Global concerns are mounting over deforestation and degradation that threaten to push the Amazon rainforest past a “tipping point” and turn it into a savannah. Scientists worry that die-back may already be underway in parts of the Legal Amazon in Brazil. Aware of these threats, presidents from eight Amazon countries were gathered in Belem on August 8 and 9 for a summit to commit to redoubled efforts to end deforestation, protect biodiversity and accelerate “green” development.
Notwithstanding resistance from commercial agriculture, ranching, and mining interests, there is growing recognition that the conventional model of extracting raw materials must be swiftly replaced with a new approach that amplifies the regional bioeconomy. Despite consensus to expand a more sustainable economy, there is still disagreement about what is (and is not) included in the “bioeconomy” and how it is interpreted locally. This is more than a semantic debate since how the bioeconomy is defined has real implications for laws, policies, and investment inside and outside the Amazon.
In this context, the IDB and Igarapé Institute have initiated a new research project to better understand overlapping definitions and approaches to stimulating the bioeconomy in the Amazon region. The team hopes to identify areas of convergence and divergence across the eight countries by studying local interpretations emanating from the academic and policy literature. The Institute has already identified hundreds of studies and over 350 scholars working on the bioeconomy across the region. Research findings will support the IDB and partners in implementing Amazonia Forever, an umbrella program launched by the IDB aiming to Promote sustainable development in the Amazon by increasing financing, sharing strategic knowledge, and supporting stakeholder collaboration across the region.
Scholarly research highlights at least three distinct approaches to the bioeconomy worldwide: bio-technological (economic growth through research, innovation, and the commercial application of biotechnology), bio-resource (new processing chains to substitute fossil raw materials with biological ones), and bio-ecological (emphasizing economic models that promote biodiversity and environmental conservation). A risk is that an over-emphasis on one approach over another could result in missed opportunities as financing favors certain types of investments over others.
The sheer scale and diversity of the Amazon region’s multiple populations, economies, and ecosystems require a comprehensive approach to the bioeconomy. While bioeconomy advocates may express different preferences and concerns when it comes to defending their approach to bioeconomy, a participatory and flexible perspective is also critical to the long-term success of the bioeconomy.
Local perspectives are essential to ensure more effective and inclusive policy and investment. The IDB and Igarapé Institute study seeks to reveal diverse perspectives, priorities, and approaches to inform strategic support for the bioeconomy in the Amazon region. As part of this ongoing listening and consultation exercise, the Institute is conducting an online survey for researchers working on bioeconomy and related topics spanning Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. The survey is available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese and takes less than5 minutes to complete.
A thriving Amazon bioeconomy offers immense potential for sustainable development and the conservation of natural and cultural capital. But the truth is that the scaffolding of the bioeconomy is still being built. The IDB and Igarapé Institute are working together to help governments, businesses, and civil society better navigate different interpretations and enhance information sharing based on local understanding. Collaborative efforts by the region’s experts, investors, and activists are fundamental to shaping a bioeconomy that genuinely supports the long-term well-being of the Amazon region and its people.
A deep and sophisticated understanding of the Amazon bioeconomy‘s complexity is urgently needed. Indeed, only by adopting a comprehensive and pragmatic approach to conceptualizing the bioeconomy can the full richness of its potential be unlocked. Failure to do so could result in a bioeconomy that struggles to compete with destructive models of natural and cultural exploitation that currently predominate. The vitality of the Amazon region’s bioeconomy hinges not on theoretical constructs but, even more importantly, recognition and integration of local knowledge and sustainable practice.
The IDB and Igarape Institute invite researchers related to bioeconomy from eight Amazon countries to join an ongoing conversation by participating in this online survey. A goal is to strengthen knowledge networks to contribute to the proactive and productive construction of the region’s bioeconomy.