Today, indians, farmers, government authorities, businessmen and representatives of civil society will begin a meeting in the town of Canarana, state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, to discuss the conservation of the Xingu River basin, its headwaters and vegetation.
The three-day conference is expected to be attended by 250 people, among them 100 Indians.
According to Marcio Santilli, who coordinates an environmental group (Instituto Sócio-Ambiental), “This is a campaign based on the logic of getting the local actors involved because they are the most interested in the issue.”
The Xingu River runs through the Xingu National Park, where a large Indian population is located, making it one of the country’s most important regions of biological and cultural diversity.
However, with deforestation, cattle ranching and slash-and-burn farming some water sources have already dried up and vegetation is threatened.
Santilli explains that cattle ranching began in the 1940s when it got government incentives.
As a result, land was cleared right down to the river so the cattle could reach the water. That damaged the vegetation to the point where erosion has begun in some places.
The Xingu National Park covers 2.64 million hectares and is considered the showpiece of Brazilian efforts to deal with the country’s Indian population in its relationship with the Brazilian society.
From the 3,500 indians who inhabit the area few speak Portuguese and ancient ceremonies like the Kuarup festival, which celebrates death are religiously observed.
Much of the Xingu National Park contains dense forest that has been cut down for the raising of cattle and cultivation of grains. The Park, in the southern fringe of the Amazon Basis, used to stretch uninterrupted.
Settlements in Forest Reserves
Agricultural settlements in forest reserves offer an alternative for the country’s land problem. This is the position defended by Brazil’s Minister of Environment, Marina Silva, who, recently, participated in the opening ceremony of the I Certified Products Fair.
“Instead of destroying forests to plant crops or raise livestock, have people practice sustainable forest management,” the Minister said.
According to her, the government is making a great effort to carry out land reform within a legal framework, and her Ministry understands the social needs that must be resolved.
“The environmental movement cannot be cast as if it were at war with agrarian reform,” she remarked.
“But social issues can never be resolved to the detriment of the country’s environmental legislation,” she added.
The Minister emphasized that settlement cannot take place randomly.
“Conservation units, indigenous areas, and environmental protection areas must receive the State’s legal protection.”
According to her, these lands cannot be used for activities other than those for which they were intended.
During the event, Silva commended the forest managment projects.
“Based on forest certification, we can make it possible to use the forest in a sustainable manner that promotes the preservation and conservation both of the forest and its biodiversity.”
For the Minister, the outstanding quality of this type of forest utilization is the promotion of social inclusion through the generation of jobs.
“Forest management averts very serious problems in the irregular extraction of timber, such as the use of slave-like labor,” she observed.
Translator: Allen Bennett