The devastating impact of commercial farming in Chapada dos Veadeiros

Chapada dos Veadeiros is one of Brazil’s 69 national parks, spanning some 4,506 square kilometers.

But it is at risk of changing for good – or worse, disappearing – because of commercial farming.

This form of mass farming is having a devastating impact on the local environment and all of the life that considers it home.

Read on to learn why we’re talking about this now, and what commercial farming means for Chapada dos Veadeiros’s biodiversity and inhabitants.

Why are we talking about Chapada dos Veadeiros now?

Brazilian shaman Rudá Iandê is on the most incredible year-long journey through his home country, and his journey begins in Chapada dos Veadeiros.

This national park, located in the central state of Goiás, is known for its wildlife, over 10,00 plant types, and magical quartz crystal rock formations and waterfalls. 

I was shocked to learn about the social and environmental emergency Rudá highlighted in his recent article. It dawned on me that we need to be talking about this issue sooner rather than later.

Chapada dos Veadeiros is a destination that many living creatures call home, and they are at risk of losing their habitat (and being wiped out) because of greed.

According to World Heritage Datasheet, the park is home to a diverse range of life:

“CVNP has a high faunal diversity with more than 70 species of mammals, 307 birds, 53 amphibians and reptiles and 49 fishes, many yet unidentified,” they explain.

Among these mammals are the armadillo, forest rabbit, maned wolf, bush dog and jaguar, while birds amount to 43% of all species exclusive to the region.

The World Heritage Datasheet explains that several of these species are threatened, while many are near threatened.

This is linked to detrimental and damaging man-made actions such as commercial farming.

In 2020, World Heritage Outlook placed Chapada dos Veadeiros in the ‘high’ category for the overall threats it faces – citing “fragmentation by agriculture and cattle ranching activities and variations of the hydrological regime caused by hydroelectric expansion in the region” among the issues putting pressure on the region.

What does commercial farming look like in Chapada dos Veadeiros?

I’ll be honest: I knew little about commercial farming in the Chapada dos Veadeiros region (or commercial farming in general) before I read his essay. But that’s all changed now.  

This practice is defined by Basic Agricultural Study as “large-scale production of crops and farm animals for sale using modern technology.” 

In other words, it’s a practice that’s void of local people and at serious scale.

Rudá explains the commercial farming he witnessed caused him to feel incredibly emotional. He was saddened to see what had happened to this beautiful region in the time between his first visit in 1992 and 2023. 

“It was a battle to hold back tears as I witnessed the devastating aftermath of this destruction,” he writes. “The cerrado, a vital biome in Central Brazil, spans a staggering 204 million hectares. Yet, the relentless march of monoculture has ravaged 57% of its native vegetation. The prevailing agricultural model operates with predatory intent, tearing away the very fabric of the land. By removing the trees, rainwater can no longer permeate the subsoil.”

Chapada Alta 3 1 scaled The devastating impact of commercial farming in Chapada dos Veadeiros

I was shocked to discover that 57% of native vegetation has been ravaged. As such, I found myself inspired to understand more about monoculture and its effects on not only the Chapada dos Veadeiros region, but across the world. 

This global phenomenon is wreaking havoc on all corners of the planet with crops such as wheat, coffee, cashew and rubber among the biggest offenders. 

Specifically, the Chapada dos Veadeiros region is at threat of being wiped out by the sheer amount of soy plantations. 

Soy production is a big contributor to greenhouse gasses – demanding a lot of energy, water, agrochemicals and soil. It causes a direct loss of biodiversity, with clearings made for new soy farms.

At a point in time where it’s never been more important to have ecological awareness and with many net-zero initiatives in the works for 2050, it seems backwards that monocrop plantations, like in the Chapada dos Veadeiros region, are gaining momentum and wiping out natural habitats. 

Indeed, News Bulletin 247 explains that local fauna is “constantly threatened” by the advancements of agriculture, and that even those areas of the park that are protected might still see the extinction of several species.  

Speaking to an expert, they explained:

“The modification of the landscape, without a doubt, puts even more pressure on these populations. What I saw is that, in the last ten years, the advance of monoculture is putting pressure on the park, which was already threatened.”

In other words, monoculture is pushing this park to the brink with reckless abandon and there’s no slowing down. 

