Brazil Launches Program To Help The Poor Engage in Sustainable Economy

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff launched on Wednesday (28) a new program called Bolsa Verde (Green Grant) to promote “sustainable social development and encourage conservation of Brazilian’s ecosystems.” The program will be administered by Brazil’s Ministry of Environment as part of the country’s national poverty alleviation plan, Brasil Sem Miséria, which launched in June 2011.

Under the program, Brazilian families living in extreme poverty (those with a monthly household income of up to R$ 70) that develop environmental conservation projects will receive R$ 300 in grant funds every three months. Qualifying environmental protection projects include work in national forests, extractive and sustainable development reserves, forest settlements, Areas of Permanent Preservation (APP), and sustainable development and extractive settlement projects run by Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (INCRA). Additional environmental preservation activities covered by Bolsa Verde include sustainable extraction and fishing practices.

The program aims to assist 18,000 families by the end of 2011 and approximately 76,000 households by 2014. Over 3,500 families will receive funds beginning in early October 2011.

“Environmental policy is not done alone. An integration of policies is needed to generate income, protect the environment and eradicate poverty. This is the purpose of implementing developmental public policies,” said Minister of Environment, Izabella Teixeira.

To participate in Bolsa Verde, the head of the beneficiary household must register with the program. 8,000 families have already registered and signed the terms of agreement. Funds will be transferred to families using the Bolsa Família (Family Grant) card, an existing cash transfer program.

166 Internet satellite antennas were installed across the region to facilitate registration and data management. Monitoring of the program will be carried out with the help of the satellite used by the Amazon Protection System (Sistema de Proteção da Amazônia - SIPAM).

Critique: Environmentalists welcomed the program but said Bolsa Verde is no silver bullet solution to keep forests standing. “Compensation for forest preservation and a reduction of deforestation need to be part of a policy that values forests, especially one that promotes a more sustainable and ecologically viable use of deforested areas”, said Paulo Moutinho, director of Ipam, an Amazon-focused environmental research group.

Greenpeace’s Amazon director Rafael Cruz added that deforestation takes place mostly in private properties. “Bolsa Verde focuses on areas that are already protected, conservation units and settlements. The impact it will have on curbing deforestation will be small. But it does take away some of the pressure on the forests because the families will get some help to support themselves.”

Cruz also criticized the government’s paradoxical stance towards the environment. Despite initial promises, the government hasn’t done anything to stop lawmakers from weakening a forest protection piece of legislation known as Forest Code, an issue that has mobilized the country since 2010.

Recent figures reveal that between August 2010 and July 2011, deforestation increased 9% in relation to the same period in the previous year, up to 1,628km2 from 1,488 km2.

“The most effective way is investing resources in programs integrated to environmental management of communities, which focus on a sustainable use of forests and which also shift the economic rationale of the region, currently heavily based on deforestation, to a different logic where forest preservation generates economic growth and promotes the adequate use of areas that have already been cleared”, added Moutinho.

Image credit: IPAM