Dialog builds the best path
Dialog has been the main instrument in the quest to solve land occupation by social movements.
The agrarian issue is a historical challenge in Brazil. For companies with a forest base, such as Veracel, it is a most sensitive matter. For this reason, together with sustainable handling of our forests and landscape management, keeping up active dialog with our publics of interest, power and influence connected with the subject is key for the continuity of our operations. Therefore, we seek viable solutions built on the basis of a common agenda for communities’ socioeconomic development.
Our plan centers on clearing up doubts regarding our role as a company in the face of the risk that occupations of our land pose to operations, as well as presenting the efforts undertaken in connection with the project for sustainable settlements, which currently involves 900 families from six movements of landless workers.
Land, a fundamental asset
Since 2012 we have had a project for sustainable settlements, through which we have earmarked 16.5 thousand hectares to six landless workers’ movements. To maintain the sustainability of our business we cannot commit more land than the area established in the agreement. It is key for Veracel’s business to maintain the company’s planted areas at full operational capacity.
Producing over a million tons of pulp a year depends on the supply of wood from the forests. The less wood, the less production, fewer jobs, less tax. It is a predictable vicious cycle. All the initiatives we have undertaken are intended to assert the agreement arrived at between the Bahia State Government, INCRA and the social movements.
Although we recognize that the agrarian conflict in Brazil is contradictory, as private capital we are unable to solve this historical issue with our resources and at the cost of regional development.
The project for sustainable settlements started on the basis of an agreement between Veracel, the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), the state government of Bahia and six social movements of landless workers. At the time (2012), we made a commitment to turn over 14 thousand hectares of land for families in the movements, through INCRA. A further 2.5 thousand hectares were added, for INCRA to settle families in the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST), stemming from a farm acquired by Veracel in 2005. The total of 16.5 thousand hectares is nearly 20% of the company’s land. In return, the social movements made a commitment to move out of areas they had occupied after July 2011 and not occupy new areas.
University of São Paulo’s Luiz de Queiroz College of Agricultural (ESALQ/USP) is our partner in the sustainable settlement project. This entity is responsible for a number of actions intended to ensure that the settlements are indeed sustainable. One of these actions consists of a socio-environmental diagnostic of the families involved, to build actions in the short, medium and long-term. This is an essential step to determine the productive profile of the settlements and the custody chain of agricultural products in the region, as subsidies for the productive modeling of new settlements. The project also calls for training agriculturists, participative-productive planning and strategies for use and occupation of land and environmental suitability.
2016 saw advances in the direction taken by the sustainable settlement project, in the form of initiatives regarding pre-settlements established by the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) involved in the project: diagnostics, determining what kind of products should be sold in the settlements and the profile of families camping in the location, who would be future settlers.
• Training and qualification processes, including setting up and managing a community seed bank, a course on agroecological handling of cabruca cocoa, courses on fruticulture, training in agroecological horticulture, a workshop on ant-control and a course for trainers, focusing on environmental agroecological literacy.
• Environmental training, with action on organization of pre-settlement areas regarding strategies for use, location and distribution of plots of land, roads and recuperation and restoration of areas for preservation.
What has happened to the vegetal cover in recent years?
To answer this question, we got together with other enterprises in the sector (Fibria and Suzano) to sponsor an extremely important study on forest handling and environmental conservation under our management. This became Independent Monitoring of the Forest Cover of the Northern Basins in the Deep South of Bahia State, which came out in 2016 during the Forest Forum for the Deep South of Bahia, in Porto Seguro.
The challenge was to understand changes in the use of land over decades, whether due to human activity or as a result of climate change, in an area of 2.3 million hectares.
On the basis of analyzing records covering 20 years’ satellite images, scientific reports were prepared to orient actions to conserve and restore landscape in the region. In addition, they provide elements to study matters related to climate change, carbon sequestration, landscape resilience and forest restoration. The satellite images can be used by municipalities and states for territorial management, by the companies that sponsored the study and by Brazilian and international entities to benefit conservation of the Atlantic Forest biome.
Veracel looks good in the photo
A cutout of the study, carried out by BioAtlantic Institute (IBIO), showing the 10 municipalities where we act, indicates a considerable increase of native vegetation in our land and that of the producers in the Forest Producer Program (PPF). The increase observed upon comparing images from 2007 and 2013 is about 12 thousand hectares. Of this total, 9.5 thousand hectares are in Veracel’s areas or those of PPF producers.