Cerrado: Brazil's tropical woodland

By Jeremy Hance [Last update July 29, 2020]



Amazon | Mata Atlantica | Geography | Biodiversity | Forests | Deforestation | Threats | Conservation | News

FACTS ON THE CERRADO

Land Areas: From approximately 2,031,990 square kilometers originally to 438,910 square kilometers today.
Countries: Almost entirely in Brazil, though it extends a little into Paraguay and Bolivia.
Biodiversity: 10,400 species of plants, nearly half of which are endemic; 935 species of birds; 780 freshwater fish;113 amphibians; 180 reptiles; and almost 300 mammal species. In three insect orders surveyed: 14,425 species have been catalogued.
Extent of Habitat Cover: Just over 21 percent of the cerrado remains.
Habitat Loss Rate: 21,000 square kilometers of cerrado was destroyed annually between 2002 and 2008, twice the rate of the Amazon rainforest. Between 1984 and 2004, the cerrado ecosystem declined by 1.1 percent every year.
Causes of Habitat Loss: Mechanized soy farms, cattle ranches, and some other crops.

OVERVIEW: THE CERRADO

The cerrado is a vast tropical and subtropical biome covering more than 20 percent of Brazil, it includes a number of ecosystems from tall closed forests to marshlands to open grassland. The largest savannah in South America, the name of the ecosystem, cerrado, translates as 'closed', and the region was long-considered by Brazilians as essentially worthless land. That was until the 1960s when farmers from the US began conditioning the soil with the chemical lime, improving its quality and growing capacity, and thereby transforming the savannah into agricultural fields.

Now the cerrado is one of Brazil's most threatened ecosystems. Half of the ecosystem has been destroyed for mechanized soy farms and cattle ranches. Over the past decade, two million hectares of the cerrado vanished every year to agriculture and pasture. Conservationists predict the possibility of a complete eradication of the ecosystem by 2030.

Long ignored by conservationists and environmentalists the cerrado is home to a shocking number of species, even given comparisons to its biologically-rich neighbors: the Amazon and the nearly-vanished Atlantic Forest. Of the ecosystems' some 10,000 species of plant, nearly half are endemic to the cerrado. Nearly a thousand birds and three-hundred mammals have been recorded in the cerrado as well. For a wooded savannah ecosystem with a long dry season, the cerrado is extremely rich in life.

Researchers have also begun to recognize the cerrado's importance for Brazil's waterways, since the headwaters of many of the nation's rivers begin in this savannah. The ecosystem plays an important role in carbon-cycling. In some years, carbon emissions from the destruction of the cerrado can exceed those from the destruction of the Amazon.

POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE CERRADO

The cerrado lies almost entirely in Brazil, though a small extent reaches into northeastern Paraguay and eastern Bolivia.

The ecosystem covers a number of central Brazilian states including Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás Distrito Federal, and Tocantins; as well as western Minas Gerais and Bahia; southern Maranhão and Piauí; and small portions of São Paulo and Paraná.

ECOSYSTEMS OF THE CERRADO

The cerrado is tropical savannah characterized by the annual average temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) to nearly 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius). The dry colder season extends from May to October. The soil is mostly nutrient poor.

The cerrado biome is home to a variety of ecosystems, including dry forests, grasslands, wetlands, shrublands, savannah, gallery forests, and even wet forests.

Gallery forests are trees and vegetation that line rivers and other waterways in otherwise savannah-type landscapes.

Tapir. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

BIODIVERSITY PROFILE OF THE CERRADO

The cerrado is home to a surprising level of biodiversity, in fact some experts have stated that it is the most biologically rich savannah in the world. The region includes megafauna like jaguar, giant anteater, maned wolf, the greater rhea, and the giant armadillo, but the biggest stand-outs are the region's diverse plants and insects.

In total, researchers have found nearly 300 species of mammals, 780 fish, 300 amphibians and reptiles, and 935 species of bird in the cerrado region. In addition, over 14,000 species of insect have been identified from just three insect orders out of 32: Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, and sawflies), and Isoptera (termites).

But the biggest biological stunner of the cerrado is its plant species: 4,400 of the cerrado's 10,000 species of plants are found no-where else in the world. Due to a long dry season, these plants have evolved remarkable resistance both to fire and drought.

