By VASCONCELOS SOBRINHO, Director of the Brazilian Forest Service
The United States of Brazil is a nation composed of Federal States with a total area of more than 8 million square kilometers stretching across South America through regions differing widely in altitude and latitude. Brazil has, in fact, as many types of vegetation as it is possible to find in any one single country.
In the north of Brazil lies the vast region of the Hiléia whose characteristics, dense forests in a hot humid climate, are well known. Adjacent to this region of solid forest is the great palm area known as Cocais, which includes the states of Maranhão, Piauí, Ceará, and Goias that make up some of the richest regions due to their enormous resources and reserves of vegetable oil.
The northeast area, comprised of seven states, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Sergipe, and Baía is practically covered by the extensive xerophytic vegetation known locally as Catinga. This dry region is so different from the first - the Hiléia - that it is difficult to believe two such different ecological areas exist in the same country.
Then there is the coastal forest region which resembles the Hiléia forest in many ways and which extends for more than three thousand kilometers along the Brazilian coast from the State of Paraiba to the State of São Paulo. This region is rich in timber of the best quality and supplies practically all the fuelwood for Brazilian industry which from its inception up to today has depended on wood as a main source of energy.
The next area consists of the extensive region covered by the Araucaria in the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. The temperate climate of this region is excellent for gymnosperms; it is here that Brazil loses the characteristics of a tropical country and takes on the aspect of a temperate country as found in Europe or North America.
Therefore, the organization of a forest service in Brazil should take into account the different ecological regions of the country, and the needs imposed by the nature of each of these regions. But, although the country is built up of ecological regions with clear and well-defined boundaries, the political divisions of the various states do not follow these same natural boundaries. The Brazilian Forest Service must therefore disregard the political divisions and consider only the various ecological regions which, as pointed out, can differ greatly from one another.
Taking into account the aforementioned considerations, the Brazilian Forest Service should be organized as follows:
The political boundaries are only taken into consideration insofar as they require administrative representatives of the Central Administrative Head Office. However, such an extensive national department as the Forest Service must obviously work in close co-operation with the different state governments. This co-operation does not affect the basic elaboration of forest policy where the problems to be taken into consideration are the various ecological conditions of the regions.
Industry in Brazil is still in a rather underdeveloped phase and it is necessary to intensify the study of the most advantageous and economic use of its forests. Therefore, a group of research stations and laboratories should be created as soon as possible where experts can work with all the means necessary for the study of forests with the varieties of species from widely differing regions such as are present in Brazil. The material gathered at the regional research stations should be sent to the federal headquarters, which will act as a nerve center for all studies and pass on the experience and information of proven satisfaction and use for the forests in the various regions.
Concerning the industrial side, a section for the development of industries should be set up. This section should be created in the form of the installation of pilot-units, which could demonstrate to those interested the advantages of various industrial projects.
It is necessary to keep in mind that in many regions of Brazil the people are still in a somewhat backward state, and do not readily accept changes in their way of working or living. It is, therefore, a difficult and time-consuming task to train the local inhabitants in work where a complete new procedure of industrialization is taking place. In such a case the introduction of immigrants can contribute a solid base for these new industries.
The practice of importing manpower should not be considered as prejudicial to the local populations, as they will on the contrary learn from the immigrants how to improve their systems of work and standards of living. As an example, a traditional method of felling timber is cited. In some regions every species is cut down - in other words, the whole forest - whether the trees are mature or not, then the forest is left to grow until a new cut is wanted. A selective exploitation of the forest without causing complete destruction is, unfortunately, not understood.
If groups of immigrants with a good knowledge of modern methods of forest exploitation and the use of woodworking machines could be settled in forest zones, the local inhabitants would learn rapidly from them the advantages of such new methods.
In order to study all the possibilities in the vast and rich forests of this country, it will be necessary for Brazil to arrange for technical assistance from other countries who have experts in the different forest research branches. As already stated, Brazil is still in the initial phase of forest industrialization, using the most elementary techniques even in the cutting of the trees. Also Brazil does not have available experts who are sufficiently experienced to draw up plans for the existing over-all needs. Therefore it is necessary to obtain such experts from other countries where the forest industries attempt to use all the products of the forest, and the methods employed are based on experience acquired over a long time.
However, although Brazil urgently needs foreign experts to aid in plans for improving its forest industry, nevertheless, it is also in a position to supply technicians with a good knowledge of the ecological condition of the different natural forest regions. As explained above, Brazil has within its frontiers a great variety of different types of climate and phytological zones and is able to reciprocate by providing specialists who are experts in regional problems and whose services might be of value to countries which have humid tropical regions similar to the Hiléia. There are also available specialists on entirely different problems, such as those concerning arid tropical regions; their experience has been gained from studies and observations made in the vast northern part of Brazil.
In this way, Brazil is in a position to carry out an exchange of technicians on forestry problems with interested countries whose climatic and ecological conditions are the same as those found in Brazil.
In order to realize such a comprehensive program of Technical Assistance, FAO can be of great help, principally in helping to secure personnel with overall experience in the various forest industries and industrial techniques in which Brazil at present is inadequately staffed.