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A future for the Cerrado

Rio dos Couros, Chapada dos Veadeiros, Goiás / Aryanne Amaral

The main frontier where agriculture has advanced since the 1960s, the Cerrado has little chance of continuing to exist in the coming decades without emergency action to expand its protected areas and lead to the large-scale adoption of less environmentally harmful production practices.

Consolidating already protected areas is critical, including that only 7.7% of the Cerrado is currently effectively protected by the government, and only 2.8% of these areas are fully protected. The last conservation unit created in the biome was Chapada Ecological Station of Nova Roma, this year (2017), by the state government of Goiás. New international goals sponsored by Brazil recommend the conservation of at least 17% of each biome by 2020.

Meanwhile, projections show that soybean acreage could jump from 21 to 30 million hectares in the next decade, always focusing on the "cheap land" of the Cerrado. And the targets are precisely the largest remnants of the Brazilian savannah, in Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia. In addition, domestic and global demand for meat grows along with the necessary socioeconomic improvements.

As agriculture and livestock are the main drivers of the destruction of the Cerrado, respecting legislation and improving production efficiency are indispensable attitudes. The integration of crops, livestock and planted forests, for example, would help to prevent openness and new areas and would be a sign that the country really wants to provide more sustainably produced items to globalized commodity markets. After all, anticipating potential trade barriers is always strategic. Also because more than 40% of grains, half of bran and one third of soybean oil produced in Brazil are exported. Seven out of ten countries in the world have purchased these items in the last decade.

Official estimates indicate that there are approximately 140 million degraded hectares in the country, mainly in the Cerrado and its transition to the Amazon. The area is twice the size of France. In most cases, it is land that has been cleared for crops and eventually abandoned due to low productivity. Then they turned pasture into herds until the soil became economically worthless due to the lack of proper management. Making this immensity of land again productive would help combat global warming, ease the pressure to clear native forests and serve commodity and food production.

Another concern is the changes in Brazilian forest legislation. The destruction of the Cerrado already weighs as much as that of the Amazon in national greenhouse gas emissions. And the biome may be one of the biggest detractors from the changes that backward sectors of ruralism have imposed on the Forest Code. In addition, the approval of PEC 504/2010, which seeks to include in the Federal Constitution the Cerrado and Caatinga as national heritage and PL 25/2015, which provides for the conservation and sustainable use of native biome vegetation, are actions urgent for the protection of the biome.

If the margin for deforestation is increased, the country's water tank will be seriously compromised. In the Cerrado there are waters that supply underground aquifers and the Amazon, Tocantins, North / Northeast Atlantic, São Francisco, East Atlantic and Paraná / Paraguay watersheds. The latter depends on the survival of the Pantanal, the largest floodplain on the planet. In addition to economic input, water that flows through rivers, streams and paths of unusual beauty feeds regional crops often founded on sustainable extractivism, an activity that perpetuates and values vegetation and other native resources through the hands of numerous and valued traditional peoples of the world. Thick.

Current degradation indices and developmental plans lacking environmental sustainability project a bright future for a biome that has already lost more than half of its native vegetation, and is not yet recognized as a national heritage by the Constitution, suffering unnecessarily from wildfires and burning. intense.

But with majestic resistance, the Cerrado still continues enchanting those who dare to know this shelter of life and unique landscapes in the world. Maintaining this unparalleled heritage is the challenge facing Brazil.

by Michael Becker & #8211; Coordinator of CEPF Cerrado Regional Implementation Strategy 

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