An application highlights 5,000 “invisible” families in the Cerrado in Brazil


  • A new report shows the results of an app that has mapped more than 5,000 families in 76 communities across 23 Brazilian states, whose territories amount to 350,000 hectares (865,000 acres) which, so far, have not were not recognized on official government maps.
  • The digital mapping platform, called Tô No Mapa (“I am on the map” in Portuguese), allows traditional communities to demarcate their lands and identify important points of interest and conflict.
  • The app was developed by the Brazilian civil society organization Institute for Society, People and Nature (ISPN), the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and several other Brazilian NGOs working with traditional communities.
  • Traditional peoples and communities play a vital role in biodiversity conservation, and securing their legal rights to land and territory is increasingly recognized as a key conservation necessity, according to a wide range of studies and reports. .

Thousands of families from Brazil’s traditional communities have finally gained visibility thanks to a digital mapping platform that has enabled them to demarcate their lands, according to a new report released at the World Conservation Congress this week in Marseilles, France.

The report, presented on September 9 at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, highlights the first results of the Tô No Mapa application, which highlights more than 5,000 families in 76 communities in 23 Brazilian states, whose territories amount to 350,000 hectares (865,000 acres) that, until now, were not recognized on official government maps .

“It looks like a small number but it shows a huge gap between the official data of the state agency and the first results of the mobile application”, Suzanne Scaglia, technical advisor to the Brazilian civil society organization . Institute for Society, People and Nature (ISPN), one of the organizations behind the app, said in a phone interview from the Marseille congress.

The Babassu Coconut Crackers are one of the many traditional communities who have lived off the unique diversity and richness of the Brazilian savannah, and whose livelihoods are increasingly threatened by agricultural conflicts. Image courtesy of Peter Caton / Institute for Society, People, and Nature (ISPN).

The platform, launched in October 2020, also allows communities to identify important points of interest and conflict, according to the ISPN.

In Brazil, there are dozens of different types of traditional peoples and communities recognized by law, but to varying degrees. While the rights of indigenous peoples and Quilombola communities are guaranteed by the 1988 Constitution, others traditional communities like the residents, geraizeiro peasants and traditional herders are under the 2007 National policy for the sustainable development of peoples and traditional communities, which defines them as self-identified groups whose cultural, social, religious, ancestral and economic reproduction depends on their use of land and natural resources.

But, in practice, many of these communities do not have registration, do not have access to legal services and do not appear on official maps, which can reduce their ability to claim rights over their communities and their traditional territories. Many of them live in Cerrado, the most biodiverse savannah in the world.

Brazil’s second biome (after the Amazon), the Cerrado is a biodiversity hotspot currently threatened by rapid agricultural expansion. In 2020, nearly half a million hectares (1,235,526 acres) of savannah were deforested or converted, roughly 41 times the size of the city of Paris. The expansion of soybeans is responsible for just under a third of this deforestation, according to a report by Chain reaction research.

Hundreds of traditional communities – from the Quilombolas, Afro-Brazilian descendants of runaway slaves, to peasant and agro-extractivist communities – live in Cerrado. Studies have shown that their management of these areas has prevented deforestation, conserved more of the remaining areas of native vegetation, conserved native fauna, provided food, helped recharge aquifers and water sources, and helped to maintain the earth’s capacity to store carbon dioxide.

Traditional communities who based their livelihoods on the rich plant diversity of Cerrado, the Brazilian savannah, are also among the best custodians of Cerrado conservation, experts say. Image courtesy of Bento Viana / Institute for Society, People, and Nature (ISPN).

“Traditional communities hold centuries-old knowledge about plant fruiting, the distribution of native species, fire management and other techniques that are integral to the Cerrado environment,” says Valney Dias Rigonato, professor of geography at the Cerrado. Federal University of Western Bahia, which wasn’t involved in creating the report and studied traditional communities and livelihoods in the Cerrado for two decades. “Traditional communities conserve and even positively improve the composition of the landscape. “

The widespread conversion of the native Cerrado vegetation to agricultural land has triggered land disputes with traditional communities, many of whom do not exist on official government maps. Of the 7,353 localities where rural land conflicts occurred between 2003 and 2018, more than 40% took place in the Cerrado, according to an analysis by the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) and the Federation of Social and Educational Aid Organizations (FASE).

The Tô No Mapa application, which translates into Portuguese as “I am on the map”, aims to remedy this, say the developers, because it was carried out in consultation with the traditional communities, the ISPN, the ‘Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and several other Brazilian NGOs.

“Through this initiative, we want to offer communities a tool to define their own territories, thus helping to ensure the governance of these territories”, declared Isabel Figueiredo, coordinator of the Cerrado and Caatinga program at ISPN, in a statement. communicated.

Fight invisibility

In Brazil, as in many other places, the conservation sector’s narrow focus on deforestation has made other biomes and the people who inhabit them, such as Cerrado and its traditional communities, largely invisible. A recent article published in the journal Nature opinion Earth and environment shows that despite the great importance of ecosystems like grasslands, including their role in food production, water supply and carbon storage, they are largely ignored in sustainable development programs.

In a resolution spent last year, IUCN, the world conservation authority, has recognized the key contributions of local communities, including traditional and indigenous peoples, in addition to other forms of environmental and social protection, to maintaining these vital ecosystem functions. He called for the integration of Cerrado into international cooperation and global environmental funds, and recognized the rights and roles of traditional peoples and communities in the defense and conservation of the Brazilian savannah.

A woman stands in front of her house in the Cerrado biome, the Brazilian savannah. Thousands of small communities in Brazil are missing from official maps, putting them at a disadvantage in the face of agricultural encroachment and destruction of the Cerrado, experts say. Image courtesy of André Dib / Institute for Society, People, and Nature (ISPN).

In addition to the indigenous peoples, the more than two dozen different types of traditional peoples and communities of the Cerrado – such as the Quilombolas, evergreen flower pickers, babassu coconut breakers, and peasants – constitute the ‘one of the strongest buffers against deforestation and land conversion, says Scaglia.

“They are the custodians of these landscapes because their livelihoods depend on these resources,” she says. “You can see on the maps where there is native vegetation left, this is where traditional people and communities live. “

But these traditional communities are often excluded from maps and therefore lack land rights, increasing the threat of agricultural encroachment and land grabbing. A previous survey by ISPN and IPAM showed that there are three and a half times more traditional communities in northern Cerrado than government agencies recognize.

As more communities join the app, ISPN plans to integrate the information into a platform of traditional peoples and communities administered by the National Council of Traditional Peoples and Communities and the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF ).

Rosangela Corrêa, director of the Cerrado Museum, a virtual museum focused on the dissemination of scientific information on the biome, agrees on the importance of such initiatives to give visibility to the traditional peoples and communities of Cerrado.

“It is urgent to give visibility to these communities, because their territories become islands of conservation and cultural diversity surrounded by pastures and extensive agriculture, which poses a problem of contamination of indigenous systems close to these cultivated areas” , she says. “The death of Cerrado leads to the disappearance of these communities, the recognition of their territories is therefore urgent to keep the local socio-biodiversity alive. “

Banner image: The traditional communities who based their livelihoods on the rich plant diversity of the Brazilian Cerrado savannah are also considered to be among the best custodians of Cerrado conservation. Image courtesy of Bento Viana / Institute for Society, People, and Nature (ISPN).

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Agriculture, Controversial, Culture, Environment, Environmental Policy, Ethnocide, Featured, Forests, Green, Joyful Environment, Land Rights, Land Use Change, Social Justice, Soybeans, Traditional People


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