1. The area of the "Cerrados", which corresponds to 25% of Brazil's territory, is situated principally in the central plateau of the country, extending, totally or partially, to the states of Goias, Tocantins, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Bahia, The Federal District, Maranhao, Piaui, Spo Paulo and Roraima and certain other areas of the Northeast. They fall in the international category of savannas and, bear great physical similarity to regions of this type found in the other parts of the world.
2. The central plains occupied by the Cerrados constitute the ridge of Brazil and of South America, where the significant quantities of water which feed the hydrographic basin of the continent are distributed. Accordingly, they play a fundamental role in maintaining the equilibrium of the other biosystems, meaning that changes in their usage patterns could produce profound changes in the ecosystems of the Amazon, the Pantanal, the Mata Atlantica, the Caatinga and Mata de Araucaria. Some of the consequences of this change in land use can already be observed now, but others will probably arise which are as yet unknown.
3. Another consideration is the enormously varied and rich biodiversity of the Cerrados which, in some taxonomic groups, is even greater than that of the Amazon.
4. The Cerrados were settled by aboriginal peoples, who left evidence of over 15.000 years of occupation. After suffering from the colonization process, many were able to establish production methods relatively well adapted to the environmental conditions. However, from the 1960s, the Cerrado region began to suffer from a process of intensive occupation including the production of export crops and monocultural forestry projects.
5. The occupation of the Cerrados is taking place without the consultation or participation of the people living there, a common aspect of the development model adopted in Brazil over the last decades. This model is based on financial subsidies and physical incentives, land becomes concentrated, technological packages are used, infrastructure is imposed through subsidies of capital and in rural populations are expelled as their forms of production are destroyed.
6. The ecosystem of the Cerrados is seen as a suitable location for the expansion of agriculture, cattle raising and forestry. This means the ecosystem is being attacked and around 75% of its total area has already been destroyed through:
a. Indiscriminate clearing of its vegetation and the establishment of massive homogeneous plantations of Eucalyptus to produce fuel. This fuel is used to supply the iron industry which produces ore which is exported principally to Japan or sold to the pulp industry
b. The opening of huge extensions of homogeneous pasturage lands to exports from industrial-technological interests: soil correctives, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and heavy machinery
c. The implementation of huge irrigation projects with intensive and indiscriminate use of the water resources and energy
d. The installation of huge hydroelectric dams along the principal waterways to generate electrical energy.
7. These issues are having widespread social and environmental impact, including:
a. A drastic reduction of the enormous and still unexplored biodiversity that
exists in the Cerrados
b. Degradation of the soil, through the use of heavy machinery and chemical
products which spread and accelerate the erosion and sterilization processes
c. Contamination of the water supplies, which affects all the animals and human
beings who depend on this water
d. Sedimentation and the reduction of surface and underground water sources
as a result of soil erosion. The soil of the Cerrados has characteristic low
water consumption and permeable soil which functions as a sponge, capturing
and storing the water - consequently the capacity of watershed is also reduced
e. Intensification of the process of land concentration with the expulsion,
migration and impoverishment of the small land owners and rural workers, generating
new insoluble problems for the medium and large sized urban centers
f. Disintegration of the local communities, their cultural values, customs and
Plan of Action
8. Considering this outlook, we propose to:
a. Develop concrete outlines for the participation of the local population in the planning and establishment of development policy
b. Create a permanent action network of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and social movements of the Cerrados areas, anticipating joint actions for its defense and the interchange of information
c. Campaign for the unification of societies in all countries where there are Cerrado and Savanna ecosystems in order to extend knowledge and to adopt action plans to support preservation, sustainable development and environmental education
d. Change the institutionalized concept that the Cerrados don't offer the vital resources for human inhabitation
e. Demand the commission of a study to identify the remaining areas of the Cerrados settled by indigenous peoples, with the objective of creating new areas of conservation and restricted use, resource extraction and sustainable management
f. Provide incentives for gradual sustainable development in the Cerrados areas, giving priority to small and medium-scale production
g. Campaign for the recognition of boundaries and the defense of land settled by indigenous groups, as this land constitutes the indispensable basis of their existence and guarantees the well being of their societies and cultures
h. Struggle for a redistribution of the land and an agricultural policy favouring the small rural producer
i. Create mechanisms for permanent relations between the Brazilian Parliament, various sectors of civil society and NGOs
j. Campaign for the Cerrado ecosystem to be recognised as a National Patrimony by the Brazilian Constitution, in the same way as the Amazon, Pantanal and the Mata Atlantica Coastal Zone have been
k. Campaign for the establishment of native species reforestation programs in degraded areas; for preservation; and for the cleaning and conservation of water resources
l. Agitate for the reorientation of the international financing that makes the
establishment of predatory and elitist projects in the Cerrados area possible.
© 2001 by Ulrich Schmitthenner