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Sustainable Resource Management in Brazil’s Caatinga Biome


From 2011 to 2017, the Brazilian government implemented seven projects in three areas of the Caatinga biome, in collaboration with the Brazilian bank Caixa Econômica Federal. The projects aimed to promote the sustainable management and use of timber for industrial and domestic purposes in the Caatinga, with the goal to reduce the high deforestation rate in the biome. 

All seven projects positively impacted themes that are highly relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), such as the sustainable use of natural resources, reduction of habitat loss and illegal deforestation, generation of economic alternatives for vulnerable populations, improvement of energy efficiency in production chains, mainstreaming of gender, and reduction of health risks.

This case study has been repurposed from Brazil’s Fifth National Report to CBD (5NR).

Problem, challenge or context: 

In spite of its importance, natural vegetation in the Caatinga biome is being lost in an accelerated rate. According to the Ministry of the Environment, around 46 per cent of the biome has been lost. The main causes of natural vegetation loss and degradation in the region are the unsustainable consumption of native wood for domestic and industrial purposes, overgrazing, and conversion of natural vegetation to pasture and agricultural land.

Specific elements of components: 

Brazil occupies almost half of South America and has the greatest diversity of species in the world (around 20 per cent of global biodiversity), spread across six terrestrial biomes and three marine ecosystems, including the Amazon rainforest and the Caatinga region. Occupying an area equivalent to 11 per cent of Brazil’s national territory, the Caatinga is rich in endemic animal and plant species, which grants the region the title of the most biodiverse semi-arid biome on the planet. 

About 27 million people live in the Caatinga region who are mostly dependent on the biome's resources to survive. Firewood from the Caatinga forests accounts for 33 per cent of the local energy matrix. The Caatinga’s natural resources play a fundamental role in the economy of northeastern Brazil, such as:

  • Non-timber forest products extracted from the forests, such as honey, wax, essential oils, fruits and fibers are fundamental sources of income for the survival and livelihoods of a significant portion of the population, particularly in the rural areas.
  • Forests are also used for grazing livestock.
  • Majority of the population uses traditional wood stoves that produce indoor smoke and soot, resulting in a number of health hazards, particularly to women.
  • Firewood still represents 70 per cent of fuel consumption in households, approximately 91 per cent of which is consumed in the rural areas.
The action taken: 

The Ministry of the Environment, through the National Environment Fund (FNMA/MMA), and Caixa Econômica Federal through its Socio-environmental Fund (FSA/CAIXA), published a public bid on ‘Energy efficiency and sustainable use of the Caatinga’. Through this bid, seven projects were selected for funding to promote the sustainable use of Caatinga’s natural resources, and to improve energy efficiency for domestic and industrial use. 

The projects focused on three critical regions that heavily depend on Caatinga for their energy matrix. These include:

  • Chapada do Araripe and surrounding region, focusing on plaster production in Pernambuco state and domestic use;
  • Lower Jaguaribe Watershed and surrounding region, focusing on ceramics production in Ceará state; and
  • Xingó region encompassing parts of the states of Alagoas, Sergipe, Bahia and Pernambuco, focusing on ceramics production and domestic use. 
Key lessons learned: 
  • Strong public policies and technical assistance from the Brazilian government in the Caatinga have created a favorable environment for empowering communities to sustainably manage natural resources, including timber and non-timber products.
  • A possible next step, following the development of sustainable alternatives by the seven projects implemented by the government, would be their transformation into public policies to promote the environmentally and socially sustainable development in the Caatinga region.
  • All seven projects positively impacted themes that are highly relevant to the CBD, such as the sustainable use of natural resources, the reduction of habitat loss and illegal deforestation, the generation of economic alternatives to vulnerable populations, the improvement of energy efficiency in production chains, in addition to gender mainstreaming and reduction of health hazards.
Impacts and outcomes: 

The seven projects collectively delivered several remarkable results. These include:

Sustainable forest management

  • Defined and developed medium and long-term strategies for forest management, including planning and management activities for a cycle of 15 years.
  • Implemented 38 forest management plans. The plans are expected to sustainably produce between 1320,000–165,000 m3 of firewood per year to supply the demands of regional industries.
  • Characterized 370 rural settlement projects spread over three states (Pernambuco, Piauí and Ceará). Of these, 38 rural settlement projects have been selected as viable for the implementation of sustainable forest management. The projects will potentially benefit over 1,000 families.
  • Conducted 40 participatory rural assessments, and eight capacity building workshops on sustainable forest management and co-existence in the semi-arid ecosystem.

Enhancing energy efficiency of domestic cooking stoves

  • Conducted at least 332 hands-on events for the dissemination of more efficient technologies for domestic wood stoves, and on the construction of these stoves. Built and disseminated 1, 277 energy efficient domestic wood stoves, 70 oven community builders trained, and 2, 483 families benefited - increasing the potential for replication.
  • Reduced the amount of firewood used in each household, and the consequent environmental degradation.
  • Benefited women’s health and the cooking experience from the use of efficient wood stoves.  
  • Increased income of women, by utilizing the time saved from walking long distances to collect wood, for other productive tasks. These include the processing of agricultural and extractive products or the production of traditional jams and desserts for local markets.

Energy efficiency and sustainability in industries

  • Enhanced energy efficiency, and the adoption of more sustainable production practices for plaster and ceramic production in 147 industries. 
  • Promoted a pact for sustainable production within regional industries.
  • Provided technical support and explained sustainable production to stakeholders, including entrepreneurs of plaster and ceramic production, rural producers who supply firewood, and public agencies. 

Brazil’s NBSAP 2016-2020

  • Brazil’s national targets are aligned and contribute to the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
  • National Biodiversity Target (NBT) 7 directly addresses the challenge of sustainable natural resource management. NBT 7, Action 13 is dedicated to developing forest management plans for Caatinga and Amazon. Its objective is to promote the sustainable forest timber management and consumption in the production chains of furniture, civil works, and for energy purposes, among others.
  • Several other targets and actions within Brazil’s NBSAP promote conservation and restoration activities in the Caatinga biome. These include National Target 1, 2, 5, 11,12 and 15.
Contact details: 
Heena Ahmed. Contact through NBSAP Forum member profile here:
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