30 September 2008

Alfred Russel Wallace: Great Explorer and Discoverer in the Amazon

Alfred Russel Wallace was a British natural scientist, explorer, geographer, and anthropologist. He did extensive fieldwork, first in the Amazon River basin and then in the Malay Archipelago, where he identified the Wallace Line dividing the fauna of Australia from that of Asia. He is best known for independently proposing a theory of natural selection, which prompted Charles Darwin to publish his own theory. Wallace is considered co-discoverer of the theory.

Wallace was the eighth of nine children, born on January 8, 1823 at Usk, Monmouthshire. He was educated at Hertford Grammar School and left at the age of 14. In 1844 Wallace became a schoolmaster at the Collegiate School in Leicester, where he met the naturalist Henry Walter Bates. Wallace convinced Bates to join him on an expedition to the Amazon to collect specimens.

Before leaving for the Amazon, Wallace gave himself an intensive crash course in flora and fauna, making local collecting trips and haunting the British museum. For Bates and Wallace, who sailed in 1848, the jungle was their university, as well as a source of income. Growing interest in natural history was creating a dynamic market in reports and samples from the field. A practice that today would be considered biopiracy was then common and the only sustenance available to fund poor scientist doing field research across the world.

Wallace and Bates signed on with an agent, Samuel Stevens, who taught them taxidermy and species preservation, planned their itinerary to accord with the needs of collectors, sent them bottles and cash when they ran out, and advertised their findings in specialized journals, selling their specimens to institutions like the British Museum and Kew Gardens, as well as to wealthy amateurs.

The two naturalists spent their first year collecting near Belem do Para, then explored inland separately, occasionally meeting to discuss their findings. Another young explorer, botanist Richard Spruce, along with Wallace’s younger brother Herbert, briefly joined them. Wallace charted the Rio Negro for four years, collecting specimens and making notes on the people and languages he encountered as well as the geography, flora and fauna.

Wallace noted that range boundaries for a number of animal species in the Amazonian rain forest seemed to coincide with the region’s many rivers. That observation marked the origin of one of the foremost theories for why the Amazon harbors such extraordinary biodiversity for its size. This “riverine border hypothesis” in its modern form posits that the Amazon’s main rivers functioned as natural barricades to gene flow between populations.  Such thoughts were precursors and complementary to his findings in the Malay Archipelago, where species differentiation across islands finally drove him to conceive the theory of natural selection.  The Amazon was the first instance of thinking of species differentiation due to physical boundary, be it because of rivers or islands.

In his publication titled Tropical Nature and Other Essays, Wallace notes that,

Warning colours ... are exceedingly interesting, because the object and effect of these is, not to conceal the object, but to make it conspicuous. To these creatures it is useful to be seen and recognized; the reason being that they have a means of defence which, if known, will prevent their enemies from attacking them, though it is generally not sufficient to save their lives if they are actually attacked.

By early 1852 Wallace was in ill health and in no condition to go any further. During his travels back downriver, his canoemen plotted to kill him and take over his belongings.  Since he had been in the Amazon for so long, he had learned Portuguese and could overhear their plot at night, from which he escaped by “convincing” his men at gunpoint to paddle back to Barra do Rio Negro.

He decided to quit South America, and began the long trip back down the Amazon river to Para. To Wallace’s dismay, he found that not only had his brother Herbert died of yellow fever, but most of the collections from the previous two years that he had been forwarding down the Amazon had been delayed at the dock at Barra do Rio Negro because of a mix-up, he would therefore have to secure passage for these as well as himself.

He soon set out for England, but unfortunately, the brig on which he was traveling caught fire and sank, taking almost all of his possessions – including some live animals, along with it. For ten days Wallace and his comrades struggled to survive in a pair of badly leaking lifeboats, then were sighted and picked up by a passing cargo ship also making its way back to England.

He was distraught after arriving in England with none of his notes and collections of six years of hard labor within the forest, but he was able to recover parts of his work from memory or from collections previously sent.  He lived on the insurance settlement for his collection for eighteen months, during which he vacationed in Switzerland, attended professional meetings and delivered papers, and produced two books, Palm Trees of the Amazon and their Uses, and A Narrative of Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro. He also wrote six academic papers, which included Monkeys of the Amazon.

Wallace published several other books, including:

  • Darwinism
  • Miracles and Modern Spiritualism
  • My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions
  • The Evidence of Literary and Professional Men to the Facts of Modern Spiritualism
  • The Moral Teachings of Spiritualism
  • The Old Force, Animal Magnetism and Clairvoyance

In an article titled The Dawn of a Great Discovery, Wallace speaks of how, after his return from the Amazon he was, in 1854, preparing for his visit to the Malay Archipelago for a study of insects and birds of that region, when one day, he was introduced to Darwin in the insect room of the British Museum, and had a few minutes conversation with him.

Hearing that Darwin was interested in his travels and collections, Wallace wrote to him afterwards and received a very long letter in reply, telling him that he agreed with almost every word of his article. The two men agreed on the subject of evolution, and Wallace’s article prompted Darwin to publish his own theory on “The Origin of the Species.”

Wallace married Annie Mitten in 1866, after being introduced to her by Richard Spruce, who was a good friend of Miss Mitten’s father, William Mitten, an expert in mosses. The Wallaces had three children, Herbert, who died in childhood, Violet and William. On November 7, 1913 Wallace died at home in a country house he called Old Orchard. He was 90 years old.



26 September 2008

A bet on Sustainable Development for the Alto Solimões region in the Amazon

It was signed on the 12th in Tabatinga, the agreement of financing between the World Bank and the State Government of Amazonas with sights on the development of the region of Alto Solimões. The loan comes with the technical endorsement and supervision of the bank, which certainly has greater value than the amount itself, US$ 24 million. The project prioritizes three main segments: sanitation, sustainable development, and health.

We search for innovative solutions of high-impact that can be applied on all three segments. In sanitation, the supply of clean water will be the priority, the main subject in the nine contemplated cities; with a project-model aimed towards the sanitary infrastructure and sewer. In health, the focus is mainly management and not new investments. In the area of sustainable development, the root is the search for an economic model in four fronts which can balance a sustainable use of the forest, versus the sad but efficient deforestation alternative.

