Brazil '98: Introduction
Brazil '98: Participants
Brazil '98: Map of Brazil
Brazil '98: Itinerary
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Introduction
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Rio de Janeiro
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Rondonio
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Roads to hell
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Deforestation
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Acre
Brazil '98: Itinerary - The working day of a Rubber Tapper in Acre
Brazil '98: Itinerary - The Chico Mendes story
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Manaus
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Para
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Dam Busters
Brazil '98: Itinerary - The Gold Rush and bombing of air strips
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Brasilia D.F.
Brazil '98: Itinerary - Rio de Janeiro and the return
Brazil '98: Debates
Brazil '98: Sponsors
Brazil '98: Brazil Facts

From Porto Velho we will set
off by coach for our next destination,
the Amazon state of


About a third of the way through this journey we will have to wake up to cross the Rio Madeira. This crossing, the shunting of the coaches and trucks onto the old barge, the surprising coldness of the Amazon night, the beautiful sight of small town lights reflecting on the ebony sheen of the river and the slow movement of the barge, will impress upon us that we really are amidst the raw landscape of the Amazon.
After the bumpy ten hour coach journey through 450 kilometres of pitch black forest night we will arrive in Rio Branco, the capital of Acre.
Acre is one of the most isolated areas of Brazil. Just ask in Rio de Janeiro how many people have been to Acre and you will very quickly find that virtually no-one has ventured to the Amazon region’s most westerly state. It is one of the smallest states in the Amazon region at 153,149.9 square kilometres, approximately three fifths of the size of the UK (equivalent to the size of England and Wales). Sixty one per cent of its 417,718 inhabitants live in its main urban centres, Rio Branco, Cruzeiro do Sul, Tarauacá, Sena Madureira and Brasiléia. The climactic conditions are the same as those in Rondônia.
After breakfast we will meet young rubber tappers from the National Council of Rubber Tappers (CNS). The rubber tappers are at the centre of one of the most vaunted sustainable development initiatives in the Brazilian Amazon, the extractive reserve. Support for extractive reserves forms a key component of the G7 Pilot Programme.
Environmentalists see extractive reserves as an important example of sustainable development. They are a form of nature conservation reserve but with a key difference: their rubber tapper inhabitants are encouraged to farm the forest sustainably to make a living. Rubber tappers are permitted to use their extractive harvesting techniques, such as the collection of latex from the rubber tree, Brazil nut collection, limited crop production and fruit farming. These techniques are encouraged because they have a limited impact upon the forest environment.
Tensions and conflicts of interest are beginning to arise between environmentalists and rubber tappers over the use of extractive reserves. South of Rio Branco, in an area called Acrelândia, rubber tappers are beginning to log trees to sell to increase their income. This has sparked a heated debate. The felling is part of a G7 Pilot Programme initiative to encourage selective and sustainable logging in order to prevent rubber tappers engaging in other activities which might be more destructive.
Yet environmentalists from INPE, an Amazon environmental research institute, fear that the rubber tappers might exceed their quotas and that they may have to be prevented from further cutting.
This example underlines the key question hanging over extractive reserves: can preserving the rainforest be compatible with meeting the social and economic needs of its inhabitants?
Accompanied by our expert partners, we will spend our time in Acre seeking an answer to this question. We begin in Rio Branco and hope
to meet NGO, Catholic Church and Government representatives who have been involved in the development of extractive reserves. We hope to meet representatives from the National Council of Rubber Tappers itself, the Amazonia Workers Centre (CTA), the church’s land reform organisation (CPT), the state university’s Acre Foundation for Technology (FUNTAC) and the Governor of Acre.
For the rest of the day we will tour Rio Branco. Rio Branco sounds like a town from a questionable spaghetti western. Straddling the Rio Acre, it is a truly rough town. Amidst the modern air-conditioned restaurants, banks, small shopping malls and government buildings, are reminders that this is one of the most isolated towns in all of Brazil. By the town’s docks or, more accurately, waterfront, provisions are sold to peasant farmers and rubber tappers heading by boat back into the forest to their settlements and holdings. Here they also bring their forest produce to sell to the traders. Your Christmas Brazil nuts may very well have been traded at these docks.
The streets of Rio Branco are filled with rubber tappers biding their time before the outward journey, ranchers and businessmen, soldiers from the state’s barracks, Indians selling gifts and NGO personnel on a break between assignments in the forest. The town has an impoverished shanty town district where rubber tappers and peasants who failed to survive in the forest now live.
The following day we will travel approximately 150 kilometres by coach to the town of Xapuri.
We will travel through the forest along highway BR-317. Half way through this journey we hope to stop at a large cattle ranch and talk to the ranch manager and ranch hands to hear their views on extractive reserves and the development needs of Acre and its people. Afterwards we continue our journey to Xapuri.
Xapuri rests on the banks of the river from which it takes its name. It was both the birthplace and scene of the murder of Chico Mendes.

In Xapuri we hope to meet local rubber tappers. Our objective in Xapuri is to begin to explore whether extractive reserves can meet the needs of rubber tappers. We will discuss, and some participants may visit, the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve. This was one the first extractive reserves set up by the Brazilian Government. We will visit a rubber tapper settlement to find out how a rubber tapper family lives and works. This will not provide us with a representative view of the lives of all rubber tappers. For example, rubber tappers in the Alto Juruá reserve in the north of Acre lead a much more isolated existence and do not benefit from easy access to social infrastructure or markets for their produce. We will try and get a general picture from our meetings with rubber tapper representatives of the National Council of Rubber Tappers.
We also hope to meet with members of the Agro-Extractive Co-operative of Xapuri (CAEX). This was set up to serve the needs of rubber tappers on the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve. Inaugurated in 1989, this initiative was designed to increase the income generated from the produce of extractive activities on the reserve. Although it has been heavily subsidised by Western NGOs, the Agro-Extractive Co-operative of Xapuri has encountered severe difficulties in achieving its aim. Many of its problems have been due to the labour intensive character of extractive techniques and the fact that extractive products are difficult to produce in large enough quantities to be competitive on the market. We will investigate the problems of the Agro- Extractive Co-operative of Xapuri during our visit.
We would like to complete our visit to Xapuri and its surrounding areas with a meeting with its ex-rubber tapper activist Mayor Julio Barbosa. He has been instrumental in the campaign to promote extractive reserves and advance the social struggle of rubber tappers in Acre.
From Xapuri we return by coach to Rio Branco for our flight to our next Amazon destination, Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state.