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Russas and Valparaíso REDD+ projects in Acre, Brazil


Projeto Russas and Projeto Valparaíso are two private carbon offset projects of the company CarbonCo in the Brazilian state of Acre.

The projects are part of the international REDD+ program which has its roots in the UN climate negotiations and aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation by economically incentivizing the conservation, sustainable management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in so-called developing countries. Thus, through the introduction of market schemes and international investment, carbon stored in forests becomes a new commodity that allows polluters to compensate their emissions, however not without potential controversies when it comes to the effects on local communities. The state of Acre was historically a site of social struggles of rubber tappers and indigenous communities and one of today’s main venues for the market-based conservation schemes, which is ironically discursively legitimized by the state’s recognition of the conservation achievements of the rubber tapper movement around Chico Mendes. Especially after experiencing an ongoing trend of deforestation through the (incentivized) expansion of the agricultural frontier and increasing pressure on areas close to the newly constructed highway BR-364, it has become a forerunner in promoting REDD+ schemes with the rationale to incentivize the conservation of forests. In 2010, it adopted the Sistema Estadual de Incentivos a Serviços Ambientais (SISA) as a jurisdictional approach to implement REDD+ on the state level and a legislative framework that promotes the linking of private REDD+ initiatives to national or international carbon markets. The creation of SISA was financially supported by the national Amazon Fund which in turn received significant funding from the Norwegian Government, the German Development Bank KfW, and the oil company Petrobras. [1] [2] [3] [4]

The Valparaíso and Russas projects are almost identical in their design and located next to each other, 40 kilometers south of the city of Cruzeiro do Sul in the very West of Acre. They were launched in 2011, shortly after the controversial Purus REDD project and before REDD Envira Amazonia in 2012. All projects are initiated by CarbonCo, developed by Carbon Securities and certified with VCS and CCB standards. Manoel Batista Lopes is the land owner of the Valparaíso project, the company I.S.R.C. Investimentos e Assessoria the one of the Russas project and also in charge with the on-site management of both projects (thus receiving a share of Manoel Batista Lopes’ revenues). The project areas are characterized by biologically diverse tropical forests and were used in the past as seringais (rubber plantations) until the price of rubber crashed. The areas are home of about 55 riverine communities (approximately 450 people), many of them former rubber tappers who nowadays mainly live from subsistence agriculture. An important crop is cassava which is also partly sold as flour, but also bananas, rice, beans, corn, millet, watermelons and sugar cane are planted. Additionally, communities live from fishing, hunting and the gathering of fruits, nuts and other plants in the forest. None of them possess land titles although the projects declared the will to facilitate these in the future for the currently inhabited and 'productive' areas. The project reports frame them, their practices and feared inward-migration as a major risk of unplanned deforestation and state that, as a response, their project will provide a diversification of their income through the establishment of an association (to market cassava flour and açai) and the direct sharing of 5% of the generated revenues of the sold carbon credits. Additionally they announce the improvement of health services, socioeconomic and biodiversity monitoring as well as agricultural extension trainings. In the first series of these in 2013, around 100 participants took part in four one-week-courses on practices of production without fire. [5] [6] [7]

With regard to the current process of implementing market-based conservation policies and in particular REDD+ projects in Acre, civil society organizations note an increasing institutional hostility towards any kind of opposition and an institutional incapacity to protect the rights of the affected communities. In 2015, the Brazilian human rights network Dhesca undertook a field visit to examine the situation in the project areas of Russas and the Valparaíso and revealed the problematic impact of the projects on the communities as these are affected by severe political and environmental injustices on the site and, moreover, risk being subjected to the logic of the market after the incorporation into REDD+ schemes. The report notes that when communities were consulted in the beginning of the projects (after they had already started), its implications were never explained right, people who cannot read were made sign documents, and told that the projects would happen whether they wanted or not. It is criticized that communities became restricted in their traditional usages of forest and thus cannot continue subsistence practices as for example drilling and the use of fire - which is essential for cultivating small parcels of land within the forest - were prohibited in 2014. While in the beginning, threats of expulsion as well as high promises (including the regularization of their land rights, and alternative economic models) were made to make communities cooperate, not much of that was actually realized but instead traditional modes of living were stigmatized as ‘backward’ in the project’s rationale of environmental sustainability. Dhesca also mentions a lack of transparency and that the promised trainings were conducted but apparently not very systematically. It concludes that the situation on-site shows the incapacity of the state to guarantee community rights, which is however not surprising as also the process of demarcation of indigenous territories has been delayed since 2004 and remained an ongoing social and indigenous struggle in wide areas of the Amazon. [8] [9]