The uniqueness of the cerrado's plant life—and the rampant destruction of the ecosystem—makes these species especially vulnerable to extinction. A recent study estimated that plant species in the cerrado are twice as likely to go extinct than plants in other Brazilian ecosystems, including the Amazon.

New species are still being found in the cerrado: in 2007 two new species of lizard were described by researchers and in 2008 researchers announced the discovery of 14 species new to science: 8 fish, 3 reptiles, a bird, and even a new mammal.

While new species are being discovered, others have gone extinct. The candango mouse (Juscelinomys candango) was first described in 1965, but hasn't been seen since losing all of its habitat to urban development and suburban sprawl in Brasilia.

Some largely endemic species of the cerrado include:

  • The dwarf tinamou (Taoniscus nanus) is a small bird endemic to the cerrado. It is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss.
  • The maned wolf's (Chrysocyon brachyurusrange) range is almost entirely found in the cerrado. Reddish in color this canid boasts long-legs likely for stalking and hunting in tall grasses. It is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List also due to habitat loss.
  • The cerrado boasts 26 species of the reptiles known as snake-lizards in the genus Amphisbaenidae. Underground dwellers, most Amphisbaenas are without limbs. Six of these snake-lizards are known only in the cerrado.
  • The white-winged nightjar (Eleothreptus candicans) is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. As their name implies nightjars are most active after dark or during twilight and early morning.
  • Americas' heaviest bird, the greater rhea (Rhea americana) haunts much of the cerrado. Males of this ostrich-like bird are the sole care takers of offspring. Like another megaufauna of the cerrado, the maned wolf, the greater rhea is considered Near Threatened.


CERRADO LOSS

The cerrado is disappearing twice as fast as the Amazon rainforest with 21,000 square kilometers (over 2 million hectares) of savannah destroyed annually between 2002 and 2008.

A 2007 Conservation International study found that by 1985, 27 percent of the cerrado was lost. In less than twenty years (2004) the percentage lost rose to 57. During that time the cerrado declined 1.1 percent every year, while the Brazilian Amazon declined by less than 0.5 percent per year over the past decade.

Annual deforestation in the cerrado

CURRENT THREATS TO THE CERRADO

While there are not numerous threats against the cerrado, the threats that remain are massive in terms of impact and habitat loss. Mechanized soy farming and livestock rearing have caused the loss of half of the cerrado, most of which has occurred in the last 50 years after an agricultural revolution in the 1960s when chemical lime was added to the nutrient-poor soils. Brazil's government pushed such development by constructing a new captial city, Brasilia, in the state of Goias; this included building highways and infrastructure that made shipping agricultural and livestock products easy and cheap. Today only 21 percent of the original cerrado remains.

In addition, the spread of soy and other crops (corn and rice) have indirectly impacted the Amazon rainforest: a boom in agriculture has pushed livestock from the cerrado into the Amazon's edges leading to continuing deforestation of the world's biggest rainforest.

PROTECTED AREAS IN THE CERRADO

To date approximately 7.5 percent of the cerrado is under protection.

Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park: Located in the state of Goias, Brazil, Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park spreads over 655 square kilometers on some of Brazil's highest plateaus. Sporting large canyons, dramatic mountains, and stunning waterfalls, this protected area in the cerrado has been listed as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

Emas National Park: Named after the greater rhea, Emas National Park is also a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Home to rhea, jaguar, giant anteater, maned wolf, and pumas, the park, which is dominated in part by termite mounds, lies in central western Brazil and covers 1,300 square kilometers.

Serra do Tombador Nature Preserve: This is a private reserve created by the Nature Conservancy and the Brazilian organization, O Boticario. Covering 89 square miles kilometers, the reserve is small compared to some of the National Parks but represents a non-government designated protected area. The Nature Conservancy hopes to establish a corridor between the Serra do Tombador Nature Preserve and Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park.

