The cerrado is in danger, help us protect Brazil's treasure!
What is going wrong in the Cerrado?
Southeast of the iconic Amazon forest lies an ecosystem that is less known but equally fascinating: the Cerrado. It is smaller than the Amazon but still 3 times the size of France. In origin, this is one of the world’s oldest and most diverse tropical savanna ecosystems. The Cerrado region is spread over 11 states and occupies over 22% of the land area of Brazil - about 2 million km².
Three times faster than the Amazon, the original biome is destroyed to pave way for large-scale industrial agriculture, essentially to produce soy, which is then shipped to Europe and China to feed livestock in confined animal feeding operations. A substantial part of Brazil's corn, rice, and cotton production also comes from the Cerrado.
The Cerrado is less protected than the Amazon and has lost 48% of its original vegetation over the last 50 years, while global protest against its devastation has remained minimal. A growing number of people and organisations are expressing concern and are organising studies and actions to bring this much underestimated area into attention.
Surface of the Cerrado in 1960
States with remains of the original Cerrado vegetation in 2012
You can also look at an animated video of the deforestation of the Cerrado and when you clik on the icon here on the right, you can find a powerpoint presentation with more details.
Cerrado: wasteland or environmental haven?
People look at the Cerrado in two completely opposite ways.
The mainstream global agro-industrial development considers the original Cerrado as ‘wasteland’, that can only be made into profit by conversion to large scale soybean operations, and other lucrative agricultural enterprises. The rapid conversion of the Cerrado has helped to power the Brazilian economy and big money is at stake. Therefore it is not surprising that those who promote agrochemically intensive agriculture in the Cerrado tend to describe its natural vegetation as "scrub" and "wasteland" not worth protecting.
However, the Cerrado is in fact a major biodiversity hotspot. Today, less than two percent of the Cerrado is protected as national parks or conservation areas. Furthermore, the law is supposed to protect a percentage of native habitat on all private land, but law enforcement is problematic. Agro-industrial developments have destroyed part of the biodiversity, which is already under threat from invasive grasses, fire, cattle, and deforestation.
Hope for the Cerrado
The Rhythm of the Caterpillar: This video shows some positive examples of agroecology in the Cerrado.
Life in Syntropy: a short film from Agenda Gotsch which put together some of the most remarkable experiences in Syntropic Agriculture in Brasil, including in the Cerrado.
Agroforestry and recovery of the Cerrado: a detailed study of agroforestry systems and practical applications. Find here in English and in Portuguese - Restauração ecológica com Sistemas Agroflorestais, Como conciliar conservação com produção. Opções para Cerrado e Caatinga.
Powerpoint 'Sustainable paths in the Cerrado'. Click on the following icon for a powerpoint about sustainable alternatives for development in the Cerrado.