Biodiversity Conservation Program in the Amazon

USAID/Brazil works with the government, public and private sectors and nonprofit organizations to conserve biodiversity in the Amazon. The robust partnership between USAID and the Government of Brazil may serve as mission inspiration, providing practical examples for adapting to and partnering with host countries.

Context

Brazil Amazon Project AreasUSAID has a long 50-year history in development cooperation with Brazil. In 2013, a decision to transition to a new development model solidified USAID’s role in building public-private partnerships to conserve the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest. USAID/Brazil soon became the Agency’s first “Strategic Partnerships” mission.

With a moderate budget, USAID/Brazil conducts business differently and relies on a capable cadre of Foreign Service Nationals. To support this approach, the mission in Brazil adopted the Agency’s guiding principle of "Partnership as a Catalyst"—shifting from providing aid and implementing programs to acting as a strategic partner and catalyst for country-led growth. Through this experiential learning model, the USAID/Brazil team proactively seeks ways to focus on projects that have the most impact, that leverage innovative resources and that are in line with Agency priorities.

Holistic approach

USAID/Brazil’s holistic approach to partnerships includes cooperative relationships and co-creation of development interventions and solutions between the private sector and the government. The mission strategically uses funding as seed capital to stimulate and leverage catalytic investments with the private sector and local NGOs. This model helps Brazil to move beyond traditional development assistance to an organic partnership that addresses shared development challenges.

Two priorities

  1. Conservation of the Amazon. USAID/Brazil serves as a catalytic platform for partnerships in the region to address Agency’s priorities, while adding unique value to the diplomatic mission in Brazil through the State Department.
  2. Trilateral cooperation jointly with the Government of Brazil in third countries. This cooperation is based on shared global concerns and joint technical assistance approaches.

Bilateral cooperation

Amazon Forest
The landscape of Uaçá Indigenous Territory in Eastern Amazonia is the home for more than seven thousand indigenous people. Photo: José Caldas / USAID Brazil

In 2014 USAID signed a five-year bilateral agreement, Partnership for Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity, with the Government of Brazil to support conservation efforts in the Brazilian Amazon, while also beginning to foster private sector participation.

The Amazon rainforest affects the world. The sheer scale of the Amazon directly impacts regional weather patterns, agricultural production, jobs and well-being. A home for the largest collection of living plants and animal species on earth, producing 20 percent of the world’s oxygen and freshwater, a healthy Amazon forest is not only critical to Brazil but also to the United States.

Brazil is strongly committed to conserving the Amazon forest and has established a protected areas system as diverse and comprehensive as any in the world. However, a multi-year economic recession left the country under-resourced, posing a challenge to the conservation work. Despite the significant progress Brazil has made in protecting its forests during the last decade, there was a sharp increase in deforestation in the last two years. And over the past 50 years, the Amazon has lost 20 percent of its forest, increasing droughts and wildfires in Brazil. An additional 20 percent change could alter the rainfall patterns and affect the ecosystem, health and livelihoods of the entire region.

The United States is one of Brazil’s critical bilateral partners in safeguarding the Amazon's health for the future. A history of cooperation forms the backbone of USAID’s Partnership for Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity, with the Government of Brazil’s Ministry of Environment, the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation and the National Indigenous Foundation.

Youth for Amazon
These young Maroons learned to conduct socioeconomic surveys and design management and life plans after a training in the Abuí Community, part of the Mãe Domingas Maroon Territory. Photo: Vanessa Eyng / Ecam

Capacity building

USAID focuses on strengthening the capacity of Brazil's government and local stakeholders in key areas needed to manage the Amazon’s protected area systems (including indigenous lands), specifically related to

  • expanding the economic value of sustainably managed forests and biodiversity for local communities
  • increasing private-public partnerships
  • introducing technologies for improved natural resource management and socioeconomic development

USAID works with other U.S. agencies, such as the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, leveraging 100 years of experience managing conservation areas in the United States and fostering shared learning that benefits both countries.

Innovative partnerships with the private sector

Partnership with Google
Partnership with Google Earth and the use of Open Data Kit (ODK) technology enables indigenous and other local populations to manage and monitor over 14 million hectares (140,000 km2) of the forest. Photo: USAID/Brazil

Building on USAID/Brazil’s history with private sector platforms and social investments, the mission also works with new private sector partners. A partnership with Google Earth and Open Data Kit technology benefits indigenous and other local populations to manage and monitor over 14 million hectares (140,000 km2) of the forest.

A USAID partnership with Coca-Cola is strengthening value chains, and another with AB Inbev/Ambev supports a coalition of partners to enhance sustainable guarana production for beverages. Natura, a Brazilian cosmetics company, is pioneering biodiverse agroforestry systems on degraded land for sustainable palm oil production through a public-private partnership with USAID.

As businesses increasingly look to invest in social causes, USAID/Brazil can bridge these sectors. USAID/Brazil has also launched a private-sector led partnership platform, Plataforma Parceiros para la Amazonia, based in Manaus, which will bring together dozens of companies, from the United States and Brazil, to jointly work on solutions for a sustainable Amazon.

Overview

Size

  • The Amazon basin covers an area the size of the continental United States. It is twice the size of India and extends into eight countries, with 60 percent in Brazil.
  • If the Amazon were a country, it would be the ninth largest in the world.

Oxygen

  • The Amazon rainforest has been described as the "lungs" of the planet because it produces 20 percent of the world’s oxygen.

Rainforests and Biodiversity

  • The Amazon is the largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world.Facts about Amazon
  • The Amazon is the largest and most biodiverse area in the world.
  • One in ten known species lives in the Amazon rainforest. This constitutes the largest collection of living plants and animal species in the world. One in five of all bird species lives in the Amazon rainforest, and one in five of fish species lives in Amazonian rivers and streams. Scientists have described between 96,660 and 128,843 invertebrate species in Brazil alone.

People

  • The Amazon is home to more than 30 million people living across a vast region subdivided into nine national political systems.
  • People living in the Amazon include 385 indigenous groups who depend on its resources and services.

Water

  • One-sixth (16 percent) of the world's fresh water is in the Amazon basin.
  • The Amazon River provides the basin's drainage, and is the world's largest river in terms of discharge and the second longest river (after the Nile).
  • The Amazon's daily freshwater discharge into the Atlantic is enough to supply New York City's freshwater needs for nine years.

Threats

  • The seemingly endless Amazon has lost 20 percent of its forest cover in the last 50 years—more than in the previous 450 years since European colonization began.
  • Scientists fear that an additional 20 percent of the trees will be lost over the next two decades. If that happens, the forest's ecology will begin to unravel.
  • The Amazon produces half its own rainfall through the moisture it releases into the atmosphere.
  • Biologists worry about long-term consequences, such as drought. Some rainforests, including the Amazon, began experiencing drought in the 1990s; the largest tracts of Brazil’s agricultural production depend on the rainfall and rivers, as do the 34 million people living there.

For more information

Biodiversity Conservation Partnership in Brazil