PHOTOS FROM THE CERRADO


Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina

Hyacinth Macaw

Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina

Pair of Greater Rhea

Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina

Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina

Jabiru stork

Chapada dos Guimaraes

Cleared cerrado


Jaguar (Panthera onca). Photo by Rhett A. Butler



This species of lizard of the genus Bachia is one of the new species discovered during the expedition. Although there are other species of the genus in the Cerrado (almost all discovered and described only recently), this new species has only been recorded in the Ecological Station. The absence of legs and the sharply pointed snout help in locomotion over the surface layer of sandy soil, predominating in all the Jalapao, formed by the natural erosion of the escarpments of the Serra Geral plateaus. Photos by Miguel Trefaut Rodrigues


Some of the recorded species are relatively rare and little known, like this small fat-tailed mouse opossum of the genus Thylamys, registered for the first time in the Jalapao. Although this species was described from a Cerrado enclave within the Caatinga region, recent surveys have shown that the range of this species is concentrated in the northern portion of the Cerrado savannas. Photo by Agustin Camacho


Other species such as this horned toad believed to be new to science of the genus Proceratophrys occupy very restricted areas. Protected areas like the EESGT are fundamental, because they shelter large populations of the species, reducing the threat of extinction from destruction of the habitats outside the reserves. Photo by Paula Hanna Valdujo.


This species of amphibian (Corythomantis greeningi) occurs mainly in the Caatinga region, with only scant recordings in the Cerrado.The discovery of this species in the EESGT is the first recorded for the Jalapao region. The secretions of its skin can cause irritation to the eyes and nose. Photo by Paula Hanna Valdujo



Top: Stenocercus quinarius lizard in Brazil (photo by Cristiano Nogueira). Bottom: Stenocercus squarrosus lizard in Serra das Confusões National Park, Brazil (photo by Andre Pessoa).

 

THE LATEST CERRADO NEWS FROM MONGABAY

The Kalunga digitally map traditional lands to save Cerrado way of life
- The Kalunga represents a grouping of 39 traditional quilombola communities — the descendants of runaway slaves — living on a territory covering 262,000 hectares (647,000 acres) in Goiás state in central Brazil, within the Cerrado savanna biome.
- This territory has been under heavy assault by illegal invaders, including small-scale wildcat gold miners, and large-scale mining operations, as well as land grabbers who have destroyed native vegetation to grow soy and other agribusiness crops.
- To defend their lands, the Kalunga partnered with the Criti¬cal Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), supported by the EU, Japan, World Bank, Conservation International and others. With their funding, the Kalunga georeferenced the territory, pinpointing homes, crops, soils, 879 springs, and vital natural resources.
- In February 2020, the U.N. Environment Programme and World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) recognized the Kalunga Historical and Cultural Heritage Site as the first TICCA (Territories and Areas Conserved by Indigenous and Local Communities) in Brazil, making it what UNEP-WCMC calls a “Territory for Life.”

New platform gathers data on Brazil’s disappearing Cerrado biome
- An online and collaborative tool created by Brazil’s Federal University of Goiás brings together the largest and oldest collection of available data available on the Cerrado biome.
- The Cerrado Knowledge Platform will be constantly updated as a national reference on the biome, consolidating information to be used by researchers working for its preservation and management.
- The bilingual platform includes figures on deforestation, land use, biodiversity and socioeconomics; users can also contribute by uploading data, maps and geospatial information.
- Its creators say they hope the website will provide solid knowledge to support researchers in making public policies or designing programs for the conservation of a biome that has already lost more than 50% of its native vegetation.

Big dream: NGO leads in creating 1,615-mile Amazon-Cerrado river greenbelt
- The Black Jaguar Foundation plans to reforest 1 million hectares (2.4 million acres) along Brazil’s Araguaia and Tocantins rivers in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes. The 2,600 kilometer (1,615 mile) long natural corridor will require the planting of around 1.7 billion trees. Tens-of-thousands have already been planted.
- This natural corridor will be established on private lands, and it will have dual ecological and economic goals, resulting in both land conservation and sustainable agroforestry production. It would cross six Brazilian states (Goiás, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Tocantins, Pará and Maranhão).
- BJF is well funded and well organized, so the greatest barriers to accomplishing the NGO’s goals are many initially resistant rural property owners who need to be sold on the economic benefits of the green corridor. 24,000 privately owned lots are included in the planned green corridor.
- “Brazil has a huge liability in degraded areas, and the BJF [green corridor] initiative is a huge outdoor laboratory for ecosystem restoration in the center of the country, in the agricultural frontier region,” said one researcher.

