Federico Cammelli, NMBU

Federico Cammelli, Forsker Grand Prix Oslo 2017. Foto: Benjamin A. Ward

The Amazon barbecue

Conserving the Brazilian Amazon is challenging. One fifth is already lost due to deforestation, and what is left is subject to heavy degradation due to logging and fires: around half of the Legal Amazon burnt in the last 15 years.

My research focuses on the economic causes underlying forest fires and the policies to prevent them.

There are no natural ignitions in the rainforest. All fires are human made and mainly related to agricultural activities. Fire is indeed the most widespread technique to clear land, control pest and fertilize soil. Fire act as a cheap, voluntary worker, and the main cost is associated to its control, for instance of building firebreaks around the area that is intended to burn.

A farmer would spend a lot of effort to prevent his fire to burn the rest of his own property, crops and amenities. However, if neighboring farmers don’t use the same caution, not only the property is burn anyway, but the time and resources to control fire in the first place are wasted. In addition, climate change is inducing more frequent and long droughts, increasing fire propagation. When fire risk is too high, fewer resources are invested in fire control. More generally, fire risk reduces any sort of investments, making farmers even more reliant on their own fire use for production. A vicious circle that traps farmers in poverty, and degrades the environment.

What now?  Foto: Benjamin A. Ward

In the norwegian forest thinking about the Amazon barbeque. Foto: Benjamin A. Ward

For each hectare of forest burnt on purpose, at least one more is burnt accidentally. Avoiding these fires is a win-win opportunity to conserve the Amazon forest and to improve welfare in the poorest region of Brazil. But how?

I use economic experiments to understand how farmers respond to policies and climate change.

My aspiration is to work in an interdisciplinary team, contributing to knowledge creation, and getting hands on real problems, spend time in the field and participating in the public debate.

In the office. Foto: Benjamin A. Ward