 The region of Alto Solimões is especially sensitive; because in this vast territory there are controversial issues such as questions involving aboriginal policy, national defense, environmental preservation and anti-trafficking. Also it is possible to identify the increasing, but still low level of social development, and the multiplicity of efforts directed towards the development, since the introduction of forest handling and fisheries.

Tabatinga is one of the few economically vibrant cities of the State that has the capacity to, given a development time and an adequate model of sustainable growth, replicate it through private initiative. The region has a strong potential for local consumption and exportation to neighboring countries, not to mention the easiness of navigation during the whole year to Manaus and the Atlantic.

 In the subject of sustainable development in particular, it is sought to reach high productivity through the best existing technologies and size growth in four priority segments:

·         Forest handling: not yet has great productivity been reached by the sector, to a large extent due to existing technology directed at the cultivations of eucalyptus or pine, and not to the vast Amazonian biodiversity;

·         Non-lumber forest products: from oils and essences to fibers and chestnut, increasing efforts exist for production that must be supplemented by robust financing and assistance with modern technical support;

·         Handling of lakes: although not all of the region is abundant in lakes (they are especially prominent in Jutaí, from river Solimões and below), the handling of fishing and animal resources can be extended;

·         Fisheries: in Benjamin Constant many efforts have already been made in fisheries, including a ration plant that should be reactivated by the private initiative. The region is advantageous to the establishment of fisheries due to the fact that it is relatively plain and easily accessible, through the recently inaugurated road connecting Northern Atalaia with Benjamin Constant.


The project has its roots in the principal of stimulation of experimentation by private and communitarian initiative, instead of seeking to increase the state structure. There will be 20 chosen private projects in conjunction with the World Bank receiving financing of up to R$500.000. These resources are much like investments made in research and development, because they will serve to ensure that private entities find (at low risk and using the best existing technology) the most suitable solutions for the region.

The Alto Solimões, during the arrival of the first Europeans, was a region of great prosperity that used the available natural resources with sustainability. It is a rich region in black earth, which indicates its use by the Indians for centuries on agriculture. When Orellana passed through Tabatinga, he described the great wealth of the local aboriginal kingdoms, especially with regards to the the enormous fisheries of turtles and manatees from which the proteins of the local people came, a beautiful example of ancient sustainable handling.

With the European presence, much of this sustainability was destroyed with the establishment of the ideal that the forest was impeding development. We hope to make another step in the search for the harmony that will bring the balance to the equation that unfortunately still sways towards the value of the fallen forest.




Development Alternatives for Amazonas State, Brazil

Interview granted to the magazine Empório, regarding the challenges and alternatives of development for the State of Amazonas.


1 – What are the biggest challenges for the Free Zone of Manaus?

The Free Zone of Manaus is going through a very positive time of growth. However, we still have a long way to go to link the economic strength of the FZ with the rest of the economy of the state, principally with respect to the countryside. The Green Free Zone is a strong initiative under this direction, where we seek to increase the productivity of the countryside in some commodities such as oils, essences, foods, wood and other products, as rubber.

            The technological convergence also reveals itself to be a great challenge and opportunity. Each day it becomes more difficult to differentiate between the many electronic devices. Products that before were separate are now together; storage medias change; the legislation of the Free Zone needs to follow these changes, under the risk of becoming obsolete within the past technology.

Moreover, we face serious challenges concerning the workforce and infrastructure. Due to the sped up growth, we live in a time that I believe is similar to a “blackout” of the workforce. There are many initiatives, governmental (as UEA, CETAM) and private, but the average growth of the GDP of about 9% per year in the last five years has been more demanding than the available workforce supply.

 Our infrastructure has also improved but still leaves something to desire. In transportation we have the recent announcement of a new modern port in Manaus and the possibilities of geographic growth that the bridge to Iranduba brings. Our airport already demands augmentation, specifically to fulfill the increased demand for international flights and cargo. There is still a lack of a land connection between Manaus and Porto Velho, which can be taken care of by the BR-319 or, in a more productive manner and environmentally appropriate, by a railroad. In the field of energy, natural gas is our great strength, in the search for stability of resource and lower prices. In telecommunications, amplifying the reach of the cellular network with the third generation should be a priority in the next years, as well as the broadening in offers of internet providers, causing a reduction in the prices, which are amongst the highest in Brazil.

2 - The perpetual fiscal war with São Paulo in regard to the ICMS will be perpetual or can be solved between the two states?

The fiscal war will only be reduced with an ample reform in taxes. The current proposal of the Federal Government seeks exactly that. The commitments assumed by the President with Governor Eduardo Braga guarantee that the Free Zone will be preserved and that no other state will be able to grant similar fiscal incentives.


3 – Is the possible creation of Zones of Exportation Processing (ZEPs) in the northeast a threat to the Free Zone of Manaus?

The important factor is to guarantee that the ZEPs are designed in such a way not to compete directly with the FZ. For example, the limitation of sales in the domestic market is a good measure. It is necessary to equate the interests of a new national industrial policy with the implementation of a success model.

4 - For a company that intends to establish itself in the FZM, what are the advantages offered by the State Government?

The State Government not only has interest in new companies establishing themselves in Amazonas, but that the companies that are already here remain and prosper. We seek to offer equality of competition to the companies of the FZ and advantages that differentiate Amazonas from the other states. Also, we search for a good enterprise environment, in which the investor/entrepreneur is respected as a creator of jobs, actuator of growth, and payer of taxes. For this, the State Government has been searching to simplify the relationship with companies; we are still far from the ideal, but we are heading in this direction.


5 – You defend the creation of economic alternatives for the state. Is there any project elaborated in this direction?

