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Granting land titles to indigenous peoples helps protect the forest in Brazil

Territories in Brazil’s fragmented Atlantic Forest under indigenous control suffer less deforestation when these indigenous peoples hold title deeds over the lands, says a study released this week.

The comparative study was published by the British scientific journal PNAS Nexus.

“Even in highly developed and heavily deforested areas, granting land titles to indigenous peoples has significantly improved outcomes” in terms of forest preservation, Rayna Benzeev, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of Colorado – Boulder, told AFP. .

“After formalizing the rights, the forest surface increased by 0.77% each year, on average, compared to land where titles were not granted,” she explained.

The Atlantic Forest – the second largest rainforest in Brazil after the Amazon – stretches for nearly 3,000 kilometers along the coast. The ecosystem has been decimated by centuries of urbanization, agriculture, logging and mining.

Against 80% of the forest preserved in the Amazon, only 12% of the Atlantic Forest remains virgin.

Rayna Benzeev and her colleagues examined data on changes in forest surface and land ownership from 129 indigenous territories between 1985 and 2019.

“Even before we reached the final stage of getting our rights recognized, our people began to take care of our forests and plant traditional foods,” said Jera Poty Mirim, a Guarani leader.

In its article 231, the Brazilian Constitution recognizes indigenous peoples “their social organization, customs, languages, beliefs and traditions, and the original rights over the lands they traditionally occupy, and it is incumbent upon the Union to demarcate them, protect and ensure respect for all their assets. ”.

Despite this, deforestation is ongoing, as are incidents between tribes, farmers and ranchers, or illegal miners.

“Granting land titles to indigenous peoples is crucial if we want to guarantee an end to deforestation and preserve climate balance,” Paulo Moutinho, a scientist at the Institute for Environmental Research in the Amazon (IPAM), told AFP.

Between 2000 and 2020, Brazil lost more than 20 million hectares of forests, that is, 6% of its forest surface, according to Global Forest Watch.

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