How local people are affected by commercial farming in Chapada dos Veadeiros 

Not only does the “insatiable demand” of such plantations deplete underground reservoirs and leave them dry and barren, as Rudá says, but these soy plantations are having a devastating impact on local people of the region, too. 

Simply put, the devastating impact of commercial farming in Chapada dos Veadeiros is not just environmental, but social. It affects all beings that live in the region.

“The vast majority of this wealth remains concentrated in the hands of a privileged few,” Rudá writes. “Modern cultivation techniques have rendered human labor almost obsolete, resulting in a stark absence of employment opportunities. The farmers reap their profits while leaving behind a wake of devastation.”

I was really taken aback to learn that commercial farming in Chapada dos Veadeiros is harming everyone and everything in its wake. 

Unfortunately, as UNESCO details, there is insufficient legal framework and protection in place that’s allowing this to happen.

It’s an example of the levels of greed and selfishness baked into capitalism. It sadly underscores how individuals are willing to destroy the lives and livelihoods of others in order to gain. What’s more, it points to the fact that so many people are unconscious about what they’re doing to others. 

But there is one example of people trying to do good within the “environmental chaos” of the region, and that’s a farm Rudá came across called Macacão farm.

This farm embodies the principles of ecological stewardship and regenerative agriculture, which goes beyond just sustaining something to actually try and make it better. 

Chapada Alta 1 scaled The devastating impact of commercial farming in Chapada dos Veadeiros

“In this haven of ecological awareness, visitors are invited to reconnect with the land and rekindle their sense of wonder,” Rudá enthuses. “Whether immersing themselves in the pristine waters of the cascades, exploring the intricate web of trails that wind through the farm, or engaging in educational programs that foster environmental understanding, each experience at Macacão farm is an opportunity to cultivate a deeper connection with the natural world.”

It’s a beautiful example of how the land could and should be experienced, and it should be a case that guides the way. Yet it’s unfortunately not the reality for the park at-large.

While learning more about commercial farming in Chapada dos Veadeiros, I came to understand that regeneration is the benchmark that needs to be met to change the park’s future. 

Regeneration is about the long-term flourishing of a place and its people, and it’s about all parts of the system succeeding.

There needs to be efforts in place to regenerate Chapada dos Veadeiros both environmentally and socially – to support the biodiversity and people and to see them thrive. 

As Rudá says: 

“Chapada dos Veadeiros is not just a fleeting experience, but a call to action—a call to honor and preserve the splendor of this extraordinary place, and to carry its teachings with us as we venture forth into the wider world. Let us cherish the wonders of Chapada dos Veadeiros and strive to protect its pristine landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and the profound wisdom of its people. May this remarkable region continue to inspire and ignite the flame of change in our hearts, reminding us of the interconnectedness of all living beings and the responsibility we share to safeguard the natural treasures that enrich our lives.”

I can only hope that there are policy changes that put an end to this attack on the Chapada dos Veadeiros region, and for it to restore to its full potential.

The legacy of Chapada dos Veadeiros 

Chapada dos Veadeiros is an area accessible by Brasilla, which people visit year-round. Many people love the region for its beautiful hikes and 275 waterfalls, and it’s got an interesting history of attracting spiritual types.

Rudá explains that when he first visited in 1992 he discovered “a captivating blend of descendants from the region’s original settlers, predominantly comprised of miners, hunters, and farmers, cohabitating with an eclectic mix of hippies and followers of various New Age philosophies.”

There are many people who care for its biodiversity and inhabitants.

As Rudá adds:

“Chapada dos Veadeiros is more than just a destination; it is a transformative journey that invites us to reconnect with ourselves, each other, and the natural world. It is a testament to the resilience and beauty of our planet, reminding us of our responsibility to protect and cherish it. As we leave this enchanting realm, may we carry with us the lessons learned, the memories forged, and the inspiration to create a more sustainable and harmonious future for all.”

I encourage you to read his thoughtful essay. Not only does he take us on a beautiful journey through what he calls a “captivating” destination and we learn about his long-standing relationship with Chapada dos Veadeiros, but he highlights the tragic impact of commercial farming that we must give our attention to. As I say, sooner rather than later.

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Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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