Skip to content
April 1st, 2016
Energy • Finance

In place of deforestation: Dom Eliseu’s environmental policies

In 2008, the municipality of Dom Eliseu in the Brazilian state of Pará was caught in a difficult situation. Its economy had been heavily reliant on the now largely illegal Amazon rainforest timber industry. As a result, it had been placed on a “deforestation blacklist” by the Brazilian government. Dom Eliseu therefore had to comply with federal procedures for the registration and licensing of land, enforce anti-logging laws, and at the same time develop new and sustainable land usage to revive the local economy.

The initiative

In 2012, with the assistance of environmental NGOs and the state government of Pará, Dom Eliseu “successfully coordinated private compliance with the national policy and left the blacklist”. [2] The mayor of Dom Eliseu and its secretary of the environment persuaded hundreds of landowners to register their properties and stop clear-cutting (felling all the trees in a particular area). This meant obtaining rural environmental registration [cadastro ambiental rural] (CAR).

After this objective had been achieved, two others remained for the environmental secretariat of Dom Eliseu:

  • “To register all properties in the CAR system [by 2016] .... Property registration would create a record of ownership and establish a baseline level of environmental damage to facilitate future monitoring.” [3]
  • “To issue environmental licences locally for 60% of properties .... Licences would regulate agricultural production and ensure that future land use complied with the law.”

These could best be achieved by:

  • Finding ways to help landowners adopt more sustainable practices, such as more efficient crop cultivation and using greener products.
  • Developing the capacity to tackle broader environmental management issues.

The challenge

Dom Eliseu is a municipality of just over 50,000 inhabitants in the state of Pará in the north of Brazil. It played a central role in the Amazon timber industry and, as a result, was blacklisted by the federal government. “In 2008, as part of a strategy to enforce the country’s environmental policies, the federal Ministry of the Environment included Dom Eliseu on a list of the worst violators of deforestation laws. The blacklist cut off residents’ access to markets and credit and made the municipality the target of intensive law enforcement.” [1]

The public impact

By September 2012, Dom Eliseu had registered 81 percent of privately held properties in the CAR system, exceeding the 80 percent registration that was required to be moved from the federal deforestation blacklist.

According to data collected by the Instituto de Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia [Amazonian Institute of People and the Environment] Imazon), an NGO, by 2013 an enormous amount of progress had been made towards a more sustainable  approach. “Imazon's data show land clearing peaked in 2005, at 119 square kilometres, and remained high in 2007, at 114 square kilometres. The rate then fell to 74 square kilometres in 2008 and continued to drop to 11 square kilometres in 2013.” [4]

Stakeholder engagement

The main internal stakeholders were the Dom Eliseu municipal administration, principally the mayor and the secretariat of the environment. They were supported by:

  • The federal government in Brasília, in particular the Ministry of the Environment and the agricultural extension agency.
  • The state government of Pará, in particular the Secretaria de Estado de Meio Ambiente [the state environmental secretariat] (SEMA).

The main external stakeholders were:

  • The landowners, whose compliance with the municipal authorities were vital to being removed from the deforestation blacklist.
  • The environmental NGO, Imazon. ”In 2010, Imazon received a grant of BRL9.74 million (US$4 million) from the Amazon Fund, a programme of the Brazilian Development Bank, to support CAR registration and environmental management in Dom Eliseu, Paragominas, and nine other municipalities.”
  • The local Union of Rural Producers, an association that represented the interests of individuals and businesses in the agriculture industry, supported the local government's goal of getting off the blacklist.

“Satellite monitoring by the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (National Institute for Space Research) enabled the Ministry of the Environment and the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis [Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources] IBAMA), Brazil's environmental enforcement agency, to pinpoint the location of deforestation in remote areas and to target raids precisely.” [5]

Political commitment

The main political actors were the Dom Eliseu municipal administration, principally the mayor and the secretary of the environment, who were intent on the objective of removing the municipality from the blacklist.