‘What’s at stake is the life of every being’: Saving the Brazilian Cerrado
- The Cerrado boasts a third of Brazil’s biodiversity and is the largest savanna in South America with 44% of its 10,000 species of plants endemic. And yet, since the colonial period, this semi-arid region was largely ignored, and has even been portrayed as an “infertile, uninhabited region,” nothing more than “a place between places.”
- That all changed over recent decades with agribusiness declaring the Cerrado to be Brazil’s last great agricultural frontier. Today, half of the vast savanna which covers two million square kilometers (770,000 square miles) has been converted to crops of soy, cotton, corn and eucalyptus, or to pasture covered in massive cattle herds.
- As the savanna has been lost, its communities have simultaneously risen to save what’s left. The National Campaign in Defense of the Cerrado, launched in January 2016, has fought an uphill political battle to preserve the region’s native vegetation and biodiversity. The effort has grown more dogged during the Bolsonaro presidency.
- Working with Indigenous and traditional peoples, the organization is striving to build global awareness of the Cerrado’s natural significance and to get more of the region declared as World Heritage sites. “Defending the Cerrado is defending its people,” declares one activist.

As the Amazon unravels into savanna, its wildlife will also suffer
- The transformation of the Amazon and Atlantic rainforests into savanna-like environments will change the makeup of both the flora and the fauna of these biomes.
- A study by Brazilian researchers evaluated the impacts of climate change and deforestation on more than 300 mammal species under various scenarios of savannization.
- Species like primates, which depend on a dense canopy of trees to survive, could lose up to 50% of their range by the end of the 21st century.
- Meanwhile, species from the Cerrado scrubland, such as the maned wolf and the giant anteater, would be able to move into degraded areas of the Amazon even as their own native range is cleared by human activity.

Brazil flower-gatherers win acclaim: ‘Efficient, long-lasting, resilient’
- For three centuries communities of “flower-gatherers” have lived self-reliantly in the Serra do Espinhaço, a mountain range bordering Brazil’s Cerrado savanna on its east. Many are descended from former slaves, but they’ve mingled with Indigenous and descendants of Portuguese migrants.
- Their several hundred communities have long fostered a cooperative relationship with nature, using fire judiciously and a code of sustainable rules to keep their communal pastures and natural landscapes in balance.
- In 2020, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognized their way of life, designating the flower-gatherers’ traditional farming system as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System. But encroaching mining and agriculture, and a national park all now put this unique culture at risk.
- “The struggle of the flower-gatherers is a profound struggle. It is a struggle for a way of life, a way of thinking the world, of relating with the Serra [mountain range], and constructing a future they want for their children,” says one academic.

Pandemic fails to slow agribusiness’s thirst for Cerrado’s water
- Between April and November last year, the government of the Brazilian state of Bahia authorized agribusinesses to collect nearly 2 billion liters (528 million gallons) of water a day.
- The spread of giant soybean plantations in the state’s west threatens tributaries, floodplains and sources of essential rivers such as the Corrente and the São Francisco.
- The large-scale irrigation poses a major threat to traditional communities, whose own communal farming practices have long protected the Cerrado’s water resources.
- Tensions over water management sparked a popular movement by small farmers in 2017, known as the “Water Uprising” and aimed at protecting the Cerrado’s water resources.

‘Race against time’: Saving the snakes and lizards of Brazil’s Cerrado
- Brazil’s Cerrado is among the world’s most biodiverse savannas, covering two million square kilometers (772,204 square miles), nearly a quarter of the country and half the size of Europe.
- Once thought of as a “wasteland,” scientists have counted 208 snake species, some 80 lizards, 40 worm lizards, seven turtles and four crocodile species — many recently logged in the biome’s grasslands, palm-covered riverscapes, lowland forests and dry plateaus.
- Once thought of as a “wasteland,” scientists have counted 208 snake species, some 80 lizards, 40 worm lizards, seven turtles and four crocodile species — many recently logged in the biome’s grasslands, palm-covered riverscapes, lowland forests and dry plateaus.
- While researchers agree that there is an urgent need to protect large swathes of remaining savanna, there is also a vital requirement to preserve patches of unique habitat where diverse, niche-specialized reptilians make their homes.

