Creating a Win-Win for Nature and People

Increasing sustainable food production while protecting biodiversity!

São Paulo, Brazil   |   March 18, 2017

The Latin America Conservation Council (LACC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) convened a meeting of key partners in São Paulo to review promising results for increasing food production while stopping associated habitat loss in iconic Latin American landscapes, like the Amazon. Environmental scientists met with technical experts from industry and finance to discuss how transitioning small and medium-sized producers to sustainable techniques can raise yields and incomes on the existing agricultural and ranching footprint, reducing the pressure to expand into bordering forests and grasslands. This approach – called a “Green Growth Compact” (GGC) – was developed in innovative pilots in Brazil and Mexico that are being scaled to Colombia and Argentina. “Win-Win” results benefit both people and nature.

The LACC is a unique group of global leaders, dedicated to accelerating innovative solutions to regional challenges, like sustainable food. LACC-member companies participating in the São Paulo meeting included Dow, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Santander, Banamex, Grupo Lala, Cargill. Afterward, the group was joined by partners Yara, Walmart, Marfrig, and the Tropical Forest Alliance to visit the GGC in São Felix do Xingu, a municipality roughly the size of Portugal in the Brazilian state of Pará. Pará is home to the largest herd of cattle in the country – over 2 million head.

Cattle ranching is one of the biggest contributors to deforestation. When the Conservancy started working in the area in 2009, São Felix was on the federal government’s environmental blacklist, with the highest deforestation rate of all municipalities in the Brazilian Amazon, losing 300 square miles of forest in 2008 alone. In fact, waves of rural migration into the Amazon promoted by the government through free land-giveaways to the poor in the 60s, 70s, and 80s were meant to spur economic growth, but led to rampant deforestation such that, by 2008, a national blacklist was created that made local producers ineligible for credit. In 2009, when the Conservancy came to São Felix, the aim was to help local producers implement the national forest code, which establishes the amount of forest set asides required on Amazon parcels. Created in 1965, but largely ignored until the Conservancy arrived in 2009, the tide began to turn when parcel ownership was mapped and land-use monitored via satellite to gauge compliance. After decades of turning forests into pastures and fields, Brazilian landowners – farmers and ranchers – started to reverse the trend, aided by the introduction of sustainable practices that increased yields and incomes.

By 2014, the annual deforestation rate fell to 60 square miles – a five-fold reduction. This dramatic turnaround led to removing São Felix from the blacklist, increasing access to credit, and linking producers to supply chains that value sustainable sourcing.


Latin America is already the largest net food exporting region in the world. In fact, a 2013 IDB report declared that Latin America is poised to become the global breadbasket. But the region also faces significant challenges, as many production hotspots lie alongside the largest remaining expanses of biodiversity. This conflict threatens to derail economic progress and reduce future capacity if not addressed.

For example:

  • Nearly half (46%) of the world’s projected new cropland will be in Latin America, but the region’s deforestation rate is already triple that of the rest of the world.
  • A main threat to remaining forests is the expanding footprint of agriculture and ranching, but sustainable practices can increase yields and incomes on existing production footprints, decreasing the need for expansion.
  • In 2015, the region is responsible for close to 55% of world soy exports, 15% of fresh beef exports and 32% of world corn.
  • Brazil is the world’s seventh-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, with about one-third caused by deforestation. (2014)

Clearly, what happens in Latin America has a direct impact on global food security. Latin America is also pivotal in global climate mitigation efforts, as the region’s largest remaining reserves of forests and grasslands play a key role in carbon capture and weather patterns. The geographic hotspots prioritized for GGCs by the Conservancy and LACC are the Amazon and Yucatan Forests of Brazil and Mexico, respectively, and the Llanos grasslands of Colombia and Argentina.


Active in Latin America for over 40 years, the Conservancy uses a science-based approach to protecting and unlocking the value of nature. One of the organization’s most powerful contributions has been to develop a system for mapping parcels and assigning ownership, then using satellites to track land-use changes over time, helping to detect and address pockets of Amazon deforestation – an approach that helped make Brazil’s Forest Code (of legally required set-asides) accountable and enforceable. This mapping technology has been transferred successfully to Mexico, to launch the Mayan Forest Watch in the Yucatan.

Monitoring characteristics of the land has been adapted by the Conservancy to detect degraded areas with no conservation value, apt to be reclaimed for ranching, agriculture or other uses. This “Go/No Go” mapping approach provides a backdrop for GGCs, which help to build consensus around where to intensify agricultural and ranching production and where to avoid it. Formed in 2011, the Latin America Conservation Council (LACC) is dedicated to adopting and helping the Conservancy to scale these science- based solutions.

