The management of the pilot program to conserve the Brazilian rain forests

lessons learned, challenges, and opportunities


The Pilot Program to Conserve the Brazilian Rain Forests is a Brazilian Government Program created to protect Amazon and Atlantic Rainforest biodiversity. The Program is supported by the member-countries of the G7, by the European Union and the Netherlands. It was approved in the annual meeting of the G7 countries, in Geneva, December 1991, when the Program's initial proposal was presented. At that time, the support of the German Government—who launched the idea of the Program in 1990 during the G7 meeting in Houston—was decisive, and until today Germany was the Program's main donor (about 50% of the resources), followed by the European Union and the United Kingdom. Because of the funding sources, the Pilot Program has been usually known as “PP-G7.”

The Program is a “pilot” in various aspects. Initially, it represents a unique example of international cooperation established between developed and developing countries for the solution of global environmental problems. Its funding structure involves, simultaneously, technical and financial cooperation, through both bilateral and multilateral agreements. Referring to the environmental problems addressed, it seeks solutions and creative initiatives, testing new environmental technologies and management models. The Program aims to test, experiment, and learn about new ways to protect the forests, promoting the sustainable use of the resources. It is also innovative regarding the institutional collaboration and management arrangements.

Initially, the Program was planned with costs of about US$250 million to be financed on a nonrefundable basis by the donor countries and a counterpart of 10% of the total amount from Brazilian government. It was structured in four subprograms and foresaw the execution of about 10 projects. Currently, US$146 million have already been contracted and there are 23 projects in execution, negotiation or preparation, which shall increase the Program's total cost to about US$350 million.

The Brazilian Rain Forests

The Amazon Rain Forest is the planet's largest hot and humid forest with approximately 7,580,000 km2, and it is spread out among nine South American countries—Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Surinam, Guyana and French Guyana. Around 70% of the Amazon Rain Forest is inside the Brazilian territory, corresponding to approximately 60% of the national territory, equivalent to 5 million km2 (about 5,033,072 km2).

The range of the Brazilian Amazon Rain forest is also called Legal Amazon, encompassing nine States—Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, Tocantins, and Maranhão. Among those Tocantins, Maranhão, and Mato Grosso are the sole states not part of the Amazonian Basin, which covers around 4,780,000 km2.

Exhibit 1. Amazon Domain (Source: Di Lascio et al., 1999)

Amazon Domain (Source: Di Lascio et al., 1999)

In recent years, biologists and conservationists have dedicated greater attention to the tropical forests for two main reasons. First, despite these habitats cover only 7% of the land surface, they contain more than half of the world's biodiversity. Second, the forests are being destroyed rapidly and may lead to the extinction of hundreds of thousands of species (Wilson, 1997).

The diversity of species within the tropical forests is immense, in contrast to nontropical ecosystems, encompassing both the richness of biological species and of the ecosystems and a great genetic variety in populations of the same species. Recent estimates consider that the Amazonian region comprises 30,000 species of superior plants, 300 species of mammals, 2,000 species of fish, 2,500,000 of arthropods and dozens of millions of species of microorganisms (MMA, 1999a).

Notwithstanding the above-mentioned, all this biological diversity is threatened, considering the speed of the Amazonian deforestation, interpreted herein as “the conversion of those areas with primary forest physiognomy by human actions aiming the development of agricultural, silvicolous and pastoral activities” (INPE, 1999). The loss of biodiversity caused by human actions generates concern not only considering the possibility of species’ extinction but also for the destruction of the habitat of organisms, microorganisms, plants, and insects that plays important role in maintaining the ecosystem (Ehrlich, 1997).

The large-scale deforestation in Brazilian Amazon started by the end of the ‘60s. Until 1997 deforestation and forest fires had destroyed around 532.000 km2 (INPE, 1999), which corresponds to an area greater than Germany and Denmark together, and approximately 13% of the forest's original area. Figures from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) show that the deforestation rate was of about 21,000 km2 per year between 1997 and 1998. It dropped to around 11,000 km2 per year in 1991 and regained growth in 1995. Deforestation of approximately 15,000 km2 was verified between August 1996 and August 1997.

