Amazonian solution for Amazonian problems

June 2nd, 2023
By Milton Steagall

The Amazon's problems are notorious and complex. They are the order of the day, both in Brazil and around the world. Reports on illegal logging, the illegal mining activities of thousands of people and other crimes that benefit from the occupation of the territory mean that sustainable employment and income opportunities are becoming increasingly scarce for the Amazonian population.

These are crimes that need to be fought with the rigidity of the legislation. In turn, legislators and businessmen, together with the community, should focus on finding alternatives for generating employment and income, always associated with environmental preservation. The union between preservation and socioeconomic development is fundamental. The path, therefore, is to strike a balance between the maintenance of the standing forest and the possibility of technological development of the bioeconomy.

Where there is development, education, and income generation there is preservation and care for the environment. Currently, about 29.6 million people live in the Amazon region and the number one priority, be it from the state or private initiative, should be the generation of jobs and the socioeconomic development of the region. The deforestation and degradation issues in the Amazon are directly related to poverty and lack of opportunities. Where there are opportunities for employment and income, there is care, love for the land, and protection of the forests.

Fortunately, we have seen some positive initiatives in the north of the country, including the model implemented by the Grupo BBF (Brasil BioFuels), with the aim of finding an Amazonian solution to Amazonian problems. The focus of the model implemented is to decarbonize the Amazon region, creating jobs, generating income and reducing the cost of electricity, from a sustainable and clean matrix, replacing the use of fossil diesel oil with biodiesel made from palm oil, while also helping to accelerate Brazil's energy transition.

The initiative has shown that it is possible to bring cleaner and cheaper energy to the populations of the Northern states, recovering the balance of degraded areas and employing the region's inhabitants. With this, it is possible to stop bringing a huge amount of diesel from the Southeast of the country. The path was to think of new sources of energy that are adapted to the region's conditions.

Another point to note is that all of Grupo BBF 's thermoelectric plants operate with renewable fuels: biofuels (biodiesel and vegetable oil) and biomass from oil palm. There are 38 plants, with a total generating capacity of 238 MW. 25 thermoelectric plants are already in operation, with 86.8 MW of generating capacity. Another 13 plants are still being set up. The 25 thermoelectric plants in operation serve around 140,000 customers, removing more than 106 million liters of fossil diesel from the Amazon each year. In this way, it has been possible to reduce the emission of around 250,000 tons of carbon equivalent into the atmosphere.

It is important to note that oil palm planting is governed by Federal Decree No. 7.172 of 2010, which establishes the Agroecological Zoning of Oil Palm and only allows cultivation in degraded areas prior to December 2007. Brazil has one of the strictest laws in the world in this area. Sustainable oil palm cultivation also plays an important role in keeping people in the countryside, generating jobs and income in small municipalities in the northern region.

Such business models, like the one cited in this article, work with long-term assets and it is essential that they are committed to the best environmental, social, and corporate governance practices. In this way, value generation and sustainable and social development are complementary goals. This has a positive impact on society and the environment.

The results of initiatives like this bring gains to cities, states and, above all, to the people who need them most. In the case of Grupo BBF, more than 6,000 direct and 18,000 indirect jobs have already been created, making the company one of the largest employers in the north of the country. Finally, it is worth highlighting the Family Farming program, in which the company encourages more than 400 families in communities in the municipalities of Tomé Açu and Acará, in the state of Pará, providing seedlings, technical assistance, help with bank loans, incentives for continuous improvement and guaranteed purchase of fruit at prices that are competitive with the market. These are actions that contribute to the economic development of the Amazon in harmony with the environmental preservation of the forest.

*Milton Steagall is CEO of Grupo BBF.

icon of Milton Steagall CEO - Grupo BBF
Milton Steagall
CEO of Grupo BBF