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Impact of Deforestation in Amazon Region

Updated October 19, 2020
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Over the last five decades, deforestation has been one of the most prominent topics discussed worldwide. Forests provide us with many environmental services including mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, offering us watershed protection, and providing habitats for animals and the livelihoods of local communities.

Despite mankind’s dependence on forests, the ecosystem is being jeopardized by mass industrialization, and slash and burn agriculture. This raises the question: to what extent does deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest affect the livelihoods of the Amazon Region in the last 50 years? Although technology has advanced, deforestation rates of the Amazon rainforest in 2018 are at its highest they have been in ten years time. Consequently, the impact towards local farmers and Indigenous communities are devastating as land and resources are being taken away. The local communities show a stronger incentive to protect their livelihoods against external deforestation pressures compared to the Amazonian governments.

Mass Industrialization

The privatization of rural development can be viewed as the key issue regarding deforestation and social conflict. Indigenous reserves—classified by the Brazilian government as a protected area (Jusys 1)—serve not only as a home for the Indigenous people but as a place that offers rich possibilities. In the last decade, mass industrialization and the pursuit of a greater area for agriculture has caused accelerated rates of deforestation in tropical regions (Gibbs et al. 32). As a result, the Amazon rainforest has been taken over by soy plantations, road infrastructures, and cattle ranching. The rainforest is home to more than 180 groups of the Native peoples. Individuals have expressed their worries towards losing their homes, and the little land they have, mostly used for subsistence crops and cocoa (Nepstad et al. 1118).

Although both Indigenous communities and farmers are concerned about losing the battle against industrialization, the Indigenous primarily fear others who attempt to tear down their forests. Leader of the Suruí people, Almir Narayamoga Suruí, protests that loggers and illegal miners “are destroying [their] culture, [their] consciousness and [their] economy by destroying [their] forests”, as he demands the demarcation of their reservations (Osava 1). Complaints regarding illegal logging and mining towards the Brazilian government has been filed numerous times, however, the Indigenous peoples have yet to receive a response.

The Value of Land

An academic study conducted by the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) organization revealed that although farmers have been proven to be the main cause of deforestation, the majority have demonstrated potential to utilize their land most effectively to minimize deforestation. Agricultura migratoria, a Spanish term meaning migratory agriculture, is applied to two types of farmers with contrasting meanings. The first type of farmers who have resided in the Amazon region their whole life, are very familiar with the procedure of rotating the production of crops amongst active and inactive fields of annual crops while allowing the regeneration of forest area.

By doing so, farmers avoid the consolidation of small-scale farmland into large plantations constituting to a favorable step towards minimizing deforestation (Ravikumar et al. 172). In contrast, the majority of immigrants who decide to become farmers convert forest land into pasture and cultivate crops with the incentive of making a profit. Although the National Protected Areas System (SNUC) has been designed to prohibit individuals from using land resources, flaws still remain regarding farmers personal incentives (Jusys 2).

Furthermore, smallholders, local or not, must decide whether to grow their agriculture in degraded land to reduce deforestation, or to clear another part of the forest to maximize crop production (Fearnside 3, 33). Since many Amazonian farmers rely on the harvesting of crops, they are able to meet these subsistent needs on their long-established landholdings. Unfortunately, local Peruvians and farmers cannot do the same as they are being dispossessed of their lands by the new oil palm production partnership.

An investigation led by Aoife Bennett, researcher for the International Forestry Research program, noted that palm oil production has been speculated to become the most recent driver of deforestation. Bennett also stated that in 2011, 85% of the 2447.47 hectares of a community in Peru were wiped out in replacement of oil palm plantations (Bennett 38). Since 2012, field transcripts have described mixed reactions from the farmers, local residents, and Indigenous communities of the arrival of the new company-community partnership (CCP).

More farmers had begun to claim that they were being forced to move out of their homes and abandon their farmland because of oil palm plantation expansions. Following this incident, the company offered compensation towards those who owned land within the plantation boundaries. However, when local farmers and Indigenous communities were interviewed, they claimed that the money they were offered did not sufficiently replace the value of their land. Local farmers had argued that the sums given were “nothing but a tip”, “a few pennies”, and “an insult” adding that they “had no choice [but to accept]”(Bennett 35).

Raising Awareness

Amazonian governments express concerning thoughts regarding the cumulative environmental effects of small-scale agriculture (Chazdon et al. 546). Current discussions amongst the representatives of the Ministry of Environment (MINAM), the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MINAGRI), and the international organization REDD+ have intentions of educating the public on the repercussions of deforestation.

Although the Ministry of Environment has begun raising awareness for deforestation, they have received backlash regarding the wording of a poster which stated that “90% of the logging and burning of Peru’s Amazon forests occurs at the hands of peasants living in poverty who migrate from the highlands and practice subsistence agriculture.” Ashwin Ravikumar, a representative from the Centre of International Forestry Research, noted in his paper that local farmers and Indigenous communities have commented that although the Amazonian governments have every right to be as concerned about mass deforestation as they are, they should not blame it firmly on migrants (Ravikumar et al. 171).

Subsequently, the urgency of forest protection initiatives has increased as REDD+ has warned that deforestation is happening at an alarming rate. REDD+ forwarns that climate change will only become worse if more forests are cut down (Hajjar et al. 731). The Amazon rainforest plays a huge part in carbon storage, thus if more forests were to be cleared out, up to 20% of carbon emissions would be released (Walker & Simmons 8).

Moreover, the Ministry of Environment expresses that deforestation is one of the major causes of global warming. If the rate of deforestation does not slow, hurricanes, droughts, and other weather abnormalities will pose a greater threat than ever before. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation emphasize that if action is taken now, not only will millions of trees be saved, but the lives and money for years to come (Aldrich et al, 104).

Call to Action

Distinguishing between who, where, and why deforestation occurs is essential to understanding underlying motivations and opportunity costs of doing so. Throughout the years, Amazonian governments and local residents have strived to understand deforestation while simultaneously acknowledging the significance of the Indigenous communities’ and farmers’ livelihoods (Ravikumar et al. 174). As the Peruvian government suggests, all Amazonian governments should implement new regulations by restricting the amount of deforestation allowed each year. However, illegal logging and mining would still be inevitable.

Nevertheless, the Zero Net Deforestation Act enacted by the Brazilian and Peruvian government is a set of goals towards reducing deforestation, by only allowing clearance of trees from one area if an equal area is planted elsewhere. This act has not only been recently implemented in the Amazon region but also many other areas around the world. Ministers of the Amazon region have implemented the act in an attempt to achieve zero net deforestation by the end of 2020. Although mass production has caused a beneficial impact, conservation of the Amazon rainforest ensures that local residents and Indigenous communities can continue their way of life.

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Impact of Deforestation in Amazon Region. (2020, Sep 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/impact-of-deforestation-in-amazon-region/

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