At the end of 1970, Amazon began to reproduce the deforestation cycle of the Brazilian Southeast region (States of São Paulo and Minas Gerais), which had occurred in the ‘50s, and then spread out to the Center-West region (Goiás and Mato Grosso) in the ‘60s—the growth of the agricultural economy in forest areas by the small landowners (the “posseiros”) and who cleared the forest encouraged by timber merchants, and subsequent expropriation by cattle farmers. However, in Amazon this cycle presented a much greater speed, generating social and environmental conflicts (Becker, 1999).

Today the action of timber companies is more significant than the agricultural exploitation by the small landowners, with a continuous expansion of the “timber mining”—a selective and predatory exploitation of valued species. These companies have suppressed the small landowners actions, performing directly the deforestation and the establishment of pastures. Therefore, the small producers have to search distant forest areas to deforest and survive (Becker, 1999).

In addition, the small producers tend to lose ground to the expansion of the large-scale agriculture, as can be seen with soy, a technically improved cultivation, with high financial costs, which occupies today the areas of Mato Grosso, Tocantins, Maranhão, and Rondônia and tends to expand itself within Amazon (Becker, 1999).

Currently, about 19 million people live in this scenario: 62% in the urban zone and 38% in the rural zone (INPA, 2000). It is worth noting that the urbanization process took place at a high rate (urban population was of 35.5% in 1970), which caused a deficit of infrastructure services to the population of urban centers therefore posing an environmental problem in these cities.

The rural population—around seven million people—lives in isolated communities or even isolated homes, characterized by the low quality of life, poverty, and lack of access to health, schooling, and transportation.

In today's Amazon, new settlement and economic growth dynamics coexist with old occupation standards. On one hand, there are investments for market opening and economic growth and, on the other hand, the concern regarding the local population and environmental protection. There are great challenges regarding the sustainable development within the region.

The Atlantic Rain Forest represents the second most threatened biome of the planet. This forest, which encompasses one of the greatest manifestations of the world biodiversity, originally covered around 15% of the Brazilian territory—an area equivalent to 1.29 million km2 spread throughout the coastal zone of 17 Brazilian States. Today, 7.3% of the original forest coverage remains. The forest has been replaced by 3,000 municipalities, where approximately 100 million people live and where the main Brazilian infrastructure operations are concentrated (MMA, 1999b).

Although the Atlantic Rain Forest is going through an accelerated degradation and fragmentation process, it provides many environmental benefits. The hydric sources, which supply the main Brazilian cities, spring from its interior. The fertility of its soil and the regional climatic balance depends on the preservation of the remaining forest (MMA, 1999b).

The Pilot Program to Conserve the Brazilian Rain Forests

Due to the importance of the tropical forests’ contribution to the preservation of the global environment, the international community has agreed to finance the Pilot Program to Conserve the Brazilian Rain Forests, with initial resources of US$250 million, conceived with four main objectives:

• Demonstrate that economic and environmental objectives can be pursued at the same time in tropical rain forests

• Preserve the huge genetic resources of the rain forests

• Reduce the Amazonian's contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions

• Provide an example of international cooperation between developed and developing countries on global environmental issues.

Exhibit 2. Projects and Resources of the Pilot Program (US$ million)

Projects and Resources of the Pilot Program (US$ million)

The Program was officially created with the establishment of an inter-ministerial Coordination Commission, within the Brazilian Government (Decrees No. 563, June 5, 1992 and nº 2.119, January 13, 1997) and with disbursements of around US$50 million from the donor countries to the Rain Forest Trust Fund (RFT), managed by the World Bank (established by the Resolution 92-2, in March 24, 1992). The Bank was also put in charge of technically supporting the Brazilian government in the Program's preparation, evaluation, approval, and administration. The remaining contribution—financial and technical—is allocated according to bilateral agreements. The Executive Secretariat of the inter-ministerial Commission and the overall Coordination of the Pilot Program was established at the Ministry of Environment (MMA), coordinator of the Program in Brazil.

Between 1992 and 1995, the first projects were prepared and evaluated in a participatory manner, involving efforts from the Brazilian government (at federal and state level), from Brazilian NGO representatives (environmentalists and community representatives), World Bank, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), European Union Commission, and agencies representing the donor governments.

By late 1995 and beginning of 1996, the first two projects entered into execution. Currently, there are 11 projects ongoing, five under negotiation (two of them concluded its first phase and are negotiating the second phase) and seven under preparation, divided into five subprograms. Besides, there are also projects executed directly by the Pilot Program Coordination and others executed by NGOs.

In addition, there are projects under implementation within the auspicious of the official programs of bilateral technical, scientific, or financial international cooperation that, for their affinity of objectives and interests, are considered “bilateral associated” to the Pilot Program. The association aims the exchange of information and the cooperation among the executing institutions and the Program. Currently, there are 12 bilateral associated projects ongoing.

Lessons Learned in the Program Management

The Pilot Program is a complex and innovative program and it was launched under very special circumstances. While the proposal was officially presented by the Brazilian government, it was promoted by German government, jointly prepared with European Union and the World Bank support and approved at the political level within the G7 countries. The international partnership itself became one of the objectives of the Program and it has raised considerable expectation in Brazil and abroad.

With few exceptions, the Pilot Program projects are also very complex. This complexity reflects to a large extent the pilot nature of the Program. However, this complexity has been compounded by high dependence on bilateral parallel co-financing and by decision to implement each project with assistance from multiple external sources. This required multiple appraisals and negotiations, intricate cross-conditionalities, and has led to financing arrangements under which most Pilot Program projects drawing their funds from three to five different “contracts” with the project managers having to observe multiple rules and procedures in the drawn-down of funds (Ainscow et al., 1999).

It is therefore not surprising that most projects have experienced substantial delays at every step in the project cycle. This has resulted in the first set of projects only getting under way in 1995 and 1996, and has contributed to a disbursement performance which by the end of 1998 had only led to the use of about 30% of the funds committed to these five projects. With the staggered commitment of funds due to preparation, appraisal, effectiveness, and start-up delays, and with disbursements per project requiring on average about seven to eight years, this would result in implementation period for the entire set of 12 projects, which could extend toward the end of the next decade (Ainscow et al., 1999).

The preparatory and evaluation phases can be considered the most critical phases of the projects’ cycle, taking into account the need to reach a consensus among all the participants—government, civil society, donor countries, and the World Bank. In addition, the high expectations of the various parties involved make the definition on an “ideal” project a hard task.

Moreover, the complexity of the necessary institutional arrangements has to be mentioned—considering the various coordination instances and the great number of co-executors and partners. The institutional arrangements needed for the execution of the projects are not always easy to define, or predictable enough. The planning process is a project in itself, and the preparation phase could be considered an “inception project.” Besides, in the Amazon, the planning process is not simple, considering the dynamic of the region, and a flexible methodology is needed.

However, progress has been made. Some of the ongoing projects have established structures and processes that provide important, relatively flexible capacity for a continued deepening of the pilot efforts. With the help of these tested structures and processes, additional funds could now be used effectively without the typical delays and administrative costs that have confronted new projects (Ainscow et al., 1999).

Considering the experience gathered during the first years of the Program implementation and the fact that the program is a pilot, it's time to review the initial planning and identify their successes and failures. The revision started with a review of institutional arrangements because of its influence in the Program performance. The work began with a detailed analysis performed by three international consultants in late 1998 and early 1999, continued with discussions during Participants’ official meetings held in Paris, in April 1999 and in Brazil, in October 1999, where the Brazilian government proposal of institutional changes was presented (official “Participants” are the government of Brazil, the World Bank, and the donors—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Commission of the European Union).

