Halting Deforestation in Brazilian Amazon: Lessons from the Deforestation Blacklist

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"Brazil has made impressive progress towards halting deforestation in the Amazon biome. An innovative environmental agenda implemented in 2004 – the PPCDAm - has played a crucial role in that context. This study approaches the deforestation blacklist aimed at monitoring and sanctioning counties considered deforestation hotspots in the region. The deforestation blacklist has encompassed 60 counties since 2008, restricting credit loans to farmers and embargoing landholdings and products. Because blacklist removal criteria are set at the county level, institutional arrangements have emerged to achieve the collective goals of georeferencing rural properties and controlling forest clearings. Despite promising results, most counties remain blacklisted to date. This study draws on secondary data and satellite imagery analyses, as well as on stakeholders’ interviews in a cross-sectional study in five counties in the state of Pará, northeastern Amazon. I adopt a historical ecology approach to examine deforestation dynamics at the county level and rely on the Ostrom’s SES framework to investigate context-specific factors mediating local responses to this policy instrument. In this study, I discuss the challenges faced by each county in engaging stakeholders in multiple adjacent action situations towards devising strategies and tools in response to the uniform blacklist removal criteria that disregards context-specific realities. The results highlight the role played by local political and leadership capital in that process, as well as by complementary policies and initiatives in place at a given moment. Moreover, they reveal how contextual factors underlying deforestation dynamics at a given county are interconnected across the region, thus mediating varied responses to anti-deforestation policies. The study concludes by discussing the limited outcomes arising from blueprint policies implemented in a complex and dynamic mosaic of juxtaposed social and environmental realities such as the Amazon."