International Day of Forests: the work of the agricultural counsellors in Latin America

March 21st is the United Nations’ International Day of Forests. A global initiative that celebrates all types of forests and highlights their importance.  South America is the continent with the largest standing forests in the world with among others the Amazon, the Cerrado and Gran Chaco. So, do the agricultural counsellors in the region celebrate or worry on this day?

International Day of Forests
Beeld: ©FAO

Worries about a still negative trend

In 2021, leaders of more than 100 countries, including The Netherlands, vowed at climate talks in Glasgow (COP 26) to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation. This landmark agreement includes some 85 percent of the world’s forests, including the biomes of the Amazon, Gran Chaco and Cerrado. Biomes that are all home to unique vegetation and wildlife and essential to human life, by producing the air we breathe, the water we drink and keeping us safe from zoonotic disease.

Deforestation rates in the three biomes have been and are still alarming. International Day of Forests is therefore most importantly a day to worry and ask for more political attention for this trend. Deforestation is the result of complex and evolving social and economic dynamics. Economically underdeveloped and remote areas where state presence is low and alternative production opportunities are limited, are prone to deforestation. But also inefficient agricultural practices using more land than necessary or degrading land lead to forest loss.

Netherlands Agricultural Network and deforestation

The Netherlands Agricultural Network (LAN) in South America with offices in Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, aims to contribute to reversing forest loss in the region and explores ways to do so. Analyzing developments and local legislation, studies, work visits, projects and broadening the network help to identify initiatives that advance zero deforestation.

Agricultural counsellors in South America
Agricultural counsellors f.l.t.r. Léontine Crisson (Bogotá), Paul van de Logt (Brasilia), Inge Horstmeier (Buenos Aires)

Some examples of how we work: LAN invests in transparency of trade flows (including the effective implementation of the upcoming European Union legislation on deforestation-free commodities). LAN  promotes sustainable productivity and agricultural practices by connecting knowledge and technology from The Netherlands to the sectors in South America. And together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs LAN promotes better land administration, support for small holders and the bio-economy.

In the Gran Chaco, the LAN team Buenos Aires paid several visits to connect with local stakeholders, such as producers, government, NGO’s and banks. Furthermore, we support various initiatives to halt deforestation and promote a sustainable soy responsible beef chain in the region. Follow-up round tables and projects will take place in 2023. 

Gran Chaco
Gran Chaco

In Colombia, with the support of the LAN team Bogota, Kadaster, ICCO Cooperation and Tropenbos launched Land@Scale. A programme focused on improved land governance in the country, also providing economic pathways for development and a natural resource management approach prioritizing biodiversity protection.

Huila province (Colombia)
Visit to Huila province (Colombia) with Kadaster (chairman of the board)

In Brazil, the LAN team Brasilia established a cooperation with Solidaridad, Agrifirm and small holders to promote small holder rural environmental registration for agro-forestry. 

LAN team Brasilia cooperation with Solidaridad
Beeld: Solidaridad
LAN team Brasilia cooperation with Solidaridad

Is there also reason to celebrate?

Yes, there is. In Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia and Brazil the governments made strong commitments to reverse deforestation. This has led to renewed energy and interest both within these countries and internationally. This creates opportunities to more effective support of smallholders, promote better observation of the forest and enforcement, work on regeneration of degenerated lands, develop green finance and more. We celebrate the positive energy and the many companies and organizations working to preserve the vast landscapes of the Amazon, Cerrado and Gran Chaco.

Visit to the Amazon

Watch below a video about the visit of the LAN team of Brazil to the Amazon

Waar gaat het goed en waar gaat het fout? Het landbouwteam van de Nederlandse ambassade neemt u mee tijdens een driedaags bezoek aan de Amazonas.

Contact and support

The LAN teams in South America are ready to support you if you want to contribute to sustainable agriculture, fighting deforestation and preserving biodiversity. Please contact us for more information and/or see how the LAN teams can assist you.

This article was written by Eva van der Nat, Rijkstrainee at the Netherlands embassy in Buenos Aires from September 2022 through February 2023. Eva was assigned to analyze drivers of deforestation in South America for the Agricultural Counsellors based in Bogota, Brasilia and Buenos Aires and find a regional approach. This article is one of the results of her assignment.