We identified six sources of development for the Amazonas: The FZ, Natural Resources, Tourism, Energy, Services and Environmental Services. On the SEPLAM website we have a more detailed presentation. Basically, beyond the FZ that attributes for more than 50% of the state economy, we must take better advantage of:

·         Natural Resources: the Green Free Zone program seeks the development of our natural resources in a sustainable way. These resources include wood, rubber, products of agriculture or extraction, fishing (ornamental and for consumption), minerals, and water, amongst others.

·          Tourism: we have enormous potential. This is an activity that has been growing considerably, but still with a contribution of less than 2% of the state economy.

·         Energy: we have many opportunities arising out of the arrival of the gas-line of Urucu, improving the generation of energy and creating new companies. Moreover, biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol rise as great possibilities in improving the economy in the countryside, for consumption and possibly for exportation.

·         Services: we still need to search for improvements in many service areas. For example, we need cheaper and more abundant telecommunications (cellular and Internet mainly). We need more air routes and links, cargo and passenger, to better stimulate the competition and lower the prices. Also, we should seek for a greater availability of private health and education, due to the increasing demand. Moreover, there are possibilities of customer servicing through Call Centers, and we can stimulate the companies in the FZ to lease these services in Manaus, for example.

·         Environmental Services: with the Foundation for Sustainable Amazonas, we took a great step towards the establishment of a market of environmental services. We seek to show the value of the present forest by the services it naturally provides to Brazil and to the world. The first step is to remunerate the guardians of forest through the Bolsa Floresta. The next steps will be drawn by the State Government and the Foundation Council, which is composed of some of the most prominent entrepreneurs, leaders and thinkers of current Amazônia.




Science contributing to the economy in the Amazon

The Brazilian academy traditionally always feared working with private initiative. Research conducted for the development of economic interests was always seen as inferior to that focused in the pure knowledge. I believe, also, that this view explains the absence of private resources applied in research, which, in general are diverted to sectors where they are more welcome.

This traditional belief has been changing and I believe that the Fapeam has a fundamental role on breaking this paradigm. Successive administrations of the Sect have sought to develop lines of research directly linked to the sustainable economic exploitation of potentialities in the region.

It is in this spirit that we today have one of the most important projects of Amazonas subsidized by scientific knowledge. The project Reserve of River Juma, that is being implemented for the Foundation for Sustainable Amazonas and sponsored by the hotel chain Marriott, rises as a window we have been searching for many years in the Amazônia. My grandfather, Professor Samuel Benchimol, has for many years already stated that the solution for Amazônia would undeniably reveal itself to be preservation instead of remuneration. Successive international negotiations seem to follow in the route of mechanics of remuneration of REDD (Reduction of Emissions of Deforestation and Degradation) in new negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol, that will begin in 2013.

So that we may be remunerated, we need to pass through four phases: determination of a focus area, determination of the probability of deforestation of this area annually, gauging of the volume of carbon storage in that area, and determination of the effects that the implementation of a project that aims for the reduction of deforestation would have. A few years prior, this project would be impossible due to the lack of knowledge that we had of our forest. Today, finally, we can establish, approximately, how much carbon is in storage in one determined hectare. Also we can establish which areas of Amazônia would probably be deforested in the next years, due to extensive studies, also published in the magazine Nature.

With all these phases, proven and audited by an internationally recognized firm, we will have the financial instrument, in the form of VREs (Voluntary Reduction of Emissions), to get resources directed towards preservation. It is the first step in the remuneration of the Amazônians through preservation. It is possible, thus, that we re-equalize the equation of the economic value of the standing forest, with regards to the cut down forest. It is an equation that makes Amazônia poor and threatens the world; to change it is a priority for all.


How to rebalance the equation of deforestation in the Amazon - Part I - Environmental Services

The possibility of valuation of environmental services provided by the forest is the biggest economic opportunity of Amazônia today. In the past we had rubber, in the future we will probably have the technology to use the natural laboratory to our advantage, on the extent of which is unimaginable today; presently, for the region as a whole, environmental services can be the solution. Amazônia small rivers give the environmental services of maintenance of the climate and water cycle, prevention of global heating, and conservation of biodiversity, amongst others. With only one pertinent difference: without compensation.

Taking a step in this direction, Amazonas in conjunction with the Foundation for Sustainable Amazonas celebrated a partnership with the chain of hotels Marriott to preserve an area of 5 thousand km ², seeking the improvement of the living conditions for the local population (approximately one thousand inhabitants) and having as a counterpart the conservation of the area and subsequent provision of environmental services. This reserve, located on the River Juma, is situated in the arc of the deforestation, in such a way that, in a “normal” scenario, would be deforested in the next years.

This project is based on an initial donation on the part of the chain of hotels and, subsequently, the contributions of guests who opt on paying an additional small amount to contribute to the reserve. The project destines itself to implement improvements in monitoring and the Bolsa Floresta program, lead by the Foundation for Sustainable Amazonas, presided over by former-Minister Furlan and former-Secretary of the Environment of Amazonas Virgílio Viana. With respect to monitoring, the main actions include the use of satellite in conjunction with the presence of well equipped points of monitoring by land. The Bolsa Floresta program, aside from a payment of R$50 monthly to the families who do not participate in deforestation, also disperses payments of approximately R$750 per year for families of the small communities. This additional expense must be spent through a communitarian organization (R$50 per family), sustainable economic activities (R$350 per family) and social improvements (R$350 per family, aiming at education, health, transport and communication).

Two factors of the project are in disagreement with the rolls of policies of development previously attempted in the country.

·         The financing does not come from the public budget and yes, in this case, from the donation and income obtained by the Foundation.

·         The communities decide on how to better use the resources, and not bureaucrats separated by thousands of kilometers of distance.

The project is seeking to be compensated with VREs (voluntary reductions of carbon emissions) following CCB methodology (the main standard for forest carbon projects), due to the estimated reduction in deforestation. The CCB methodology is emerging as the standard means of evaluation of REDD projects (Reduction of Emissions based on Deforestation and Degradation), which is of extreme relevance for the Amazonian region.

Amongst the many positive factors in this example, it is of great importance the advent of the economic initiative swaying in favor of the standing forest. Thus begins the change in the economic equation “the standing forest vs. the fallen forest.” Only this re-balancing can permit the creation of a sustainable economy on Amazônia of which we will be proud of.