As a consequence, over the last years Acre has experienced an increasing civil mobilization against the implemented REDD+ projects in the region. Local indigenous movements have tried to form a broader alliance and received the support from environmental NGOs like Friends of the Earth or the World Rainforest Movement and organizations such as the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI). In 2013, the alliance of communities raised critique in an open letter to the Californian government as carbon credits generated in Acre are traded on the Californian carbon market. This encompassed wider critique of the rationale behind carbon trading as socially unjust and, moreover, environmentally ineffective, as polluter through emission can simply continue and deforestation might just happen elsewhere. Indigenous communities see a violation to their right of free, prior, informed consent, including the right to say no to such projects, as guaranteed in convention 169 of the International Labor Organization and note the neocolonial and top-down character of REDD+ projects in restricting and criminalizing their traditional and sustainable ways of life. [10] Also several demonstrations against REDD+ and the currently worsening situation of indigenous rights throughout Brazil happened in Brasilia, Rio Branco and Feijó in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 and even led to short occupations and street closures. [11][12][13][14] An indigenous leader of the Huni Kui moreover raised international awareness for the conflict after speaking out against REDD+ projects in Acre at the U.N. climate summit in Lima in 2014. He reaffirmed the critique of lacking transparency and consultation of affected communities and caused problems such as the prohibition of traditional practices of fishing, hunting and cultivating food in the forest, making it increasingly difficult for communities to make a living. He also denounced intimidation against REDD+ opponents, including the threats to cut communities health and educational services, and attempted cooptation of their leaders, offering them money and cars for support of REDD+, and thus creating internal divide. [15]

In 2017 and as a response to a meeting of state government and corporate representatives over further carbon offsetting schemes, including the aviation sector, another wave of mobilization started when representatives of the Apurinã, Huni Kui, Jaminawa, Manchineri and Shawadawa indigenous peoples, representatives of traditional communities, rubber tappers, academics and supporting organizations held a meeting to discuss the effects of recent REDD+ policies on traditional populations. This resulted in the Xapuri Declaration that unifies the struggle of indigenous peoples and rubber tappers and rejects all initiatives of carbon offsetting. It is argued that these pursue a socially and environmentally destructive model that restricts traditional ways of life and lacks effectiveness to reduce carbon emissions carbon credits are actually pollution credits. Such false solutions to environmental pollution at the back of communities would moreover lack transparency and reveal new forms of environmental racism and climate colonialism as communities become forced into other socio-economic models, in which they become indebted and impoverished or criminalized and expropriated of their lands. The declaration expresses its particular concern about the communities of Valparaíso and Russas and demands the demarcation and recognition of the communities’ rights to land and territory. [16] This was followed by a controversy over the communities’ representation as the Association of the Movement of Indigenous Agroforestry Agents of Acre (AMAAIAC) published an open letter in response to the Xapuri Declaration, blaming the opponents of REDD+ for acting irresponsibly and denouncing in particular CIMI for its objection to carbon offset projects. This response letter was in the following circulated by the corporate sector and communities raised the concern about an imminent cooptation of some of its leaders as it included signatures of indigenous groups. Shortly after, six leaders of the Jaminawa indigenous people published a statement that AMAAIAC and its critique of CIMI does not represent them; they requested everyone to stop speaking on behalf of them and instead demanded transparency regarding the money flows of earlier REDD projects in Acre. [17] [18] [19] Shortly after, the alliance formed in Xapuri sent out a press release with open critique of Acre’s government and the public agency FUNAI for ongoing intimidation of indigenous communities and leaders opposed to REDD+. It stated that since the Xapuri meeting many participants had been pressured, threatened and intimidated while public authorities seem unwilling to protect indigenous rights and the interest of the people. [20] In 2018, another meeting as a follow-up to the Xapuri Declaration was held in Sena Madureira and the mobilizing indigenous and traditional communities and environmental organizations emphasized their continuing resistance against offsetting projects in Acre and the false solutions of the green economy. They noted the recent resumption of the Jaminawa people to occupy their historical territory and critical words by Pope Francis with respect to carbon trading as recent successes that give hope to continue the struggles against the increasing pressure from the green economy. [21]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Russas and Valparaíso REDD+ projects in Acre, Brazil
State or province:Acre
Location of conflict:Porto Walter
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:REDD/CDM
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Carbon offsets
Ecosystem Services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Project area: 42,000 ha (Russas) and 21,900 ha (Valparaíso)

Location: 40 kilometers south of the city of Cruzeiro do Sul and in proximity of the municipality Porto Walter (9.176 residents), along the rivers of Juruá and Valparaíso. [5][6]

