, blocking farmers from accessing credit.
In 2009, the The Nature Conservancy (TNC) began a project that is now called the
Sustainable Landscape Pilot Program, aiming to involve local actors across the
municipality to provide alternatives to deforestation.
Scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), including Maria
Fernanda Gebara, shown here, have been analysing the TNC initiative, as part of a
global study examining programs that aim to reduce deforestation and forest
Some early findings: TNC prioritised clarifying land tenure – a persistent issue in
these kinds of initiatives. It helped property owners register their land under the
government system known as CAR.
This had an unintended consequence. Although deforestation in SFX has fallen, it
actually went up in the areas that had been registered, as property owners were then
able to access government cattle subsidies they’d previously been denied.
This is an important lesson, Maria Fernanda Gebara says – proponents in Brazil need
to combine CAR registration with incentives, like access to other kinds of government
low-carbon agriculture credits.
Another finding from the CIFOR study was that delays matter. The uncertainty around
REDD+ - and the lack of a global agreement on climate change that includes
deforestation and allows for carbon funding - has had an impact on the ground.
Smallholder farmers have reduced deforestation, but due to the delays and
uncertainty around funding, they haven’t yet received much in return, Gebara says. In
some cases this is increasing food insecurity and social inequality.
“Smallholders need to see the alternatives that REDD+ is supposed to create,” Gebara
says. Whether the scheme works, she says, depends on how quickly initiatives manage
to move ahead to “phase 2” – implementation of measures on the ground.
For more information about São Félix do Xingu and CIFOR’s Global
Comparative Study on REDD+, visit:
CIFOR's Global Comparative Study on REDD+ is
supported in part by the CGIAR Research Program on
Forests, Trees and Agroforestry
and by NORAD, AusAID, DFID
and the European Commission.