“If you ask yourself, is it possible to have zero deforestation and maintain agricultural and cattle production at the same level as today? The answer is yes, it is totally possible!”

Listen to the cientist Carlos Nobre in an excerpt of the episode:

Cacalos Garrastazu


Agricultural expansion on a commercial scale is today the main driving force behind deforestation worldwide and, consequently, of greenhouse gas emissions from changes in land use. This is the conclusion from the report “Illicit harvest, complicity goods: the state of illegal deforestation for agriculture”, produced by Forest Trends, a non-profit organization founded in 1998 and based in Washington, DC.

of global tropical forest loss between 2013-2019 are linked to commercial agriculture
of tropical forest conversion to agriculture was in violation of national laws and regulations
of forest areas converted to commercial agriculture are for soybean production
is the increase in the illegal deforestation rate for the agriculture between 2013 and 2019

See how the area of tropical forests converted to agriculture in violation of national laws is distributed around the world (2013-2019)

Total forest loss
75% to 100% of forest converted to agriculture in violation of national laws
50% to 74% of forest converted to agriculture in violation of national laws
25% to 40% of forest converted to agriculture in violation of national laws
0% to 24% of forest converted to agriculture in violation of national laws

Data available on legality:


Source: Forest Trends Report May 2021

Fifty years ago, a special issue of the now extinct Brazilian magazine Realidade (Reality), published in October, 1971, had advertisements about an Amazon that was being explored by contractors, farmers, and governments. With the works of the Trans-Amazonian Highway as a starting point, the 328-page publication already approached the destruction of the forest, the wisdom of the native peoples, as well as explained how nature tried to defend the environment from human action.

Government advertisements attracted farmers to the Amazon in the 1970's

Reprodução/ Hemeroteca Biblioteca Nacional

In the advertising sponsored by the federal office for Amazon development, called Sudam, the Brazilian government was already inviting farmers to bring their cattle to the region. “Land is cheap and your farm can have all the pasture that the cattle need”, said the ad, in which the government promised incentives and funding for those who brought their cattle to the region.

Cacalos Garrastazu/Eder Content
Cattle in a deforested area in the region of Novo Progresso (Pará); fourth most deforested city in the Amazon, the cattle herd increased by 10% between 2015 and 2020

Five decades later, the municipality of São Félix do Xingu (PA) has the largest cattle herd in Brazil. There are 2.4 million heads of cattle. With an estimated population of 135 thousand, there are more cattle than residents in the city. There are 18 heads of cattle per inhabitant.

Not by chance, São Félix do Xingu is among the champions of deforestation: it ranks second in Amazon cities with the largest deforested area, according to official data from Prodes (Project for the Satellite Monitoring of the Brazilian Amazon). It ranks behind only Altamira, also in the State of Pará.

When we come across Prodes ranking of the ten Brazilian cities most deforested in 2020 with figures on cattle herds registered by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) in the same locations, we can see that there was an increase of almost 500 thousand heads of cattle in these municipalities.

Episode in pictures

Cacalos Garrastazu