            With partners such as Marriott and Bradesco, the State of Amazonas will be able to reach a scenario in which the deforestation, already at a low level (of about 750 km ² or 0.05% of the state per year), will be reduced to zero. The necessity of the magnifying of these efforts is evident, leaving doubts only as to how to complete the task.

Although the hope and expectation exists that more responsible citizens and companies will voluntarily extend their contributions to similar projects (in case you are one of them, visit the site www.fas-amazonas.org), almost a thousand similar projects would be necessary to cover all of Amazônia. The accurate solution to protect all of the 4,3 million km ² of Brazilian Amazônia can occur by a new international regimen of valuation and payment for environmental services. Today, this regimen is contemplated to assume the gap following the conclusion of the Kyoto Protocol that will end in 2012; Amazonas proposes that we receive credits from carbon (for the storage of carbon) or credits for any other environmental processes (to a large extent covered in CCB methodology) in exchange for the conservation. Knowing that the benefits will be enjoyed by all, nothing more just than sharing the costs with all.

            Let us remember the rules of social justice, political balance, economic viability and environmental adequacy (Prof. Benchimol). The conservation of the forest ceases to be a sign of absence of men and economic inactivity to become a sign of humanity and regional strength.


Improvement in the public administration with ISO 9000

This week marked the first certification of ISO 9000 obtained by the present state administration; the first of what we expect will be many. The IPEM (Institute of Weights and Measures of the Amazonas) was recommended for the certification without exception, after one year of arduous work, certainly recognizable by those who already worked on implementing a quality system.

The ISO provides a framework of three practical applications that, given they do not guarantee good management, at least give the certainty that an effort has been made to demonstrate a continuous commitment to improvement that may eventually, in itself, be classified as good management. The three practical applications are:

·         Management of talent: the ISO requires that a manager pays close attention to the qualifications and training of its servers. Hours of training and an adequate graduation are basic requisites for the attainment.

·         Indicators: as Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, has already said: “What gets measured gets managed.” The ISO requires the establishment of indicators at the principal levels of the organization. For example, an organization should measure: productivity of a sector (number of concluded processes), the average delay of processes (always searching for faster possibilities), and quality (in how many cases repetition is necessary).

o       An indicator of special importance, and still not yet regarded as such in the field of public service, is the satisfaction of the public with the provided services. For example, IPEM takes precise care of important items to the economy, such as taximeters, scales, gas pumps, and others. In this process, it makes frequent contact with consumers as well as with entrepreneurs. The IPEM now measures the satisfaction of these users and gets audited to verify accurate treatment of possible claims.

·         Continuous improvement: the ISO demands the mapping of processes and verification of possible bottlenecking and difficulties in the execution of tasks. After this mapping, of course there will still be problems existing. The ISO disposes of a tool, the Treatise of Non-Conformity, which ensures that every time a significant problem is discovered, there will be a search for a lasting solution. The external auditor, while performing the audit, searches for evidences that the organization is always searching for these improvements.

These simple practices are of unquestionable effectiveness in private or public administration, if implemented with vigor. The ISO simply systemizes the adoption of these practices and guarantees the continuity of them. Today, we operate with more than ten state agencies with implementation, with probable certifications soon of SEPLAN, CIOPS and CGL, and will be initiating more shortly.

I would like, finally, to make a suggestion to those that agree with the principles of the above mentioned practices. Those that know public managers, in any spheres, question them on what they are doing in each of these items. Is there research being done of satisfaction of your clients, the public? What are the policies involved in the valuation of servers, of training, of recruitment? What system do you adopt in your search for continuing improvement? It is only with a demanding society that we can have some hope of a better future.


Interview concerning mining in Amazonas

Below follows the interview granted to the magazine In the Mine, with a focus on mining. Interview granted on the 22nd of August of 2008.


- What is the current panorama on the field of mining in the state?

The mining sector is of great importance for the State of Amazonas. Today, we have in operation a large mine in Pitinga, which generates a large volume of jobs, economic activity and royalties to the state. This mine alone accounts for 80% of the nation’s necessities of tin, which gives Brazil the position of exporter of the metal. The same mine still provides good potential as a tantalum resource. We also have important oil and gas lines in Urucu and Silves, with the potential of finding new deposits, caused by the large state investment in this segment. We also have a great deposit of silvinita, which has the potential of, in average time, allowing Brazil to become self-sufficient in potassium. We also have great potential in the harvesting of kaolin, bauxite, gold, and niobium, amongst others. We welcome any investors interested in the state and understand that the competition in the segment is essential for sustainable development.


- What are the main projects in progress?

The current focus is the project of silvinita in Nova Olinda do Norte. We worry about the current contractual situation, which causes uncertainty and can raise the risk perceived by investors in Brazil and Amazonas.

From other angle, the arrival of the gas-line of Urucu in Manaus is also considered a priority. We have these two projects in first place due to the high degree of private interest on both. Not hindering however, in the presence of interested investors, the State to seek out other possible investments.


- How has the government, through its Secretary, contributed to stimulate the leverage of these projects and the sector, in general?

We have sought to understand the real potential of our reserves of silvinita and the necessities and risks associated. For example, we already understand the great energy necessary for the mine to work and we are searching for possible solutions. We also must address the environmental question which needs to be equated before any investments in Amazônia. Our secretary, in both cases, will aim to eliminate impediments and to find economically viable solutions which are ecologically adjusted.

Moreover, we have studied incentives to stimulate the formation of production chains which integrate mining with industry. Industries such as paper can benefit in the near presence of kaolin harvesting, there are also possibilities in the areas of civil construction and ceramics, which can integrate the strong tax incentives of the Free Zone of Manaus with the local mineral production. In fertilization, we can integrate the potassium of Nova Olinda with natural gas for the formation of a new strong local industry directed at supplying the field of agriculture.