The projects are led by the US-based CarbonCo in partnership with Freitas International Group, also known as Carbon Securities. CarbonCo is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Foundation, Inc. and responsible for project certification and its early-stage financing. Carbon Securities works as a facilitator between them and the land owners and managers, assisting with logistics for site visits and translations. The land owner of Projeto Russas is the company I.S.R.C. Investimentos e Assessoria LTDA and the one of Projeto Valparaíso is Manoel Batista Lopes. I.S.R.C. Investimentos e Assessoria LTDA is responsible for the on-site management of both projects and the social programs for the communities. Manoel Batista Lopes bought the land of Valparaíso in the 1980s for the purpose of rubber tapping, the owner of I.S.R.C. Investimentos e Assessoria LTDA, former vice-mayor of Cruzeiro do Sul, the area of Russas in 2004 from former rubber tappers. [5][6]

The Russas project plans to create an emission reduction of 1,201,474 tons of carbon dioxide over the first ten years, the Valparaíso project in turn estimates the emission reduction to be equivalent of 1,538,533 tons of carbon dioxide. The projects lifetime is in both cases 60 years with the possibility to extend it twice for 25 years whereas the carbon crediting period will be 30 years, thus until 2041.

The Russas project reports a number of 190 individuals in 20 communities within the area, the Valparaíso project a total of 260 individuals in 35 communities. [5][6][22]

The projects are certified by ‘Verified Carbon Standard’ and the ‘Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance’ and legally bound to the REDD+ and Payment for Ecosystem Services norms of the State of Acre (Sistema Estadual de Incentivos a Serviços Ambientais, adopted in 2010). Terra Carbon and TECMAN LTDA provided technical assistance. The project reports also suggested the involvement of SOS Amazonia but in a declaration the organization denied to be officially part of the project or having an agreement with the owner as it was only assisting some affected families informally. [5][6]

Project area:63,900
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:officially 450 within the project area, more around
Start of the conflict:19/03/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Terra Carbon LLC from United States of America - Project partner, technical assistance
The Climate Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) from United States of America - certification
CarbonCO LLC from United States of America - Project initiator; certification, financing
TECMAN LTDA from Chile - Project partner, technical assistance
Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) from United States of America - certification
I.S.R.C. Investimentos e Assessoria LTDA from Brazil - Land owner and manager of Projeto Russas
Manoel Batista Lopes, ME from Brazil - Land owner and manager of Projeto Valparaíso
Freitas International Group LLC (Carbon Securities) from United States of America - Project developer; facilitator between project initiator and land owner
Relevant government actors:State Government of Acre
Ministry of Justice and Public Security
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Friends of the Earth Brazil
The World Rainforest Movement
Conselho Indigenista Missionário - see also blog of Lindo Lindomar Padilha of CIMI Regional Amazônia Ocidental:
Federação do Povo Huni kui do Acre
Plataforma DhESCA Brasil
Conselho de Missão entre Índios
Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Rurais de Xapuri

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactspotential biodiversity loss due to loss of traditional land use practices and the species they sustain.
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Potential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights, Other socio-economic impacts, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Other socio-economic impactsPotential social problems are community divide, among others (see description text).
Cooptation of community leaders (see description text).


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:The mobilizing communities who signed the Xapuri and Sena Madureira Declarations view carbon trading as a false response to climate change.
The human rights platform DhESCA stresses the importance of the community's political and cultural rights. The strengthening of these would empower them to continue a life with and from the forest without being restricted in their ways of life, threatened, stigmatized or instrumentalized.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:There has been an effort of collective mobilization and awareness raising from local indigenous organizations and communities and some reports from media and international environmental NGOs but so far without a wider impact. Protests against REDD+ were often part of a wider mobilization for land demarcation and against the curtailing of indigenous rights.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Californian Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32)

Lei dos Serviços dos Ecossistemas #2.308/2010 (SISA; Acre Environmental Services Incentive System)

Lei Nº 1.426 de 27 de Dezembre 2001, Estado do Acre (State Forestry Law)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Kill, J. (2014): REDD in Brazil: Two case studies on early forest carbon offset projects. Rio de Janeiro: Heinrich Böll Stiftung Brasil.

[2] May, P; Gebara, M.; Barcellos, L.; Rizek, M; Millikan, B. (2016): The context of REDD+ in Brazil. Drivers, actors and institutions, Third edition. Bogor: CIFOR, Occasional Paper, 160.

[3] CIMI (2012): Dossiê Acre. Documento especial para a cúpula dos povos - Rio de Janeiro, 2012.

