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Pampa grasslands Brazil
An ambitious agreement has been signed to protect the vast fertile grasslands covering an area of some one million km2 across the Southern Cone of Latin America, known as the Pampas. AFD and its partners are backing the innovative project to protect the veritable cradle of biodiversity, which will benefit both the residents and wildlife that live and depend on it.

Extending across Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, the Pampas of the Southern Cone are fertile grasslands, and home to exceptional flora and fauna. It’s home to more than 400 species of native grasses, 578 bird species, 85 mammal species and 75 amphibian and reptile species.

But this biome – a naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat – is highly endangered, having endured a loss of more than 2 million hectares over the last 15 years.

This is mainly due to the expansion of mono-crop farming, especially soya. Producers have been encouraged to devote even more land and resources to the crop, as ever-rising soya prices fetch higher profits. The crop expansion has contributed to a growing use of chemical products to control pests, which has combined with the destruction of natural habitats to threaten numerous plants and animals with extinction. 

In 1985, native grasslands covered 44% of the biome. Today, they only represent 33%, and if nothing is done to curb the expansion of soybean crops, it is estimated they will cover just 13% of the biome by 2050. Its survival will therefore depend on the policies and initiatives needed to develop environmentally friendly production methods.

Interaction between NGOs and private rural producers 

This is the ambition of the Alianza Mais (corn or maize alliance) project, supported by FFEM, AFD, BRDE (Regional Development of the Deep South) and Save Brasil. With funding of some €7 million over a period of five years, the project aims to support the extension and consolidation of the private initiative Alianza del Pastizal (“Grasslands Alliance”) by developing innovative and sustainable production models to reduce the loss of biodiversity on natural grasslands. 

It will also help generate income for producers on the Brazilian Pampa biome. The project aims to have a major impact on carbon sequestration and avoid carbon emissions, and double the area benefiting from sustainable natural resource management.

What sets this project apart from other environmental conservation activities is the planned interaction between an environmental conservation NGO and private rural producers. This has a leverage effect, as it increases the scope of the action.

Other innovative aspects of the project include: 
  • The incorporation of “blended finance” instruments, combining financial resources provided by BRDE with grant incentives for investments that promote biodiversity conservation
  • The private nature of the initiative, since all the preserved areas are located on private farms, on a voluntary basis for owners who join Alianza del Pastizal
  • The integration of crop protection methods that benefit environmental protection, bringing about long-term changes in the behavior of the rural population in the project area
  • A well-functioning innovative partnership between environmental civil society organizations and productive sectors 

Some 250 new properties are expected to join the Grasslands Alliance, representing about 120,000 additional hectares of protected natural grasslands. BRDE is also expected to support between 150 and 200 producers, with priority given to financing applications from young people and women. Technical and management training has been set up for producers and young gauchos (South American cowboys, usually of mixed Spanish and Indigenous ancestry), with the objective being to both produce and protect. 

At the project’s launch ceremony in April 2023 in Lavras do Sul, the new Governor of Rio Grande Do Sul, Eduardo Leite, praised the project “for its social actions and drive to combat global warming, promote sustainable economic development, and protect native grasslands and the biome.” 

A growing movement ready for deployment in other biomes in Brazil 

AFD has been appraising projects to protect the Amazon rainforest since 2019. This involves supporting the development of sustainable economic activities in the region, backing policies to combat deforestation, promoting biodiversity conservation, ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources, protecting indigenous peoples, and strengthening land tenure security. 

These projects also support and reinforce the territorial regulatory framework and assist financial institutions that finance sustainable projects in the region.