During the Paris meeting, Participants were unanimous that the Program should continue to strive to be more of a cohesive Program, which makes a positive contribution to Brazil's conservation and sustainable development objectives in the Amazon, rather than a collection of projects. Regarding the institutional review, Participants agreed with the following premises:

• The need for greater Brazilian ownership of the Program and better integration of the Program with Brazilian Policies

• The importance of greater involvement of state governments

• The need to continue to increase the role of civil society

• The need to involve other sectors by increasing the roles of other ministries.

Based on the Institutional Review Final Report and the governmental diagnostic of the Program, some suggestions could be made to improve program management. At the project level, the Program should pay more attention to greater cost-effectiveness and timeliness, including the simplification of financial arrangements, both during contraction phase and execution—to speed up the disbursements.

In order to overcome the problems identified during the five years of the Program's implementation, the Participants agreed in October 1999, with a few coordination arrangement modifications aiming to increase its efficiency. First, at a national level, they aimed to strengthen the role of the Brazilian Coordination Commission (BCC), increasing the periodicity of their meetings and reviewing its composition (nowadays formed by 17 members: 12 from federal government, two from state government, and three from environmental NGOs).

At international level, the Joint Steering Committee (JSC) and the Donors Commission (DC) were established. The JSC is presided by the Ministry of Environment and formed by 18 members (six from federal government, two from state government, two from environmental NGOs, seven from donor governmental agencies, and one from the World Bank). The DC gathers the representatives of the donor governments and the World Bank.

The role of the International Advisory Group (IAG), an independent consultative group, was also reviewed. It had been created to technically evaluate the Projects’ progress and present suggestions regarding the implementation of the Program. It was initially formed by 16 members and after its revision this number decreased to 13. Until 2001 it shall be reduced to 10 members, with a three-year mandate.

These new arrangements are under implementation since October 1999 and since then all the commissions have had a series of meetings, deliberating; for example, on new projects to be included and regarding the best use of the Rain Forest Trust Fund resources. It can be noticed that there has been a real speed up of the decision-making process.

Thematic subcommissions have also been established and are analyzing operational issues and producing specific suggestions, like the simplification of the financial mechanisms or the standardization of the document for project proposal.

Lessons Learned in Projects

Besides the issues related to the Program's management and monitoring as a whole, the Projects already presents important results and lessons, which can be disseminated to different publics, both at the level of public policy formulators as well as at the level of communities. It would be impossible to enumerate all the results or to describe all the successful experiences up to now in few paragraphs. Considering the importance and the dimension of this task, it was established the Monitoring and Analysis Project specifically to extract and disseminate the strategic lessons of the Program.

Nevertheless, some results have to be highlighted in order to give an idea of the type of lessons and results already achieved. The Extractive Reserves Project (RESEX), for example, seeks to test a new model of forests conservation unit, which includes the human presence—the so-called extractive reserves, the conservation units where the “traditional population” lives. In its four years of execution, the RESEX has achieved, among other results: (i) organization of the inhabitants—70% of the 2,900 families are distributed into seven associations and five cooperatives; (ii) realization of training courses in aspects such as production, preventive health, organization, and community development—672 events were prepared, reaching 8,101 people; (iii) increased the reserves production—75 vivarium were planted with a production of 350,000 seedlings, vegetable gardens were performed; (iv) increased the families’ income, estimated in R$232.00 per family per month, value superior to the income of 70% of the urban population in the North region; and (v) preserved 2,144,996 hectares of forests during four years at a cost of US$9 million, or US$1,03 per hectare/year. RESEX proved that the model of conservation of the natural resources in extractive reserves is viable, and leads to the sustainable development of the local population.

Until September 1999, the Protection of Indigenous Land Project (PPTAL) had (i) demarcated 39 indigenous lands in the Amazon region, encompassing 22 millions of hectares; (ii) identified other 23 indigenous lands, which sum up to over 11 million hectares and are ready for demarcation; (iii) strengthened the indigenous people control over their own territory, by fostering the active participation in the land's legalization and protection; and (iv) adopted alternative demarcation methodology, with the participation of the beneficiaries and with the support of the NGOs. The PPTAL Project showed that the demarcation of the indigenous land really assure the presence of the indigenous people in that land and, consequently, leads to the preservation of the natural resources.

