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brazil: building the struggle against forest monocultures in the pampas

The ongoing expansion of exotic tree monocultures in the Brazilian Pampas, and the Pampas plains of Uruguay and Argentina, threatens the region’s biodiversity and natural resources. This is a consequence of a build up of the region’s pulp production industry; powerful forestry corporations are now investing in new plantations in the Brazilian Pampas to obtain wood supplies.

 

image: brazil monocultureThe scale of the problem is massive, but information on current and potential impacts of huge plantations is quite scarce in the region — or at least seldom reaches local communities or social movements and organizations.

what happened: To confront this considerable threat, Friends of the Earth Brazil / Núcleo Amigos da Terra identified the need to design and implement new communication strategies, to tell the public about the socio-environmental impacts of expanding exotic trees monocultures in the Pampas region in Rio Grande do Sul state.

The group produced a booklet to raise awareness about the impacts of the agri-business model, and present alternatives for sustainable production to farmers and rural population of the region.  They gathered available printed materials on the impacts of such developments, information about the Pampas's history and culture, and incorporated information from a debate on alternatives at the May 2008 seminar, “Pampa and Sustainability: The Pursuit of Productive Options.”

The completed booklet, titled “Disputed Pampas: Biodivesity Threatened by the Expansion of Tree Monocultures”, was reproduced in 2,800 copies that reached more than 10.000 people. Recipients included rural producers, experts and politicians of the region. The booklet was written in Portuguese as well as Spanish, which allowed for its distribution in Uruguay and Argentina too.

what is changing: A key result of the publication was the spread of ideas and examples for sustainable production  — some of which resulted from the debate at the above-mentioned seminar. Thus a number of rural communities became informed about alternative production and income generation, as well as exotic tree plantations impacts.

The various steps entailed in creating the booklet also helped increased FoE Brazil’s capacity to address this major social-environmental conflict. It allowed FoE Brazil to expand their capacity and knowledge on deforestation and pulp production impacts, as well as alternatives for the Pampas. This will help campaigners’ reinforce arguments they use in the struggle against expansions of monoculture plantations.

This project also proved useful at the FoE Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC) meeting in Porto Alegre in June 2007. The booklet was distributed, and FoE Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay’s strategies to halt the construction of pulp mills in the Pampas were discussed.

what we learned: This project underlined the value of communication strategies and capacity, and reaching wider audiences, as key aspects in campaigning against a dominant development model.

FoE Brazil also learned that people must revisit their collective history and culture if they are to better resist what is being imposed on them and their territories.  Information about alternatives to exotic tree plantations is also vital, if people are to recognize feasible options in the face of the current overwhelming development model. It is also important to realize that putting alternatives in place depends on the political will of government officials and institutions.

what next: For the near future is crucial to advance the development of sustainable alternative production systems, by exerting pressure on the government of Rio Grande do Sul and the governments of the region, as well as on national and international institutions. Continued awareness raising and capacity building will also be crucial.

Some current plans include strengthening skills and sharing experiences among FoE groups in the region, and from there coordinating new actions within the framework of Friends of the Earth International's campaign against forestry monocultures.

with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs

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