Resilience Dispatch #17: What is a Bioeconomy?

Jun 1, 2021
Açaí berry harvest, Pará, Brazil.

In this edition

We’re growing a new bioeconomy in the Amazon

“There is a vicious and unsustainable cycle in the Amazon,” award-winning filmmaker Estevão Ciavatta tells us in an interview published this month on his new film about land grabbing in Brazil.

“[Vulnerable people] have to use forest resources because they don’t have work. And they don’t have work because [in Brazil] we don’t have a plan.”

Land grabbing – a form of organized crime that seizes unprotected lands for speculation – is on the rise in Brazil, although thanks in part to Ciavatta’s important film, the media, banks, and communities are pushing back.

But it is not enough to stop the forces behind environmental destruction. As Ciavatta points out, we need an alternative – a plan.

In this Resilience Dispatch, we share a look at our work to help build a new kind of economy. Instead of relying on single-product supply chains, such as beef, soy, or palm oil, produced on cleared forestland, we envision a sustainable, regenerative, forest-based economy, or a “bioeconomy.”

An Amazon bioeconomy is built on a diversity of supply chains based on the incredible natural wealth of the forest. It supports sustainable livelihoods and strong communities for indigenous and rural people. And it sustains the great Amazon forest – the lungs of our planet – that we so desperately need to protect if we’re to have any hope of a safe climate in our future.

With our partners, we’re creating new forest-based value chains. We’re also supporting indigenous communities to access climate and biodiversity funding that rewards them for their stewardship. This creates positive economic forces that counter all of the incentives in Brazil that support forest destruction. It’s the only way we can turn the tide.

Be well,


“I saw the collision of two worlds.”

Estêvão Ciavatta and Beto Borges on the frontlines of forest conflict in the Amazon

Forest Trends’ Beto Borges talks with award-winning Brazilian screenwriter, director, and film producer Estevão Ciavatta on conflicting visions for development in the Amazon, land grabbing, and Ciavatta’s new film, Amazonia Undercover.

Estêvão Ciavatta. Credit: Daniel Mattar
Beto Borges
Beto Borges: Your film, Amazonia Undercover, recently won the 2021 Environmental Impact Award from One World Media. How was the idea for Amazonia Undercover born?

Estêvão Ciavatta: Early 2014, a friend of mine called me, said, “Look, I have a project to make an Amazon TV series. I think that you are the perfect guy to do this.”

One of the goals of the series is to document land grabbing in Brazil, [the seizing of unprotected land to resell]. It is responsible for a great part of deforestation in the Amazon.

The series unfortunately came out at the same time as a corruption scandal in Brazil. We were overshadowed by this other issue in the news. That’s why I decided to make the film. We wanted to put land grabbing onstage, to say, “Look, we have a problem here.”

And now we see the three major banks in Brazil implementing financial restrictions over business in the area, and one of their rules is to not finance land grabbing.

Beto Borges: Your film also documents how indigenous peoples are affected by land grabbing and other activities in the Amazon. Could you tell us more about what you’ve seen?

Estêvão Ciavatta: I saw the collision of two worlds. One idea of development of the Amazon region has led us to almost 1 million square kilometers deforested in 45 years. And most [Brazilians] have not benefited much from that.

And on the other side, indigenous peoples are defending the forest, defending Brazil. And we wanted to put them in the center, portray them this way.

[Continue reading here.]

An Amazon Bioeconomy is a path forward for Brazil.

Beto BorgesLand invasions in Brazil broke records in 2020, with indigenous peoples representing 72% of recorded cases. This, combined with the resignation of Brazil’s Minister of Environment Ricardo Salles following allegations of illegal timber smuggling, further highlights how volatile and urgent things have become on the forest frontier of the Amazon.

The continued increase in deforestation and environmental destruction throughout the Brazilian Amazon is clear evidence that the path of development to date has been ill-conceived. However, both Federal and regional governments need to conciliate economic growth to benefit the millions of Brazilians who live in this vast region.

The current model relies on single-product economies, such as beef, soy, or palm oil.

The “Amazon Bioeconomy” we are proposing mimics traditional Amazon management systems with potential to create a diversity of supply chains based on the incredible natural wealth of the region.

[Keep reading here.]