More than everything, however, we have sought to keep a good enterprise environment in the state, in which private investment is well regarded and in which the profit is not seen as crime or sin, but instead, as merit and remuneration for the risk taken. Contracts preservation is also essential and the state has a tradition of respect for the contracts that have arisen since the first incentives granted in the Free Zone of Manaus.


- The logistics for the harvesting of minerals is almost always a crucial point. How has this been addressed?

We understand that transportation is crucial in the field of mining. Of course, in each case, it must be treated individually. For example, in the case of silvinita of Nova Olinda, the deposits are located in the proximity of the Amazon and Madeira rivers, in areas where the depth of the rivers allows large ships to navigate. In the case of using the delta of the Amazon river, we can supply the entire Brazilian coast; in the case of using the Madeira river, we can reach the city of Porto Velho and from there supply the center-west, a great purchaser of fertilizer. Each case is a different case, and we must understand the necessities of each investment to better address it.


- What are the projections of investments in mining in the state for the next years?

There is much interest in bauxite, tantalum, kaolin and gold, beyond the already pursued silvinita, tin, gas and oil. We have all the interest in making possible the investments that follow the three basic premises of investments in Amazônia: it must be socially just, economically viable and environmentally sound.


Denis Minev is the Secretary of Planning and Economic Development of the State of Amazonas.


Letter of Cuiabá - in search of productivity and sustainability

Below is the text of the Letter of Cuiabá, signed by all the Governors of the Amazônia Legal, in search of a unified voice of the region. It focuses on three items in particular: a) agrarian regulation, b) science and technology and c) incentives to priority segments.

The sentiment of the letter is the viability of a formal and healthy economy which should supplant the current lack of formality and sustainability. Agrarian regulation is essential in the generation of capital that makes investment and financing possible. Science and technology must seek new forms of economical exploration that have as principle sustainability and productivity. The incentives to priority segments, as education, can indicate to private initiative the way to tread in the search of sustainability and productivity. Below follows the text of the letter:

II Forum of the Governors of the Amazônia Legal

Cuiabá, 08th of August 2008

We, governors of the States which comprise the Amazônia Legal - Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and Tocantins, representatives of the larger dimensions that derive the popular mandate, affirm our responsibility in the conduction of the fate of the region.

We understand the importance of the environmental variable in the development of Amazônia that propagates and is present in all the subjects in a transversal form, understanding that socio-economic aspects are equally relevant.

To give materiality to the actions of the development of a sustainable region, the Forum creates the Council of Governors of the Amazônian Legislature and dispatches therewith the priority agenda:

1.      To immediately install the Managing Commission of the Plan for Sustainable Amazônia (PSA);

2.      To reaffirm the importance of Ecological and Economic Zoning (EEZ) as strategic tool for planning and regional integration, considering that the conclusion of the State EEZs and the macro-zoning of Amazônia is a priority and should be reached by a cooperative financing agreement between the State and the Union;

3.       To assure, by means of delegation, the independent participation of the states in the formularization of environmental policies (legislation, control and monitoring) so that they reflect the interests of Amazônia;

4.      To reconstruct and/or to fortify the Institutos de Terras or correlated structures in the states, seeking to establish policies of agrarian regulation, agreed to by the Amazonian states, by means of a cooperation of technique and financing between the federate entities and the Union, giving to the States the power of sovereignty in the scope of territorial order;

5.      To institute the shared strategic planning of the infrastructure actions of transportation, communications, energy and water resources, aiming for regional integration.

6.      To add to the investments of the Program of Acceleration of Growth (PAG) the complementary workmanships of the structural axis, such as: road accesses, viaducts and arcs;

7.      To approve, by the National Congress, a Project of Constitutional Amendment (PCA) that allows for the collection of ICMS in the generation, transmission, and distribution of energy, as well as in the final consumption;

8.      To implement a joint emergency program of the States and the Union to supplement regional imbalances in the sector of Science, Technology and Innovation, by establishing goals of expansion and consolidation of the infrastructure of research, production of social technologies and formation of human resources, including the duplication of the number of doctors in the stated period of five years;

9.      To introduce a differentiated model of financing for the region, being aimed at the promotion of health, that takes into account the great demographic void, distances, the precariousness of transport routes, the costs generated by procedural maintenance, and the specific endemic pictures of the region;

10.   To accomplish the proposed actions in the Green-Arc Operation, in tune with actions of the state governors;

11.   To reorganize the model of implementation and operation of the Program of Acceleration of Growth (PAG), in the scope of the Ministry of the Cities/Caixa Econômica Federal (Federal Savings Bank) aiming at autonomy for the States in order to simplify the procedures for speeding up the execution of sanitation workmanships and habitation;

12.   To promote the revision of the Program of Fiscal Adjustment (PFA), aiming to assure, within the scope of the current Law and in symmetry with the other states, access to the credit for the States of Tocantins and Amapá;

13.   To fortify the agencies of regional planning, especially the SUDAM, so that the Regional Plan of Development of Amazônia (RPDA) is effectively elaborated with the States, redesigning the Legislation that refers to the   priority economic segments;

14.   To speed the voting of the National Congress concerning the Law Project that creates the Participation Fund of the States (PFS) - Green.

15.   The resolutions signed during the meeting compose the annexes.


This act is set forth in the search of sustainable development of Amazônia for those who live within it.


Governor Blairo Maggi – Mato Grosso
Governor Ana Júlia Carepa - Pará

Governor Eduardo Braga - Amazonas
Governor Binho Marques - Acre
Governor Ivo Cassol - Rondônia

Governor Marcelo Miranda - Tocantins

Governor Waldez Góes – Amapá

Governor José de Anchieta Júnior - Roraima
Vice-Governor Luís Carlos Porto - Maranhão 


The equation of the deforestation in the Amazon

The conservation of the Amazon rainforest becomes a more important topic each day on the discussions on the climatic change and global warming, due to its relevance as a vanquisher of carbon and as a repository of biodiversity and a natural regulator of vapors in the atmosphere and the climate. It is unquestionable that we need to conserve, being that the days of discordance between radical environmentalists and developers of short vision are a thing of the past. Both have changed: environmentalists, in their majority, have started to recognize and to take in to consideration the socio-economic imperative; governments and developers understand the necessity of cooperation in environmental subjects with implications that are as much global as local. Strengthening both views are the economic damages of 2005, a year of simultaneous dry rivers in Amazônia and terrible hurricanes (including Katrina) in the Caribbean and United States.

