Farmers blamed for Amazon blaze - Farmers Weekly

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Farmers blamed for Amazon blaze

24 March 1998
Farmers blamed for Amazon blaze

HUGE forest fires in the north Brazilian state of Roraima were blamed yesterday on aggressive agricultural development in the Amazon region.

Reinaldo Barbosa, a specialist in tropical ecosystems at the National Institute of Amazon Research, said although the El Niño weather phenomenon had a role, “the real lesson is just how dangerous it is for farmers to burn land in a region like this”.

The fires began in January when small farmers started setting light to fields to create new cultivation areas or to fertilise old land. They are now raging out of control and have entered rainforest areas.

Barbosa said nearly 75% of savannah grassland had been burnt. Up to half might be set ablaze by farmers in a normal year, but the dry conditions this year had spread the flames to parts of the rainforest usually too wet to burn.

Special water-carrying helicopters were called in yesterday to control the fires. But some experts think they will have little impact in the rain forest because of the thick tree-top roof.

  • Financial Times 24/03/98 page 8
  • The Independent 24/03/98 page 14

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Farmers blamed for Amazon blaze

16 March 1998
Farmers blamed for Amazon blaze

FIRES which burned out of control and destroyed a swathe of highland savannah near the Venezuelan border have been blamed on subsistence farmers in the Brazilian state of Roraima.

Some 890,000ha (2.2 million acres) of farmland have been destroyed and a severe drought has killed about 20,000 cattle.

Environmental officials said the fires were caused by the drought and the slash-and-burn techniques of poor farmers who set fire to their plots to fertilise the thin soil with ash.

Officials appealed for more men and water-dumping helicopters as the flames began to eat into remote rainforest areas that are normally too wet to burn.

  • The Times 16/03/98 page 13

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