More information in Portuguese about this award-winning program.
The traditional model for exploitation of the Amazon's natural resources is based on extraction of a single product in vast areas, with prices and working conditions unfavorable to forest laborers. Commerce of Amazon products is controlled by a few companies. With the drop in prices created by competition from East Asian rubber tree plantations, rubber-tapping activities have given way to predatory timber extraction, cattle farming and soy plantation.
But a silent transformation is taking place within the region, changing the paradigm of resource exploitation. At the end of the 80's, the government of Acre and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), an intergovernmental organization created by the UNO, signed an agreement to promote the sustainable management of the resources of the Amazon Forest. Based on this agreement, the state government created the Sustainable Forestry Development Program, created the State Forest of Antimary in the municipality of Bujari, close to Rio Branco. The 77 thousand-hectares Forest is home to 383 people, mostly rubber tappers.
Besides forestry management, the Program seeks to promote the participation of traditional forest peoples in the search for a new model of land usage. The priority is to add value to forest products and to use resources in a sustainable way. Organized around the sustainable management of timber and non-timber products, the experience has managed to break the supply system, which kept the rubber tappers in a sort of semi-slavery, depending on the rubber bosses both for product supply, and latex commercialization. The social organization of the Antimary families cut through this system. Now the tappers buy the products they need from a cooperative, paying a third of what they paid formerly. Rubber prices have risen, due to the end of the regional monopoly and to the development of new productive techniques.
Other products, such as the Brazilian nuts, also generate income for the Antimary community. It is, however, the exploration of timber products that may produce a true revolution. The State Forestry Department estimates that Acre may be able to generate annual wealth of around US$ 1 billion with timber extraction alone.
In Antimary, timber extraction is carried out by a consortium of companies, who participated in a state government purchasing bid. The bid included a series of requirements to guarantee that the activity should be sustainable, starting by the exploration of a wider number of species, so as to avoid the extinction of any in particular. There are also specific regulations for cut and transportation, so as to preserve as much of the vegetation coverage as possible. An environmental monitoring process allows measurement of impact in the explored areas. Besides seeking to minimize damage, this monitoring system refines management techniques, bringing information that can promote better productivity.
Productivity in managed areas is superior to conventional timber exploitation. Also, with sustainable management, use of explored areas is indefinitely broadened, whether due to the diversification of the timber market, or the constant renovation of the vegetation coverage. The technique also permits that explored areas can be utilized again in 10 to 30 years.
The ecological benefits of sustainable management can be added to the social advances. The income of the local community has risen, thanks to the end of the supply system, the exploration of new forest products and to resources generated by the model of timber extraction. Sustainable timber extraction alone has almost doubled the per capita income of the forest community, who has also benefited from a wider access to services such as health, housing and education. As a result, illiteracy rates have been significantly reduced, as well as the incidence of tropical diseases.