Mary Allegretti

Mary Allegretti, former secretary for the Amazon in Brazil's environment ministry, is a Brazilian anthropologist and independent researcher. From 1981 to 1988 she worked with rubber tapper Chico Mendes, helping define the national concept of protected areas for traditional communities.

Recent Articles

Deforestation and Poor Amazonians

Brazil's forest dwellers, often its best stewards, are trying hard to make a living from the standing forest.

The last 30 years of development in the Amazon have proven an essential rule: Whenever social groups depend on forest resources—for economic and social development—they will work to protect those resources. And the opposite is also true: If the market does not value the natural products of the forest sufficiently, the poor migrants who settle there will cut down the forest and use the land for farming or raising cattle. The latter is what happened in most of the countries of the Amazon Basin between 1970 and 1990, when military regimes stimulated the transfer of poor groups to remote areas. An inevitable consequence of these movements of poor people into the Amazon was increased deforestation. Most often the migrants would clear the forest, sell the timber, plant for subsistence for one or two years, and then sell out to medium- and large-sized producers. With this money they advance further into the frontier and repeat the same cycle. But this cycle is not irreversible...