In this new understanding of economical-environmental damages, it is amazing how we all are not (and by all I refer to the 25 million Brazilian Amazônians) pledged in the preservation of Amazônia. However, the greater part of these 25 million, still adopt the older equation: the fallen forests carry more value than the uncut. Cattle herding, wood harvesting and agriculture are more lucrative activities than the sustainable extraction of chestnut, oils and essences.

            Traditionally, legal wood harvesting is something bureaucratically excessive for small proprietors and excessively risky for large companies, the land is cheap and abundant which promotes the continuous use of new areas, and the monitoring and application of laws are excessively weak to keep the formality valuable. In recent years, the main change to this equation comes from Brazilian institutions that have improved on monitoring and application of laws, what has thus increased the cost of informality, without, however, interfering with the attractiveness of formality. This change in the equation has had the beneficial effect of reducing deforestation. However, as a collateral effect, the productivity level has dropped in many poor areas and, traditionally, more informal, where small entrepreneurs and independent workers are not willing to or cannot adhere to the formal economy. Such is the case when we see the presence of the Federal Police being retaliated against during the Fire Arc operation.

The federal government has dealt with part of the problem by means of social programs as the Bolsa Família, but the most important action, to make the region economically viable, still crawls. The national vision that Amazônia is only an environmental issue in the same way that the northeast is only a social issue contributes with nothing. We are not only an environmental issue and therefore the discussion of our future cannot be only an environmental quarrel. It is also social, economic and political. The solution must be environmentally right, socially just, economically viable, and politically balanced, which has already been said by Prof. Samuel Benchimol.

            Some state governments have developed other innovative solutions in search of this viability. In Amazonas, the state policies have sought to supply incentives to change the economic equation by means of:

·         Setting minimum prices for products of sustainable forms, as oils, essences and latex, so that these can be front-runners in the battle against deforestation;

·         Establishment of the Bolsa Floresta, a program of transference of income for families who inhabit the forest, that demands the compromise for non-deforestation, verified by satellite;

·         Dramatical increase of the investment in science and technology, intended for the development of sustainable technologies that can eventually reveal the forest as more economically valuable in its natural state;

·         Technical support for small proprietors and courses on forestry, forest handling and fisheries, so that we may make use of the best practical strategies of increasing productivity in a sustainable form;

·         Licensing of Deeds of Property of the land so that those in possession may start to be proprietors and can begin to count on the benefits of having an asset of value in the market and financially recognize their obligations and duties;

·         Licensing of Preferential Financing through the agency of state promotion for small scale projects in sustainable sectors such as fisheries, forest handling, production of honey, etc.

The monitoring and the application of the laws are also being improved, but in order to complement the mentioned initiatives.

All these efforts have a clear objective: to re-equalize the valuation of standing forests for those that live in it. From an economic point of view, our objective is to include the externalities in the equation.

It is important, however, to remember that, even though it provides local benefits, the most significant benefits may be observed in other places, by means of the prevention of the climatic changes around of the globe, the change of regional rain averages, and the loss of biodiversity in the world. For example, the energy that is supplied to the southeast of Brazil is, to a large extent, generated by a hydroelectric plant that uses rain waters generated and recycled in Amazônia. Deforestation reduces the rain recycling and can have a harmful impact on the generation of national energy. One arrives, in this way, at the topic of the valuation of the given environmental services to the world (including Brazil) by the Amazonian forest.

Currently, the State of Amazonas and the Brazilian government finance its policies of preservation by means of proper budgets. The budget of Amazonas of approximately R$2.000 per inhabitant per year is not enough to cover the costs of health, education and provision of other governmental services for our population; even less, to finance the rebalancing of the equation. This is a special state, in which a domestic flight can take up to two hours and cost more than R$1.000.


FIFA World Cup 2014 in Manaus

Interview granted to the consulting firm Deloitte for the magazine Mundo Corporativo regarding the preparation of Manaus for the World Cup 2014.


- What is the state of Amazonas doing to prepare itself for the World Cup in 2014? Where are the main efforts concentrated?

Amazonas seeks to prepare itself for the future. The World Cup is an event in this future that we seek. We have a series of actions of improvement of management in this direction, amongst which I will point out:

1.       Implementation of ISO 9000 in agencies of the State Government, at a rate of 10 agencies per year.

2.       Professional conscription of managers for positions which require great reliability; searching for better qualifications and experience.

3.       Variable remuneration of managers, initially in Education (we base the remuneration of directors of school off of the results of the school in the ENEM on the previous year, for example), followed by Public Security and Health.

4.       Establishment of quotas of training for state server, with year to year increments.

These efforts of the management already start to show the first fruits, such as the advancement of the state in the ENEM (it was the third largest improvement of grades of 2006 to 2007), in the area of public security (reduction in the number of homicides of 2006 to 2007), in health (reduction in the number of cases of malaria by more than 40% of 2006 to 2007) and in collections (that have practically folded between 2002 and 2007.) These advances prepare the state for imminent challenges, of which include the World Cup.

This increase in collection, which to a large extent had been due to the good performance of the industrial pole region of Manaus and the combat against the evasion of taxes by the Secretaria da Fazenda (tax collecting agency), has been allowing the State plenty of investment in some priority sectors such as sanitation. Manaus was a city cut by several small rivers, on which thousands lived without infrastructure, amongst filth and disease. The project of sanitation and cleanliness of these rivers, that had already changed this aspect of the city, should be concluded in 2012, opening new ways of transport in the city (with streets along the rivers) and providing better living conditions. Also we have important advancements in Science and Technology, with the state investment in the northern region being larger than the investment of the CNPq. The countryside of Amazonas is the poorest area of the state, but today we have 15 a thousand students in the countryside in superior courses through the State University of Amazonas; this is equivalent to almost 1% of the population where today not even 0.5% have had university instruction.

