Friday, August 30, 2013

Brazil Amazon town takes a stand against deforestation

Terra Daily via AFP: When farmer Luiz Martins Neto first moved to Sao Felix do Xingu a quarter of a century ago, the area had virgin forest, gold and a reservation for the local indigenous people. "They used to say it was the best place to live," he said.

But like many others, he created his first fazenda -- coffee plantation -- with slash and burn techniques, helping to destroy his pristine surroundings. "In those days, the more you cleared the forest, the better your life was and the more land you acquired," the 54-year-old said. This was long the prevailing view in Brazil's vast Amazon region, particularly during the 1964-85 military dictatorship.

But, decades later, the town in the northern state of Para is turning its back on the destructive ways of the past and trying to save what it has left.

Today, Neto's farm is part of a model agribusiness project that makes use of deforested land and does not encroach on the remaining forest. "One learns how to do things right," he said, flashing a proud smile under his straw hat.

A new forestry law took effect last October, limiting the use of land for farming and mandating that up to 80 percent of privately-owned acreage in the Amazon rainforest remains intact. More than 60 percent of Brazil's 8.5 million square kilometers (3.3 million square miles) is covered in forest, but two-thirds of it is either privately owned or its ownership is undefined....

Seen from space, fires along the Xingu River, via NASA

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