They were strongly supported, and coerced, by the equally committed state government of Pará and the federal government in Brasilia. “In response to the accelerated disappearance of the Amazon rainforest, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's administration introduced the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon (Plano de Ação para Prevenção e Controle do Desmatamento na Amazônia Legal) in 2004, which brought together 13 government ministries, the federal police, and the military to coordinate forest preservation and strengthen enforcement actions in Brazil's legally demarcated Amazon region.” [6]

Public confidence

The landowners were initially sceptical about the government’s policies, although they were eventually persuaded to comply. “During several years of intense enforcement, their primary interactions with environmental policies had involved the confiscation and destruction of their products and equipment. Resentment ran especially high because the federal government had encouraged settlement and deforestation decades earlier.” [7] Many producers feared they would become targets of enforcement operations by IBAMA and the Ministry of the Environment.

Clarity of objectives

The objectives as stated at the outset have been consistent over the period of time and addresses the relevant issues: registering properties in CAR and issuing environmental licences, pursued in parallel with more sustainable land usage.

Strength of evidence

This policy was implemented based on the similar approach followed in the neighbouring municipality of Paragominas. “In April 2010, Paragominas became the first municipality to leave the federal blacklist, thanks to a cooperative approach that involved close coordination with the state government and environmental NGOs. The success of its consensus-driven model influenced the strategies adopted by many municipalities throughout Brazil, including Dom Eliseu.” [8]

A pilot project was also conducted for CAR registration in Dom Eliseu. “In the same year [2010], the federal Ministry of the Environment received US$4.3 million from the government of Norway through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to fund a series of environmental initiatives, including a pilot project supporting CAR registration. The ministry asked Pará's state environmental secretariat to help select municipalities to participate ... the secretariat chose Dom Eliseu and neighbouring Ulianópolis because of their proximity and structural similarity to Paragominas.”


The project was financially feasible, since it received significant funding from a number of sources:

  • The funding received from the UNDP for Dom Eliseu covered the costs of technicians, CAR registration costs, etc.
  • There was also funding from Imazon and the federal and state governments.

The CAR pilot project addressed problems with CAR registration. The local union also helped address feasibility issues: “when a small group of landholders remained reluctant to register, the environmental team and the Union of Rural Producers worked hard to persuade them and to assuage their fears of being penalised.” [9]


The main organisation dealing with the policy was Dom Eliseu's environmental secretariat. It was supported in various ways:

  • The state's Programa Municípios Verdes [Green Municipalities Programme] (PMV) and SEMA “trained municipal staff on the environmental licensing process. This helped in expanding Dom Eliseu's environmental secretariat role”. [10]
  • IBAMA identified those responsible for environmental violations and collect fines from landholders.
  • Technical aspects of the registration process were handled by Satélite-GeoAmbiente (a Brazil-based consortium). To track deforestation law violators, the municipality used output from the satellite monitoring system. Municipal staff visited the property where deforestation had taken place and issued fines based on the size of the cleared area.


Various parameters were identified at the outset and then measured and tracked, such as:

  • The number of registered properties in CAR.
  • The area of land covered in CAR.
  • The number of licences issued.

The municipality conducted inspections using the output of the satellite monitoring system, which had been developed by Imazon, to measure areas of clear-cutting, and punish violators. Rate of decrease in deforestation.


The municipal government of Dom Eliseu was well aligned with federal and state governments and with NGOs like Imazon and the UNDP and local bodies such as the Union of Rural Producers.

The most significant act of mutual alignment was the civic pact. “Dom Eliseu also developed a civic pact, a concept pioneered in Paragominas. Under that agreement, local officials, civil society leaders, business associations, and state officials pledged to work to reduce the deforestation rate to less than 40 square kilometres per year and to obtain CARs for all properties. In addition to helping ensure the continued cooperation of civil society, the civic pact signalled Dom Eliseu's environmental commitment to state and federal agencies.”

Imazon played an active role by training local officials and applying its technical expertise in mapping and monitoring, while the UNDP supplied important financial assistance.

The PMV prioritised the reduction of deforestation and created a structure to support municipal governments, and helped with training (along with SEMA).

Building relationships with local residents also played an important function in getting residents to act together. As the Dom Eliseu secretary of the environment said: “‘partnerships were responsible for making us stronger'.” [11]

The Public Impact Fundamentals - A framework for successful policy

This case study has been assessed using the Public Impact Fundamentals, a simple framework and practical tool to help you assess your public policies and ensure the three fundamentals - Legitimacy, Policy and Action are embedded in them.

Learn more about the Fundamentals and how you can use them to access your own policies and initiatives.

Explore the Fundamentals