Finally, today we have the assessments of Deloitte in assisting with the crafting of plans that take care of the enormous amount of requirements of FIFA, joining all the efforts of the state in the direction of showing to FIFA, to the Ministry of the Sports, CBF and Brazil as a whole the merit of Manaus as one of the headquarters. Deloitte has the experience acquired in Germany and South Africa and that is being applied in its fullness in Manaus to show with clarity the qualities that Manaus can offer the Cup.


- What would be the differential of the state in the dispute with others?

The environmental aspect certainly differentiates us. In 2002, we had deforestation of 1.550 km2; in 2007 it was 753 km2, less than half. It is a tax of 0,05% per year, dramatically better than the rest of Brazil and historically better for our state. We did this by a series of governmental actions with an aim to value the uncut forest, which ranges from the establishing of minimum prices for sustainable products (such as rubber, oil of andiroba and copaíba, amongst others) to the payment of the Bolsa Floresta for families in the countryside where there can be no identified deforestation by satellite. The state has a clear strategy of saying “no” to the growth of some economic segments as cattle, soy and sugarcane. We have the conception that strategy requires saying “no” to potential segments to focus on what we want to be: a state of tourism, clean industry and energy, environmental services, use of natural resources with technology and sustainability, and with a strong economy of services.

Moreover, we have in Manaus the economic strength of the state, with the third highest per capita GDP amongst Brazilian capitals, and with low indices of crime. It is a cosmopolitan city, with direct flights to five countries (U.S.A., Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador), with reputable festivals (of Jazz, Cinema, Opera and Theater beyond the Boi-Bumba in Parintins) and enormous cultural diversity (from the Japanese, to the people from the state of Ceará of the Rubber Battle, to aboriginal peoples, to the English, Arabs and Jews of the rubber circle, amongst many other peoples.)


- Some specialists affirm that one of the main questions is to plan the after-Cup, that is to say, to make sure that investments made in infrastructure are economically viable - for companies and governments - and used to benefit the population. In the case of Amazonas, what is the best way to carry out this task? How can or must this be done? Do you remember any positive example, in Brazil or internationally?

Some of the investments we will need to execute will have long lasting impacts, such as a possible surface metro system. Other investments are directed to back the event, such as the designing of the Stadium and complex, with public areas for entertainment. The requisites of FIFA make many demands that, if to think properly, we would eventually have to make regardless, then one of the important impacts is speeding up the implementation of improvements and, why not, of the future. Our focus today, 6 years before the Cup, is in the investments that are independent from the Cup, but that are essential for its execution. Today, we are working with the team of Deloitte to identify other investments we can pursue in such a way to meet the requirements of the FIFA as well as improve the living conditions in Amazonas.


Denis Benchimol Minev is the Secretary of Planning and Economic Development of Amazonas since 2007. He is a graduate of Economics from Stanford University, with a Master’s Degree in International Studies and a MBA from Wharton School. He previously worked as a Financial Analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co. from 1999 to 2001 and as a Financial Manager of a local group from 2003 to 2006.


23 September 2008

Una breve introducción a la Amazonia

Una vieja leyenda india dice que Dios no había terminado todavía con la Amazonia cuando el hombre hizo su aparición. Cuenta la historia que Dios decidió abandonar, esperando que el hombre no durara mucho tiempo, para volver y terminar su trabajo. Hoy en día más de 20 millones de personas viven en esta tarea inconclusa que se extiende desde los Andes en el oeste hasta el Atlántico en el este, desde la Meseta de Guyana al norte, desde  la sabana brasileña hacia el sur. Ese tamaño es desconcertante y contiene:

• 5% de las tierras del mundo.

• 20% de la reserva de agua dulce.

• 1 / 3 de los bosques del mundo.

• El 40% de América del Sur.

• El 60% de Brasil.

• El 0,4% de la población mundial.

A pesar de ser una gran selva en continuidad, la Amazonia se presenta  muy diferenciada desde la perspectiva geofísica y ecológica. Ejemplos claros que los  viajeros curiosos descubrirán son los ríos de color diferente: desde el negro profundo de las aguas del río Negro a las fangosas aguas de color amarillo del  Solimoes, y su majestuoso encuentro en el que los dos colores viajan uno al lado del otro por muchas millas, sin siquiera  mezclarse. En esa cita, es probable que el viajero descubra al ‘boto rosa’, el pre-histórico delfín rosado del Amazonas, personaje de tantas leyendas y cuentos prohibidos en la región. De hecho, el viajero se enfrenta a una de las últimas fronteras de la verdadera naturaleza salvaje.

Múltiples ecosistemas coexisten integrados entre sí; mientras  los bosques inundables y llanuras aluviales (conocidas localmente como igapó y varzea) cubren el 5% de la región, el resto del terreno está compuesto por selva de tierra firme. Son cinco las regiones con geografías específicas y características biológicas propias de cada una: la Amazonia Atlántica,  con los pantanos bordeando el mar a lo largo de la costa de los estados brasileños de Pará y Amapá en Brasil; la llanura aluvial central, que se extiende desde el Atlántico hasta el Perú siguiendo el curso del río Amazonas; la meseta Norte, una tierra de suelos pobres que se vuelve más rocosa y montañosa a medida que se avanza hacia el Norte;  la cuenca Sur, una tierra de suelos ricos y salvajes ríos fangosos; y la Amazonia cis-Andina,  una zona de transición que termina en las escarpadas pendientes nevadas de los Andes. Un típico parche de cuatro millas cuadradas en cualquier parte de la Amazonia alberga más de 1500 especies de plantas con flores, 750 especies de árboles, 125 especies de mamíferos, 400 de aves, 100 de reptiles, 60 de anfibios y 150 de mariposas. Sorprendentemente, la corona de un solo árbol, quizás de más de 15 metros, podrá acoger a más de cinco mil especies de insectos.

