Costs, benefits and challenges of sustainable livestock intensification in a major deforestation frontier in the Brazilian amazon

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Abstract

Extensive livestock production is a major deforestation driver in the Brazilian Amazon. This study presents an assessment of the economic and environmental feasibility of sustainable livestock intensification in São Félix do Xingu municipality, a deforestation frontier with an area of more than 8.5 million hectares, and home to the largest cattle herd in Brazil. Proposed intensification was limited to approximately three animal units per hectare to avoid negative environmental impacts. Transition costs to sustainable cattle intensification were estimated for thirteen pilot farms taking into account adoption of good agriculture practices, pasture maintenance/restoration, and restoration of environmental liabilities. To move to sustainable intensification practices, a mean total annual investment of US$1335/ha ± US$619/ha would be necessary, varying from US$750 to US$2595/ha. Internal rate of return and net present value estimates indicated that the sustainable livestock intensification approach proposed was profitable in farms with more than 400 hectares of pastureland, but not in those where the pasture areas were smaller than 150 hectares. Livestock sustainable intensification also had the potential to promote social and environmental benefits, including a 54% increase in the number of contract workers, improvement of landowners' managerial skills, and workers' training, in addition to avoiding emission of 1.9 Mt CO2eq and sequestration of 0.36 Mt CO2eq. We conclude that the sustainable intensification of pasture areas has the potential to prevent further deforestation in the Amazon while generating social and other environmental benefits.

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Garcia, E., Filho, F. S. V. R., Mallmann, G. M., & Fonseca, F. (2017). Costs, benefits and challenges of sustainable livestock intensification in a major deforestation frontier in the Brazilian amazon. Sustainability (Switzerland), 9(1). https://doi.org/10.3390/su9010158

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