Restaura Cerrado: Saving Brazil’s savanna by reseeding and restoring it
- The Cerrado is Brazil’s second largest biome, and the most biodiverse tropical savanna in the world. It is of vital importance for Brazil’s watersheds, for global biodiversity, and is an important but undervalued carbon stock.
- But in recent decades, half of the Cerrado’s native vegetation has been destroyed to make way for cattle, soy, and other agricultural commodities. In the southern Cerrado, scientists are now shifting their focus to restoring the native vegetation
- However, scientific knowledge on savanna restoration is scarce. So one collaborative network, Restaura Cerrado, is bringing together scientists, seed collectors, and the public to advance practical knowledge about restoration. The group’s goal is to achieve the means for ongoing effective Cerrado restoration.
- Restaura Cerrado is a collaboration between ICMBio, the University of Brasília, the Cerrado Seeds Network, and Embrapa (the Brazilian Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Research Enterprise); together they hope to use restoration to bring sustainable development to the savanna region.

Podcast: Is Brazil’s biodiverse savanna getting the attention it deserves, finally?
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast we look at how the largest and most biodiverse tropical savanna on Earth, Brazil’s Cerrado, may finally be getting the conservation attention it needs.
- We’re joined by Mariana Siqueira, a landscape architect who’s helping to find and propagate the Cerrado’s natural plant life, and is collaborating with ecologists researching the best way to restore the savanna habitat.
- Also appearing on the show is Arnaud Desbiez, founder and president of Brazilian NGO ICAS, who describes the Cerrado as an important part of the Brazilian range for the giant armadillo, a species whose conservation could play an important role in protecting what’s left of the Cerrado’s vast biodiversity.

As Amazon deforestation hits 12 year high, France rejects Brazilian soy
- As Brazil continues deforesting and burning the Amazon at an alarming rate, France has announced plans to drastically reduce its dependency on Brazilian soy flour and “stop importing deforestation.”
- France currently is the EU’s largest importer of Brazilian soy flour, buying 1.9 million tons annually. “Our target today is [cutting] soybean imports coming from the American continent,” said the French Minister of Agriculture and Food this week.
- While the loss of its soy sales to France is of concern to Brazilian soy producers and commodities companies, agribusiness has expressed greater anxiety over whether Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s continued anti-environmental rhetoric and policies will provoke a largescale international boycott of Brazilian commodities.
- They especially fear the president’s hardline could risk ratification of the Mercosur trade agreement between the EU and South American nations, including Brazil. This week the EU ambassador to Brazil said that the agreement is now in standby, awaiting the country’s concrete actions to combat deforestation and Amazon fires.

Unprecedented sightings of maned wolves in Amazon herald a changing landscape
- The maned wolf has been spotted 22 times in the Amazon over the past 25 years, 10 of those times in areas where it had never been seen before.
- Scientists posit that South America’s largest canine is spreading north as human-driven deforestation and climate change eat away at the fringes of the Amazon, turning the rainforest into the dry shrubland that the maned wolf is accustomed to.
- In its traditional range across the Cerrado savanna, the maned wolf is being squeezed into increasingly fragmented spaces and pushed into human areas.
- This puts it at risk of being hit by vehicles, catching disease from domestic pets, and being killed by farmers.

Crimefighting NGO tracks Brazil wildlife trade on WhatsApp and Facebook
- A nonprofit, the National Network Combating Wild Animal Trafficking (RENCTAS) was founded in 1999, and since then has won international awards and acclaim for its innovative approach to tracking and combating the global illegal wildlife trade, especially the sourcing of animals in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest and Cerrado savanna biomes.
- The group’s pioneering strategy: use social media to track the sale and movement of animals out of Brazil, and turn over the data to law enforcement. In 1999, it identified nearly 6,000 ads featuring the illegal sale of animals on e-commerce platforms. By 2019, it reported 3.5 million advertisements for the illegal trade on social networks.
- The most trafficked Brazilian animals currently: the double-collared seedeater (Sporophila caerulescens); a small, finch-like songbird with a yellow bill that thrives in the southern Cerrado, and the white-cheeked spider monkey (Ateles marginatus), found across the Amazon basin. Sales of animals have been tracked to 200+ illegal trafficking organizations.
- Tragically, of the millions of Brazilian animals captured, sold, resold, and transported, only an estimated 1 in 10 ever reach Brazilian and foreign consumers alive. The rest, ripped from their homes, starved and abused, die in transit.

