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Brazil’s Indians and Farmers Find a Common Cause

For the first time, Brazilian indians and farmers are getting mobilized to save the Xingu River basin. This, according to the Secretary of Biodiversity and Forests in the Brazilian Ministry of Environment, João Paulo Capobianco, is the balance of the “Encounter on Sources of the Xingu,” which is being held in Canarana, in the state of Mato Grosso.

“There is, for the first time, a frank, open debate between the non-governmental sector and the private sector,” Capobianco observed.


“If it is possible to discover a common path between these segments, this will certainly be very important, because it will provide a dynamic, innovative cooperative space that will help us establish a new positive agenda in the region.”


There are high expectations for the results of the seminar. According to the Secretary, the Minister of Environment, Marina Silva, intends to receive the organizers of the event to hear about the results of the six days of debate.


The Xingu River basin englobes two important Brazilian biomes, the savannah and the Amazon Rain Forest.


The river itself covers 2.6 thousand hectares (equivalent to almost three thousand soccer fields) and is vital to the existence of 5 thousand Indians from 14 ethnic groups who inhabit the Indian reserve.


The river also affects the lives of around 450 thousand people who live in 31 municipalities in the state of Mato Grosso.


“The Xingu River basin is a very rich area in terms of both environment and cultural diversity,” Capobianco affirmed.


Environmental degradation due to human causes has already destroyed 33% of the vegetation at the sources of the Xingu River and its tributaries.


Around a third of the savannah that surrounds the river has already disappeared.


According to Capobianco, one of the chief factors responsible for the increase in degradation is the agriculture model first adopted in the decade of the ’60’s.


“In reality, agriculture activity does not necessarily lead to degradation. The manner in which it has been occurring is what, in fact, has been causing an unquestionably striking degradation, with almost irreversible damage,” he explains.


Capobianco believes that rural producers have gradually become aware of the importance of environmental preservation. “They perceived that degradation is not just an isolated environmental loss; it causes damage to agricultural activity itself in the region,” he said.


The “Encounter on Sources of the Xingu” ends October 27.


Agência Brasil
Translator: David Silberstein

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