The Science and Technology Subprogram supported 23 Directed Research Projects and are supporting other 30 initiatives, besides having empowered two important Science Centers (Emílio Goeldi Museum and Amazon National Research Institute), promoting research and scientific dissemination on specific issues about the Amazon region. The Subprogram proved the effectiveness of science and technology when oriented to environmental demands of the region.

The Demonstrative Projects A (PD/A), currently supporting 147 small community projects, presents innovative examples of productive systems, sustainable ways of forest management, processing methods of agricultural products and of community organization, with positive results in the protection of natural resources. PD/A showed that is possible to guarantee the conservation of natural resources when sustainable economic activities are stimulated—and made at lower costs than traditional funding systems.

The Natural Resources Policy Subprogram presents results regarding society mobilization to monitor the implementation of natural resources management policies and of control and monitoring systems. It invests on human resources’ training and on public dissemination and assimilation of forest zoning as an environmental management tool (MMA, 1999c).

It is emphasized again that other important results were not mentioned by this brief review of experiences, which just exemplifies the diversity of lessons, which can be obtained from distinct knowledge areas supported by the Pilot Program.

Conclusions—Challenges and Opportunities for the Program's Future

The Participants decided to perform a Mid-Term Program Review, in order to obtain a general appraisal of its results. This review will take place between March and August 2000, aiming to evaluate if the results and the impacts reached in the various subprograms and projects fulfill the objectives foreseen in the program and produce recommendations for the program's futures based on the lessons learned.

It is an adequate moment to review the Program, considering the experiences already gathered and aiming its insertion among the strategic directives of the Secretariat of the Coordination of the Amazon from the Ministry of Environment. The Program plays and important role in policy formulation and has supported the definition of a National Policy for the Legal Amazon in late 1995. It is currently working jointly with the Secretariat on the dialogue with the various sectors of the society in the States of the Legal Amazon—productive sector, communities and state governments.

The Program seeks now ways to promote sustainable economic activities, aiming economic alternatives to deforestation, one of the greatest challenges of the Ministry of Environment within the Amazon region. In this way, it will seek to foment the commercialization of forest products and to establish partnerships with the private sector, pursuing to be more “Program” and less “Pilot,” offering concrete alternatives based on experiences.

Ainscow, R., Cavalcanti, H.B., & Vergin, H. (1999, July). Review of Institutional Arrangements. Final Report. Brasilia.

Ministry of Environment (MMA). (1999a). Brazilian Molecular Ecology Program for the Sustainable Use of the Amazonia Biodiversity (PROBEM)—Executive Summary. Brasília.

Ministry of Environment (MMA). (1999b, October). Pilot Program to Conserve the Brazilian Rain Forests. The PPG7 within the States, Series of Folders. Brasília.

Ministry of Environment (MMA). (1999c, October). Amazon Coordination Secretariat. Experiences and Results of PPG7 Projects under Execution. Document distributed to the Participants of the PPG7 Annual Meeting, Brasília.

Becker, B. (1999, October). Short-Term Scenarios for Amazon Development. NAPIAm Books, nº 6. Ministry of Environment.

Di Lascio, M.A., Freitas, M.A., & Marques, A.C.S. (1999). Renewable Energies for the Amazonian Isolated Communities Development.Brazilian Conference on Energy. Rio de Janeiro.

Ehrlich, P.R. (1997). The Loss of Diversity—Causes and Consequences. In Biodiversity.

INPA. (2000). Amazon National Research Institute. Information from the Institute's home page, Manaus.

INPE. (1999). National Institute for Space Research. PRODES Project. São José dos Campos.

Wilson, E.O. (1997). Biodiversity. Nova Fronteira: Rio de Janeiro.

Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
September 7–16, 2000 • Houston, Texas, USA



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