Some results:

  • Deforestation rates are falling, while cattle production increases (see graph, above). Public policies can create an enabling environment – or create perverse incentives. The Brazilian Forest Code and CAR land-registry are global models for implementing Green Municipalities that reduced deforestation while production increased in the Amazon.
  • Industry deforestation-free sourcing commitments are increasing. Industry leaders, like Cargill, have committed to getting habitat loss out of their supply chains – see promising examples of sustainable soy and sustainable beef.
  • Sustainable Xingu beef launched at Walmart stores in Brazil as a result of “farm to fork” traceability that ensures it is “deforestation-free.”
  • Sustainable beef roundtables formed and active in Brazil and Mexico.
  • In Mexico, Mayan communities are sharing sustainable practices while preventing deforestation, with important co-benefits for the climate.
  • Launched in 2015 with IDB, Dow, and TNC/LACC, AgroLAC 2025 is a new fund to help small and medium producers access the capital they need to transition to sustainable practices.

The Conservancy’s use of science and non-confrontational approach position the organization to effectively convene and scale GGC coalitions, which aim to align public subsidies, lending guidelines, and supply chain sourcing to incentivize the transition to sustainable production practices in Latin America’s most iconic landscapes. “Ultimately, we aim to transition the cattle industry in Pará to a sustainable, deforestation-free model that serves as a template for a new national and regional standard,” stated Ginya Truitt Nakata, Director, Lands Conservation Unit for the Nature Conservancy in Latin America.

About the Latin America Conservation Council (LACC)

The Latin America Conservation Council (LACC) accelerates visionary action on critical water, food and infrastructure challenges to enable a thriving and prosperous environment for generations to come. A unique group of business, political and financial leaders, the 30-member Council champions the innovative science of the Nature Conservancy to scale sustainable solutions through advice, networking, advocacy and financial support. The Council believes Latin America can be a global sustainability leader by balancing development with conservation – growing economies while protecting the vital ecosystems they depend on. To learn more, visit:

About The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

About Santander:

The Bank Santander (Brasil) S.A is the biggest international financial conglomerate in the country, and is a member of Santander Group, headquartered in Spain. As the third largest private bank of Brazil, at the close of June 2016 the bank amassed total assets of R$ 661 billion and a portfolio of 34 million checking accounts. Santander Brazil was the unit with the largest share in Group Santander’s global results , with 20% of the Group’ results from January to September of 2016.
We focus on retail operations, but Santander is a universal bank and also operates in the wholesale, third-party asset management, and insurance sectors.
The bank boasts a robust infrastructure composed of 2,255 branches; 1,153 PABs (mini branches) and around 19,000 ATMs. We also operate in the capital market. Our common shares, preferred shares, and units are listed on BM&FBOVESPA under ticker codes SANB3, SANB4 and SANB11, respectively, while our American Depositary Receipts (ADR) are traded on the NYSE under ticker code BSBR.

About Dow

Dow (NYSE: DOW) combines the power of science and technology to passionately innovate what is essential to human progress. The Company is driving innovations that extract value from material, polymer, chemical and biological science to help address many of the world’s most challenging problems, such as the need for fresh food, safer and more sustainable transportation, clean water, energy efficiency, more durable infrastructure, and increasing agricultural productivity. Dow’s integrated, market-driven portfolio delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in 175 countries and in high-growth sectors such as packaging, infrastructure, transportation, consumer care, electronics, and agriculture. In 2016, Dow had annual sales of $48 billion and employed approximately 56,000 people worldwide. The Company’s more than 7,000 product families are manufactured at 189 sites in 34 countries across the globe. References to “Dow” or the “Company” mean The Dow Chemical Company and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly noted. More information about Dow can be found at

Inter-American Development Bank

The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.

About Yara

Yara’s knowledge, products and solutions grow farmers’, distributors’ and industrial customers’ businesses profitably and responsibly, while protecting the earth’s resources, food and environment.
Our fertilizers, crop nutrition programs and technologies increase yields, improve product quality and reduce the environmental impact of agricultural practices. Our industrial and environmental solutions improve air quality by reducing emissions from industry and transportation, and serve as key ingredients in the production of a wide range of goods. We foster a culture that promotes the safety of our employees, contractors and societies.
Founded in 1905 to solve emerging famine in Europe, today, Yara has a worldwide presence, with close to 13,000 employees and sales to more than 160 countries.