France falls short in ending deforestation linked to imported soy
- A new agreement signed by eight grocery store chains in France is aimed at ending the importation of soybeans grown on deforested lands.
- France introduced a national strategy to address deforestation in supply chains in 2018.
- But environmental and watchdog NGOs say the country must go beyond voluntary commitments from companies and mandate an end to trade with producers linked to deforestation.

Multiplying Amazon river ports open new Brazil-to-China commodities routes
- Nearly 100 major industrial river ports have been built on the Brazilian Amazon’s major rivers over the past two decades. Many of the projects have been internationally financed and built by commodities companies with little government oversight.
- These ports have transformed the region, opening it to agribusiness and the export of commodities, especially soy, to China and the rest of the world. However, this boom in port infrastructure often came at the expense of the environment and traditional riverine communities.
- Today, more than 40 additional major river ports are planned in the Amazon biome on the Tapajós, Tocantins, Madeira and other rivers, projects again being pursued largely without taking cumulative socioenvironmental impacts into account.
- “What resources do these soy men bring to our city?” asked Manoel Munduruku, an Indigenous leader. “They only bring destruction.”

Marmosets trafficked as pets now threaten native species in Atlantic forest
- Decades of illegal trafficking have led to the movement of marmosets from Brazil’s Cerrado and Caatinga biomes into the southeastern Atlantic rainforest, where they now threaten the survival of native species.
- According to a study, the invasive marmosets crossbreed with native species, producing a hybrid population that could lead to the extinction of the endemic species.
- One of the native Atlantic rainforest species, the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset (Callithrix aurita), is one of the world’s 25 most endangered primate species.

‘Digital land grab’ deprives traditional LatAm peoples of ancestral lands: Report
- South American nations, including Brazil and Colombia, are increasingly using georeferencing technology for registering land ownership.
- However, if this high-tech digital technique is not backed up by traditional ground truthing surveys, it can be used by landgrabbers and agribusiness companies to fraudulently obtain deeds depriving traditional communities of their collective ancestral lands, according to a new report.
- The georeferenced process is being partly funded by the World Bank, which has provided US $45.5 million for digital registration of private rural properties in Brazil. Georeferencing is allowing the international financial sector to play a key role in converting large tracts of rainforest and savanna into agribusiness lands.
- To prevent this form of land theft, prospective landowners’ claims need to be independently verified via a centralized governmental land registration system organized to resolve land conflicts and to detect and eliminate local and regional corruption.

At-risk Cerrado mammals need fully-protected parks to survive: Researchers
- A newly published camera trap study tracked 21 species of large mammal in Brazil’s Cerrado savanna biome from 2012-2017.
- The cameras were deployed in both fully protected state and federal parks and less protected mixed-use areas known as APAs where humans live, farm and ranch.
- The probability of finding large, threatened species in true reserves was 5 to 10 times higher than in the APAs for pumas, tapirs, giant anteaters, maned wolves, white-lipped and collared peccaries, and other Neotropical mammals.
- With half the Cerrado biome’s two million square kilometers of native vegetation already converted to cattle ranches, soy plantations and other croplands, conserving remaining habitat is urgent if large mammals are to survive there. The new study will help land managers better preserve biodiversity.

Harvard fund evades justice in land-grabbing case over Cerrado farm
- In September, the court in Brazil’s Bahia state ruled that a company in which Harvard University’s endowment fund was invested had illegally acquired the land for a large farm in the Cerrado grasslands.
- The Gleba Campo Largo farm, spanning 140,000 hectares (346,000 acres), has for years been the focus of violent land disputes.
- The farm’s registered owner is Caracol Agropecuária Ltda., a company that the Harvard Management Company is believed to have poured an estimated $59 million into over the course of about a decade.
- The Harvard Management Company fully divested from Caracol in June 2019, avoiding Bahia’s State Justice recent condemnation.

In Brazil’s Bahia, peasant farmers and cowboys keep the Cerrado alive
- For over a century, communities in Brazil’s western Bahia have preserved the Cerrado grasslands through a form of communal land management that allows them to raise cattle, harvest native fruits and grow organic food crops sustainably.
- They sell their wide range of produce — from beans to flour — at farmers’ markets in nearby towns, but this activity has been curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Major soy, corn and cotton producers are also increasingly present in the area.
- Their massive plantations dry up the rivers used by the communities and contaminate the water with pesticides, threatening their sustainable way of life.