How the Amazon soya moratorium is the first step in saving the rainforest

Posted by admin — 26 September 2006 at 8:00am - Comments

Fire is used to clear large areas of the Amazon rainforest for agriculture

It's been a hectic year in the Amazon. Following three years of research into the activities of the soya industry, in April 2006 we launched a very public campaign to expose how those little beans are chewing up the Brazilian rainforest. Or to be more precise, how the demands of European markets for cheap meat are being met by huge plantations growing soya for animal feed in the ashes of rampant deforestation.

The campaign was so successful that within a few months food companies and the big soya traders had agreed to a two-year moratorium on new deforestation for soya. But as Annette Cotter from Greenpeace Brazil explains, this is only just the beginning.

When we got confirmation from the soya traders that they would commit to the moratorium, and to address how the moratorium will actually be policed, it was a big leap forward for our Amazon campaign. But now the real work begins!

We've always had two parts to the campaign - to protect the rainforest and its inhabitants, and to ensure the government has a tangible presence in these remote places. The problem is that if the environmental police and government officials aren't in the region then a blind eye is turned to the law, the forest is destroyed illegally, and the promises we've managed to extract from companies like McDonald's and Cargill mean nothing.

Over the last month, we have seen evidence this on a massive scale when we flew over the rainforest. This time of the year is the dry season when the river levels are low and the dirt roads blow up big clouds of dust as trucks drive by. It's also the peak period of logging and deforestation because areas of virgin forest are more accessible, and the forest itself is dry - and therefore easily burnt.

The National Institute for Spatial Research, which among other things monitors forest fires, registered a massive 89,000 fires in August, of which over 8,000 were in protected areas or on indigenous land, so we went to have a look. I think it's the saddest sight to see the forests on fire.

For me, it really reinforced how important it is to have those fine words and commitments reinforced by firm action on the ground. We need to hold these companies to their word. We need to ensure that the threat of broken contracts means that farmers don't burn more forest, and if they do that the world knows about it. We also need to ensure the farmers only use land that is legally theirs - not stolen public land - and that slave labour is abolished in the Amazon.

We need to keep campaigning so new protected areas and areas of sustainable use are created, and maintained with adequate personnel and funding to ensure they really are protected, to ensure the future of the world's largest rainforest - and the world's climate. If we succeed in all of this then in a year's time we will see less of this precious rainforest going up in smoke.

About Earth Lady

Coordinator of the North Kent group and a Garden Design student

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