When staff from The Nature Conservancy began working in São Félix do Xingu — a remote municipality in Brazil’s Amazon frontier — it had a reputation as a “no man’s land” with little government oversight and a history of violent, sometimes deadly, property disputes. Forests were quickly disappearing, illegally cleared to make way for ranches, farms or plantations.
A sprawling jungle region about the size of Panama, São Félix has some of the largest tracts of rainforest left in the Eastern Amazon — nearly 31,000 square miles. But since 2008, it has been ranked number two on Brazil’s “black list” of 43 municipalities with the highest rates of deforestation, resulting in commercial embargoes and credit restrictions for rural farmers.
Things, however, are beginning to change for the better.
When Conservancy representatives attended a recent workshop to help farmers and ranchers register their lands with the government and come into compliance with Brazil’s forest protection law, the mayor of São Félix welcomed them as “part of the family.”
Already, with the Conservancy’s help, more than 1,400 property owners here have signed their farms up with the environmental registry in less than a year.
(image: Adriano Gambarini/The Nature Conservancy)
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