Brazil leverages carbon markets for poor farmers

A carbon market in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is distributing revenues to farmworkers rather than landowners.

Writing in the Journal of Peasant Studies, Dartmouth College researchers said the approach in the Brazilian province of Acre could be a model for incentivising local communities to combat deforestation, climate change and predatory businesses.

“In resource rich areas in the rainforest, powerful actors have often profited at the expense of indigenous peoples and other local communities, who are often displaced from their land,” Dartmouth Anthropologist Maron Greenleaf said in a press release.

“Efforts to value forest carbon threaten to do the same. Through Acre’s carbon value program, in contrast, the state government attempts to create an inclusive, green economy in a way that also expands its social welfare initiatives.”

Around 86 per cent of the Acre’s total land area of 164,000 square kilometres is forested. The province has been selling carbon credits to Britain and Germany. Plans are underway for the American state of California to buy credits, too.

But in the much of Acre, local subsistence farmers and ranchers who are most likely to clear land are ‘posseiros’ who do not formally own their fields.

Risks remain with the program, said Greenleaf. For example, posseiros face an uphill battle in Brazil’s bureaucracy to claim ownership of the land they might have farmed for generations. Owning their land would be the best way to accumulate wealth, she added. The program also grants new power to Acre’s government that someday might adversely affect the posseiros.

Still, said Greenleaf, local farmers and the world are better off in the short-term.

“This is an example of how we’re seeing environmental policy being harnessed to create new kinds of economies,” she said.

Image credit: fgmsp via Pixabay

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