When U.S. President Joseph Biden meets with Brazil’s newly elected president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in Washington this week, climate change and the fate of the Amazon will be one of the many items of discussion, according to news reports.
There’s much to talk about: The world’s largest rainforest, 60 percent of which lies inside Brazil’s borders, saw an uptick in deforestation in recent years — pushing the Amazon biome ever closer to the dreaded “tipping point” at which the entire ecosystem would shift irrevocably to dry savannah.
But there’s good news — in the form of three efforts under way that are aimed at halting the destruction of the most important stretch of forests on Earth.
1. Regrowing the forest: A bold initiative to regrow 73 million trees in the Brazilian Amazon has made progress despite unexpected setbacks, according to an upcoming report.
The initiative, launched in 2017 to much fanfare, has delivered almost 20 percent of its forest restoration target, according to Conservation International in Brazil, one of several partners involved in implementation. The initiative was to have completed this year — but was thwarted by political winds and the coronavirus pandemic.
The good news: The areas that have been restored are seeing tree yields three times higher than initial estimates.
“Rather than 3 million trees growing in 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres), as we would have expected, we’re estimating 9.6 million trees in the same area,” based on monitoring reports, said Miguel Moraes of Conservation International’s Brazil office. “This is a very good result, and it offers hope of overcoming the challenge of reducing restoration costs to enable restoration at a large scale.”
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2. Helping people to help the Amazon: At least a quarter of the Amazon rainforest is under the control or management of Indigenous peoples and local communities.
Supporting the Amazon means supporting them. To that end, the “Our Future Forests–Amazonia Verde” program is helping them access the funding they need to conserve forests and support their livelihoods.
Launched in 2020 by Conservation International and with funding from the government of France, the project aims to contribute to the protection of 12 percent of the Amazon Basin by providing Indigenous peoples and local communities across seven countries with the tools, training and funding needed to build sustainable businesses and social enterprises that do not contribute to deforestation in the Amazon.
But how to bring together people and knowledge over such vast distances and with limited infrastructure? One solution: Go remote.
One of the most innovative — and ambitious — aspects of the project is setting up a distance learning and global knowledge sharing platform for Indigenous people. Informed by lessons from COVID lockdowns, this platform would enable training activities from afar, taking advantage of existing 3G, Internet and even radio coverage that many of the target communities already have. By building upon this infrastructure, the platform aims to create a strong network of information between the project and Indigenous peoples, and between Indigenous peoples themselves.
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3. Millions for reforestation: The government of Germany last month pledged US$ 215 million to help Brazil protect and restore the Amazon rainforest, Reuters reported.
The package includes US$ 38 million for the Amazon Fund to strengthen a billion-dollar initiative funded by Norway and Germany to combat deforestation.
According to Reuters, the Amazon Fund was re-activated by Brazil's Environment Minister Marina Silva the day she took office, vowing to halt deforestation in the world's largest tropical rainforest. The fund had been frozen since 2019, when former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro abolished its governing board and action plans.
The aid package also includes funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives and reforestation programs.
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Bruno Vander Velde is the managing director of content at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates. Also, please consider supporting our critical work.