Es esta una región marcada por la diversidad biológica, geológica, económica y social; documentada durante siglos por los exploradores. Por ejemplo, muchos recordarán la conocida leyenda de las Amazonas, un mito creado cuando el primer hombre en viajar desde el Océano Pacífico hasta el Atlántico, Francisco de Orellana, supuestamente encontró en 1542 a estas mujeres que eran feroces combatientes. Desde entonces, otros aventureros, científicos y visionarios han viajado, estudiado y ocupado la región, aunque con diversos grados de éxito. Entre estos, los más notables incluyen a:

• Alexander von Humboldt, quien mapeó un pasaje que conecta la cuenca del Orinoco en Venezuela con la cuenca del Amazonas, el Canal Casiquiare de 300 millas de largo, disponible hoy día pero sólo para los viajeros más aventureros.    

• Henry Walter Bates y Alfred Russell Wallace, quienes en conjunto hicieron uno de los  descubrimientos más productivos en el rubro Historia Natural. Más tarde, Alfred descubriría, junto con Darwin, la teoría de la evolución.

• Jacques Cousteau, el científico y audaz aventurero moderno que, por lo que sé, es la única persona con suficiente valentía como para  haber nadado dentro de una escuela de pirañas.

Cuando se visita la Amazonia uno no puede menos que apreciar las dificultades que estos exploradores enfrentaron y las maravillas que encontraron. Desde el avión, la alfombra verde parece interminable y pacífica; sobre el terreno, es precisamente lo contrario De entrada, el viajero percibirá gorjeos, chillidos, graznidos, chirridos y una plétora de otros extraños sonidos que vienen de la nada y de todas partes al mismo tiempo. De inmediato, el perfume de frescura de las plantas florecientes se mezcla con el olor rancio de aquellas en descomposición, que marcan el incesante ciclo de la vida y la muerte en esta selva. Mire hacia arriba y verá el resultado estático de siglos de  lucha hacia la luz: las vides se entrelazan con los árboles, las ramas llegan más y más alto en un intento de burlar a las demás en una lucha desesperada por la luz del sol. Tan eficiente es esta lucha que un punto en el suelo puede recibir directamente el brillo del sol una vez cada 50 años, momento en el cual algún árbol vecino abandona la lucha, muere, cae al suelo y deja una abertura en la bóveda, una pizca de esperanza para los árboles recién nacidos. Semejante abundancia de vida es inimaginable, pero también es abrumadora.

Junto a tal exuberancia natural viven más de 20 millones de personas. La historia de la ocupación humana en la Amazonia se remonta a 11 mil años, alrededor del Monte Alegre, donde se han descubierto sitios arqueológicos que señalan la existencia de comunidades bastante complejas mucho antes de lo previsto, y en una región en la que su existencia no se consideraba  posible  hace algunos años. El viajero aventurero con unos días disponibles puede tomar un pequeño avión de Santarém a Monte Alegre y visitar  las pinturas murales de los nativos, visibles aún hoy. Las antiguas poblaciones indígenas todavía están presentes, aunque rara vez se invita a los forasteros a visitarlas. Aunque resulta chocante para algunos, hay algunas pequeñas tribus indias que nunca han sido encontradas o identificadas por nosotros, los occidentales; no se trata de un  homenaje a nuestra incapacidad, sino más bien al increíble tamaño de la selva.

Sin embargo, la ocupación más importante no indígena llegó con el descubrimiento de valiosos productos naturales: en particular, el caucho. Hevea brasiliensis, conocido localmente como seringueira, es el árbol que produce este preciado producto desde que Charles Goodyear inventó el proceso de vulcanización del caucho en 1839. A finales del siglo XIX, con la producción de la industria de bicicletas y automóviles a ritmo récord, el mercado del caucho se recalentó. La riqueza de Manaos, entonces el centro del comercio del caucho, es legendaria;  fue la primera ciudad en Sudamérica que contó con  electricidad. Adoquines, sistemas telefónicos y tranvías se importaban de Europa, junto con arañas de cristal, pianos, champaña y caviar. El principal recordatorio permanente de esa época es el Teatro Amazonas, la Ópera de Manaos. Para una población de sólo 30 mil habitantes, la Opera podía sentar 1600 y en el edificio se mezclaban el cristal, el mármol y  otros materiales opulentos importados de Europa. Tal riqueza  escondía las tremendas dificultades que enfrentaban los seringueiros con los árboles  dispersos en la selva y resistiendo los múltiples intentos de domesticarlos en las plantaciones. Restos de los sueños de domesticación pueden verse hoy en Fordlandia -acertadamente bautizada con el nombre del industrial estadounidense Henry Ford- a lo largo de las orillas del río Tapajós.

Hoy en día,  el desarrollo de Brasil invadió el sur de las fronteras de la Amazonia. Esta es tierra fértil, y con los recientes avances en la agricultura en climas tropicales, el crecimiento de la población y la suba de los productos básicos en los mercados internacionales, las economías han cambiado. En los últimos cinco años la deforestación ha oscilado entre los 15 y 26 mil kilómetros cuadrados en Brasil. Puesta en perspectiva la porción brasileña  de al Amazonia es, aproximadamente, 3.6 millones de kilómetros cuadrados, de modo que la tasa actual se sitúa entre 0.4% y 0.7%, un efecto preocupante. Se calcula que la deforestación ha alcanzado, aproximadamente, un 20% de la región para dar paso a la cría de ganado en los estados brasileños de Mato Grosso, Rondonia y Pará. El proceso socio-económico en juego es una gran migración desde el sur de los estados en Brasil, donde la tierra ya está ocupada, hacia el sur de la Amazonia, donde hay abundante tierra y poca gente.

A pesar de los avances mundiales, una mirada a los pueblos de la Amazonia también revela una poco envidiable situación socioeconómica. En la histórica sequía de 2005, el hambre, las enfermedades y el aislamiento pusieron en peligro a las poblaciones ribereñas. En las grandes ciudades, el viajero descubrirá  barrios marginales y difíciles condiciones de vida.

Denis Benchimol Minev es el Secretario de Planificación y Desarrollo Económico del Estado de Amazonas, Brasil.