RIO DE JANEIRO, April 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A
Brazilian government programme to formally distribute land to
thousands of small-scale farmers is helping the country protect
its vast forests, according to research presented to lawmakers
Launched in 2009, the Legal Land Programme has distributed
more than 20,000 property title deeds to farmers in the Amazon
rainforest in Latin America's largest country.
Independent analysis of the programme based on satellite
maps and government data, shows that land where title deeds had
been distributed had 2 percent more forest left intact compared
with territory lacking in titles.
"The programme is an effective way to reduce deforestation,"
said Dimitri Szerman, a senior analyst with the Climate Policy
Initiative research group in Rio de Janeiro, which carried out
Two percent might sound small, but against high rates of
deforestation, it was significant, said Szerman, who presented
the findings of his research to government officials in the
capital Brasilia on Wednesday.
"There is no silver bullet on deforestation," Szerman told
the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Two percent is actually an
Brazil, which is home to the Amazon, the world's largest
tropical forest, is losing the equivalent of two football fields
of forest each minute, according to the former head of the
country's forestry service.
After years of declines, the rate of deforestation shot up
by 29 percent last year compared to 2015, according to Brazil's
National Space Research Institute (INPE).
Analysts say a lack of property rights has fuelled the
recent increase in deforestation.
Vacant lands and public areas which are not officially owned
by anyone, make up more than one fifth of Brazil's total area,
according to the Climate Policy Initiative.
These lands are often illegally occupied by individuals or
investors, said Szerman.
"In the long-term you need to solve the problem of property
rights to bring down deforestation," Szerman said.
(Reporting by Chris Arsenault @chrisarsenaul, Editing by Katie
Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate
change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)