Sales of timber, rubber latex and Brazil nuts help Amazon and people

WWF/Brazil/ Bruno Taitson

Valciclei's dream of owning a motor vehicle came true thanks to the income earned from forest management.
© Bruno Taitson / WWF

Valciclei's dream of owning a motor vehicle came true thanks to the income earned from forest management.

Valciclei’s distant dream of owning a motor cycle came true. Not because he was blessed by a fairy but because of the income earned from forest management. ‘People are now buying motor vehicles, electronic appliances, clothing and household items, he said, proudly showing off his newest acquisition.

Twenty-year old Valciclei da Silva is ‘a child of the forest’. He grew up in a small rural community close to the town of Xapuri, located in Brazilian state of Acre. Situated in the western part of the country the region is mostly covered by the Amazon rainforest.

The Amazon is known worldwide for its exceptional biodiversity. A considerable number of the world's plants and animals live in the Amazon, most of which remain undiscovered by scientists. To date, at least 40,000 plant species, 427 mammals, 1,294 birds, 378 reptiles, 427 amphibians, and at least 3,000 fishes have been scientifically classified in the region.

But behind the beauty lies a dark picture. Many people in local communities throughout the Amazon live in poverty. To survive, many of them resort to illegal logging. Frequently, they cut down the trees and sell the wood, then using the deforested land to raise their cattle. Even worse, some locals sell their land to cattle ranchers or illegal loggers and migrate to urban areas in search of job for which they do not have required qualification.

Such sad stories used to be numerous in the State of Acre, but times are changing. The vicious circle of conflict between encouraging economic activities and preserving the wildlife is being stopped thanks to the implementation of sustainable forest management practices.

In Brazil, the first forest management related initiatives kicked off in the 1960s and were mainly aimed at increasing the production of forest based products. It is only after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit that the practices truly became sustainable and that new models of land use were proposed, taking into account the protection of biodiversity and the social and economic development of the local communities.

‘Timber, rubber latex and nuts sales have substantially improved the living of the entire community’, says Valciclei who has been the household provider for his mother and sister since his father left the home.

Data from the Acre State Government shows that forest management models carried out in partnership with native communities, businesses, the government and non government organizations such as WWF nearly tripled the average yearly family income in rural areas.

‘If the land is exploited in a diversified way and forest based products are sold at a good market price, it can ensure considerable income for local families’ says Carlos Ovídio Rezende, Forest Secretary for the State of Acre. ‘Ten years ago, the forest used to yield around 15 US$ per hectare per year. Today, the yield tops 90 US$.’

‘Moreover, forest management not only increases family income and preserves biodiversity; it also contributes to improve the value of real estate in rural areas’ stresses Rezende. Properties with management plans can be worth around five times more than those without.

Bruno Taitson, in Xapuri, Acre (Brazil)