Sustainable cattle ranching in the Amazon

Partnering with producers in Brazil for a more productive cattle ranching system that is sustainable, traceable and protects forest.

The challenge

Brazil is the largest cattle exporter in the world, supplying about a quarter of the global market. Historically, extensive cattle ranching has been used to claim territory over unoccupied land once traditional ranching practices have exhausted the soil. Producers farming this way commonly see opening up more forested land as the best option for sustaining and increasing herds.

The Amazon region, in particular, has suffered greatly from deforestation driven by cattle ranching. That cycle began in the late 1960s with support from the national government at the time and today accounts for 80% of deforestation; approximately 45 million hectares of Brazil’s deforested Amazon is cattle pasture.


The project

Since 2015, Pecuária Sustentável da Amazônia (Pecsa) has been leading the transition away from extensive production to a semi-intensive system. Its model is based on partnerships with producers who lease Pecsa their land and part of their herd for seven to ten years in return for a share of the proceeds from livestock production. As Pecsa buys inputs collectively, it uses the increased bargaining power to achieve better market prices.

Taking on management of the farms, the Pecsa team rehabilitates degraded ranches and increases cattle numbers with better herd management. They give training for staff to run farms effectively and reforest any farm areas that do not comply with the Forest Code.

Pecsa establishes zero-deforestation agreements with farmers and requires zero-deforestation from its calf suppliers, verified through satellite monitoring before every calf purchase.

Partnerships for Forests is helping Pecsa implement a complete sustainability assurance system, including cattle traceability for cattle ranching intensification, in partnership with the non-governmental organisation Imaflora and the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN).


Current impact

Pecsa has partnerships with six farms, managing 10,000 hectares of pastures and around 30,000 cattle. Results show improvements in productivity – cattle weight gain and better dairy product quality – and incomes that are five to seven times the regional average.

With Partnerships for Forests support, Pecsa is aiming to improve the operational processes of participating ranches and share lessons from pilots to expand the model. By establishing zero-deforestation commitments, Pecsa has set an example and a quality standard that could be used for sustainable cattle ranching across the Amazon biome.


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Andrea Carlini

Alta Floresta and Mato Grosso, Brazil
Pecuária Sustentável da Amazônia (Pecsa), private company, Imaflora and the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). The Althelia Climate Fund
Commodity focus
Hectares under sustainable land use
117,000 (by 2020)
Private investment mobilised
£23,000,000 (by 2020)