[4] Albuquerque, G. (2004): Cultura, trabalho e lutas sociais entre trabalhadores agroextrativistas do rio Valparaíso na Amazônia acreana”. Revista Nera, ano 7, n. 5 – agosto/dezembro de 2004.

[5] CarbonCo (2014): The Valparaiso Project. A Tropical Forest Conservation Project in Acre, Brazil.

[6] CarbonCo (2014): The Russas Project. A Tropical Forest Conservation Project in Acre, Brazil.

[8] Faustino, C.; Furtado, F. (2015): Plataforma DhESCA: Economia Verde, Povos das Florestas e Territórios: violações de direitos no Estado do Acre. Rio Branco: Relatoria do Direito Humano ao Meio Ambiente da Plataforma Dhesca.

[7] Tribuna do Juruá (2013): Projetos Russas e Valparaíso oferecem cursos de melhora ao sistema produtivo e fim do uso do fogo. Published on 25 July, 2013. (accessed online 10.07.2018).

[9] Glass, V. (2013): Projetos de carbono no Acre ameaçam direito à terra. (Article published on 19 December, 2013, accessed online 10.07.2018).

[10] Lang, C. (2013): Letter from Brazil opposing REDD in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32). (Article published at, 23 April, 2013, accessed online 10.07.2018).

[11] Padilha, L. (2016): Em Rio Branco, AC, indígenas realizam ato e ocupam simbolicamente a Funai, Palácio do Governo e Assembléia Legislativa contra a violação de seus direitos. (Blog entry on 13 July, 2016, accessed online 10.07.2018).

[12] Padilha, L. (2013): 25 mil pessoas vão às ruas de Rio Branco Para desespero do Tião Viana. (Blog entry on 23 June, 2013, accessed online 10.07.2018).

[13] Padilha, L. (2013): No Acre, em protesto, indígenas ocupam a frente do palácio do governador e assembléia legislativa. (Blog entry on 4 October, 2013, accessed online 10.07.2018).

[14] Padilha, L. (2016): Indígenas do Acre e Sul do Amazonas vão à Brasília denunciar violações de direitos. (Blog entry on 28 June, 2016. (accessed online 10.07.2018).

[15] Democracy Now (2014): Brazilian Indigenous Leader: Carbon Trading Scheme “REDD” is a False Solution to Climate Change. (accessed online 10.07.2018).

[16] Xapuri Declaration, May 28, 2017. (Published at World Rainforest Movement Online, accessed online 10.07.2018).

[17] World Rainforest Movement (2017): Brasil: Povos Indígenas do Acre declaram sua rejeição às políticas de REDD e seu apoio ao CIMI. (Article published on 3 October, 2017, accessed online 10.07.2018).

[18] Padilha, L. (2017): Indígenas repudiam carta de perseguição ao CIMI no Acre. (Video, accessed online 10.07.2018).

[19] Lang, C. (2017): Indigenous peoples in Acre, Brazil announce their support for CIMI’s work in support of indigenous peoples. (Article published on 10 October, 2017, accessed online 10.07.2018).

[20] Motion of rejection and solidarity. (Open Letter published at World Rainforest Movement Online, aaccessed online 10.07.2018).

[21] Brazil: Sena Madureira Declaration, June 17, 2018. (Published at World Rainforest Movement Online, accessed online 10.07.2018).

[22] Carbon Securities (2016): Valparaiso Project. (Online, last accessed 10.07.2018)

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Xapuri Declaration

Open Letter to Governments and Press Release 2017

Video: Meeting of indigenous and traditional communities Feijó in September 2017, announcing the open letter in support of CIMI and against attempted cooptation through the REDD+ proponents.

Sena Madureira Declaration

Video: Brazilian Indigenous Leader: Carbon Trading Scheme “REDD” is a False Solution to Climate Change

Videos series with 22 videos from Xapuri documenting the effects of REDD+ on traditional population (Os efeitos das políticas ambientais/climáticas para as populações tradicionais)

Meta information

Contributor:Max Stoisser
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3585



Meeting in Sena Madureira

Project kick-off: Communities within the Russas area were photographed receiving dental kids.

Xapuri, 2017: representatives of affected communities in the region gathered to mobilize against REDD+ projects

Sena Madureira, 2018: Mobilizing communities met again to build a broader alliance and denounce false solutions to climate change.

Project seat in Russas.

A board of the Valparaíso project in the community of Terra Firme de Cima

A community meeting in Valparaíso

In 2013 indigenous organizations of Acre mobilized 25.000 people in Rio Branco against the regional government and several of its policies that threaten indigenous rights, including the adoption of SISA that opened the way to REDD+ projects