Purus REDD Project has the objective to reduce the impacts from deforestation in an area of 34,702 acres in the municipality of Manoel Urbano – State of Acre, Brazil. The main argument for the establishment of a REDD project is that under Brazilian legislation the territory could legally undergo a wider extension of deforestation to give space for agriculture and livestock activities. The option to keep the forest up is thus compensated with the commercialization of carbon credits. But Purus Project also claims it will stop the ongoing deforestation of the land caused by smallholder residents who use the land for their small scale agroforest productions. Thus, the Project claims it will control the local traditional population to not increase the levels of deforestation and also to make them partners in reforestation processes. It claims it will do so by introducing social projects and activities, such as: capacitation of agricultural techniques, deforestation patrolling, house infrastructure renewals and the installation of photovoltaic plants for the community.
The 18 families who are resident in the 34,702 acres of land of the Purus REDD Project have, in average, lived in the land for the last 20-30 years, at least. There are residents who have been there for over 50 years. They are composed mostly by families whose ancestors migrated to take part in the rubber-tapping activity from the start of the XX century. Families practice shifting cultivation and agro-forestry systems, who involve the clearing of land for both agriculture, some livestock and wood. It is exactly by restricting the small scale activities that the Project wishes to achieve its objective to generate carbon credits.
According to the discourse from Purus Project representatives, the smallholders' “non-sustainable actions” apply significant “pressure upon the forest”. This argument naturally places the families as “deforestation agents” and thus, is enough to sustain a narrative of culpability. Such a narrative is essential for the creation of legitimacy to a conservation project that can only be justified by the existence of real threats to the forest (Movimento Mundial pelas Florestas Tropicais, 2013).
Families started to mobilize in 2013 for a public consultation with Purus Project representatives and from the Municipality of Manoel Urbano. At the time, they claimed that workers from Project Purus had long been acting in intimidating manner by threatening the community with eviction from the land in case they did not agree to comply with the requirements of the Project. Requirements such as to stop their traditional agroforestry activities. To comply with that, it basically brings to a halt the possibility of these families to reproduce their way of life. In a nearer future, it would impose that out of necessity they move out of the land, either to neighboring settlements or the urban area of Manoel Urbano.
Families also claim that they have been “tricked” into signing documents where they accept to comply to the Project´s requirements. As researchers engaged in their defense have claimed, some residents are illiterate and most of them do not know about REDD schemes and its requirements. Nonetheless, the Project also promised a series of social and economical advantages for the families. None of which seem to have been materialized. So far, in relation to land, the Project established that each family, if they cooperate to the Project´s objectives, will be allowed to maintain their homes, limited at 100 acre per family – minimum amount of land per Amazonian family as established by Brazilian Law. Nowadays, families use more than 100-acre in order to maintain their shifting cultivations. However, it's the responsability of the federal institution INCRA (National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform) to issue entitlement documents. this is a guaranteed federal right of the settlers and not a promise or compensation that surges out of the “good will” of Project Purus. Further, the Project offered a value of R$ 600 reais (around US$ 150) a month for each family to stop the activities they endure for their own survival. This value represents around 60% of the minimum wage in Brazil established for 2017. Therefore, it is insufficient to provide and sustain a full family.
The families who live in the area, along with movements in the State of Acre but also assisted by researchers from the local state university are trying to reach out for more awareness from the State Government. More specifically, from State institutions like IMC (Climate Change Institute) who is responsible for the implementation of the SISA program (Acre Incentives System for Ecosystem Services). They have tried to bring the State into resolving the conflict and rising tensions due to implementation of the Purus REDD Project. Public consultations have happened, both in Manoel Urbano and in the capital Rio Branco and they have served as important events for the families to make their voices heard and their claims formalized.