- Issue: Summer 2018
Agricultural land covers almost 40% of Earth’s ice-free surface. To keep pace with a growing global population, that use of land is expected to expand further, putting pressure on vulnerable tropical forests and grasslands. But not all agriculture is equal. Globally, beef and soy are the leading drivers of tropical deforestation and conversion of other habitats. In South America, cattle ranches and soy fields are ravaging not just the Amazon but also the Cerrado and Gran Chaco landscapes. Demand for those commodities is projected to rise. But it is possible to decouple them from the loss of habitat in South America. That’s the mission of the Collaboration for Forests and Agriculture, an initiative (led by World Wildlife Fund, National Wildlife Federation, and The Nature Conservancy, and supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) that aims to eliminate deforestation and habitat loss from the world’s largest beef and soy markets.
SOUTH AMERICAN BIOMES
You’ve heard of the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rain forest. But what about the Gran Chaco, the largest dry forest in South America? Or the Cerrado, the continent’s largest savanna? All three regions shelter dizzying levels of biodiversity, provide livelihoods and a host of critical ecosystem services for millions of people, and pump vast quantities of oxygen into the atmosphere. They’re also three of the world’s 11 biggest deforestation fronts.
CURRENT FOREST EXTENT (acres)
1.4 BILLION (50% of Earth’s remaining tropical forests)
|PROJECTED DEFORESTATION (2010–2030)|
The food behind deforestation
Beef and soy production are driving more than two-thirds of the recorded habitat loss in Brazil’s Amazon and Cerrado regions and Argentina and Paraguay’s Gran Chaco region. Demand for soy is closely connected to demand for beef and other animal proteins. Between 70% and 75% of all soy becomes livestock feed—for chickens, pigs, and farmed fish, as well as for cows.
Why the demand for beef?
A growing number of people can afford it.
Disposable incomes in many developing countries are rising rapidly. And while that doesn’t necessarily mean a growing middle class, it does mean more money for people to spend on themselves and their families. One of the first things people buy when incomes rise is meat, including beef.
||RAPID RISE IN INCOMES|
||MORE PEOPLE ABOVE THE POVERTY LINE|
||INCREASE IN BEEF CONSUMPTION|
As demand for beef and soy continues to rise, how do we protect our forests?
Tackling habitat loss in the Amazon, Cerrado, and Gran Chaco means understanding the economic forces that drive beef and soy producers to clear forests and grasslands. The Collaboration for Forests and Agriculture (CFA) approaches the challenge in three ways: