Extractivist Reserves

Este post também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

Origin of the Idea

The idea for Extractivist Reserve emerged during the First National Rubbertappers Assembly as a proposal to assure the permanence of rubbertappers in their settlements which were being threatened by the expansion of large pastures, by and land speculation and by deforestation. The concept arose among extractivist populations after making comparisons with indigenous reserves which had the same characteristics: the land was that of the State and their usage was reserved for the communities. It is a manner of agrarian reform where appropriation is for forest peoples.

Two phases may be identified in the proposal’s elaboration. The first, from 1985 to 2000, covers the period in which the concept of Extractivist Reserve was formulated by rubbertappers, incorporating agrarian reform and environmental policies. The second phase, from 2000 on, is defined by the fight for the creation of new areas and by  the implementation of social and economic programs to improve quality of life for residents of these areas.

The Federal Decree 98.897, issued on the 30th of January, 1990, defined Extractivist Reserves as “Territorial spaces destined for the agrosustainable development and conservation of renewable natural resources by extractivist populations”. And as a justification “… In the past, enviromental conservation plans for the Amazon did not take into account the existence of local populations inhabiting the forest, taking from it their means of living by way of non predatory techniques  […] in the past development plans would not recognize the positive contributions that extractivist populations may give to national wealth [….] This concept (of Extractivist Reserve)… distinguishes itself from Conservation Units, which foresse activities of development subject to management plans but which do not take into account local populations, their rights, their organization or cultural tradition”.

The third article of the decree establishes the elements that must be present in the creation of each reserve, among them the characterization of the benefited population, the extractivist population, defined by the following terms: rubbertappers, nut collectors and river-dwellers, most of which are location in the North region of the country, living in harmonious coexistence with the ecosystem, extracting what the system itself produces in an economically viable and ecologically sustainable manner.

The Decree’s elaboration sought to reflect in law the traditional way of land occupation and usage of natural resources: the nondivision of land into individual lots as well as the recognition of the settlement as a unit of family production, characteristics that were explained in the 4th article of the Decree: “Auto-sustainable development and natural resource conservation will be regulated by way of contract of real concession of use…”

In the 5th article of the Decree, it was defined that “it us up to Ibama to supervise the extractivist areas and monitor the fulfillment of the conditions stipulated in the contract”.

During the same event in which the Decree was signed, the President of the time, José Sarney, created the first four Extractivist Reserves in the Amazon, equivalent to a total of 2,162,989 hectares. In the State of Acre, the Chico Mendes and Alto Juruá Extractivist Reserves were created on this day as well as the Ouro Preto Extractivist Reserve in Rondônia State and the Cajari River Extractivist Reserve in Amapá.

decreto 1990

In the year 2000 the Extractivist Reserves became a part of the National System of Conservation Units (SNUC), which also created the Sustainable Development Reserves (RDS).

Legal definiton

The SNUC defines the Exractivist Reserve as an area used by local populations whose subsistence is based on extractivism and, as a complement, on subsistence agriculture and raising of small animals. The areas have the basic objectives of protecting the means for life and culture of these populations, and toassure the sustainable use of natural reseources in the unit.

A Reserva de Desenvolvimento Sustentável é definida como uma área natural que abriga populações tradicionais, cuja existência baseia-se em sistemas sustentáveis de exploração dos recursos naturais, desenvolvidos ao longo de gerações e adaptados às condições ecológicas locais e que desempenham um papel fundamental na proteção da natureza e na manutenção da diversidade biológica.

Current situation

In the Amazon the Extractivist Reserves and the Sustainable Development Reserves,federal and state, total 92 units, covering an area of  24,925,910 hectares, representing 4.8% of the legal Amazon, 19% of Conservation Units of the Amazon and 8% of the region’s forests, benefiting 1,500,000 persons.

Mapa Resex-RDS 2009

Counting the areas under shared management between traditional communities and public power, in the form of sustainable use conservation units, there are today, in the Amazon, a total of 53 Extractivist Reserves, 19 RDS and 179 PAEs, state and federal, which occupy an area of approximately 35 millions of hectares, representing 7% of the Legal Amazon.


The main challenge for the Extractivist and Sustainable Development Reserves is implementation. In other words, access to sustainable development public policies. Pilot programs seeking to aggregate value to forest products have been being developed in the majority of the areas, as well as those of basic education and healthcare assistance. They do not, however, benefit all families nor have the necessary reach.

The first large scale public policies are beginning to be implemented in the Extractivist Reserves with the support of the Ministry of Social Development and Fight against Hunger (MDS), with the objective of providing access to quality water and sanitation (See Sanear Amazonia Project).