Fewer fires in the Cerrado – for climate protection and biological diversity

Germany and Brazil are expanding their successful partnership in the areas of biodiversity conservation and climate protection. The German Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) is promoting integrated fire management in the Brazilian Cerrado with up to EUR 12 million by 2017.

Dunes with rainforest and canyons in the backgroundThe Brazilian Cerrado is almost six times as large as Germany and is regarded as the most species-rich savanna in the world. However, annually recurring forest fires primarily caused by humans have devastating consequences: the loss of biological diversity, increased greenhouse gas emissions and health problems from the resulting smoke. In 2010 around 57 per cent of Brazil’s CO2 emissions resulted from land use; of this, 39 per cent originated in the Cerrado. In the six federal protected areas of the project region, an area of approx. 10,000 km² was destroyed by fire – that is equivalent to an area larger than Cyprus.

Integrated fire management strategy in Brazil

As part of its strategic partnership with Brazil, BMUB is using International Climate Initiative (IKI) funding to support its Brazilian partners in their efforts to improve fire management, thus helping to conserve biodiversity and mitigate climate change. Since 2012, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and KfW Development Bank have been jointly implementing integrated fire management activities in the Cerrado together with the Brazilian Environment Ministry and other partners on behalf of BMUB. Integrated fire management is more than just fighting fires; it also includes fire prevention and control, sustainable land management and participatory planning processes. The project therefore addresses all of these levels.

As most of the uncontrolled vegetation fires result from agricultural activities, cooperation with the population is especially important. This primarily involves alternatives to using fire in agriculture, the establishment of a decentralised approval system for controlled burning as well as participative protected area management.

Furthermore, the project is using studies to research the effects of vegetation fires on biodiversity and the climate protection potential of the Cerrado. A new, satellite-based monitoring system is providing important data for this as well as for fighting fires. It makes up-to-date recordings on how vegetation fires and deforestation in the Cerrado are developing. The project has initiated a bilateral research partnership on this topic between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Brazilian National Institute for Space (INPE). INPE has also developed a satellite-supported fire monitoring system, which is expected to become operational for all of Brazil by the end of 2014.

Two fire fighters put out a blaze

Through numerous training opportunities, the project has already educated over 900 fire brigade staff, farmers and civil society representatives in the area of integrated fire management, environmental education and fire-free farming alternatives. Seminars and study trips in Brazil and Australia were used to develop concrete measures on fire management that are now being implemented in pilot regions. The experience gathered serves as an important reference for the development of the National Policy for Integrated Fire Management.

Spatial and substantive expansion of the project

The additional funding from BMUB and the term extension to the beginning of 2017 enables the project to enhance its investment in knowledge management and the dissemination of project experience. It will systematise the use of tested instruments and strategies for integrated fire management as well as lessons learned from project activities that were already implemented, and make them available to national and international institutions. Furthermore, the project region is being expanded, which now includes seven protected areas, ten municipalities as well as an indigenous territory and a settlement for the landless.

With this comprehensive approach, the IKI project is helping Brazil achieve its ambitious climate goals and conserve biological diversity in the Cerrado.