Over the past few months, the BBC discovered that thousands of acres of the Amazon Rainforest are being sold illegally on Facebook Marketplace by land invaders, many of which don’t even own the land they are attempting to sell. This illegal online trade has already affected the rainforest itself and the indigenous communities that live there. The government has begun to take action to solve this immediate problem.
Areas of the forest that were already on the verge of deforestation are being illegally harnessed from their indigenous populations by land grabbers, who then go on Facebook to set up ads for their land plots.
As stated by BBC, “Anyone can find the illegally invaded plots by typing the Portuguese equivalents for search terms like ‘forest,’ ‘native jungle’ and ‘timber’ into Facebook Marketplace's search tool, and picking one of the Amazonian states as the location.” Many sellers don’t even have a land title, which justifies ownership of land under Brazilian law.
The BBC used hidden cameras to capture the thoughts and intentions of land invaders in the Brazilian Amazon. Fabricio Guimaraes, a middle-class Brazilian, was one of these invaders captured.
While walking through a patch of rainforest he had burnt to the ground, he stated, “There’s no risk of an inspection by state agents here.”
After clearing the land through deforestation and preparing it for farming, Guimaraes put his advertisement on Facebook, asking $35,000 for the patch of land.
Not only does the process of deforestation to prepare the land for farming extensively damage the forest, but the indigenous communities that thrive in these land enclaves are also deeply hurt by the process.
Groups like the Uru Eu Wau Wau, a tribe of indigenous people who survive in the forest, have nearly had their homes stolen by these online sellers. The indigenous peoples use their lands for hunting, fishing, collecting fruits, and essentially surviving. When shown that his home was illegally being auctioned on Facebook, community leader Bitate Uru Eu Wau Wau stated, “This is a lack of respect. I don’t know these people. I think their objective is to deforest the indigenous land, to deforest what is standing. To deforest our lives, you could say.”
Despite the clear disrespect and harmful nature of what they are doing, many land invaders refuse to acknowledge the fact that they are harming these indigenous communities.
Alvim Souza Alves, one man attempting to sell a plot of land despite the clear inhabitants of a community there, stated, “There are no Indians there. From where my land is, they are 50km [31 miles] away. I am not going to tell you that at one time or another they are not walking around.”
The government has begun to take action to halt the illegal selling of the rainforest online. Though the deforestation situation worsened under the coronavirus pandemic, the government is still actively working to change the situation.
Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s Minister of the Environment, stated, “This year the government has created operation Verde Brasil 2, which seeks to control illegal deforestation, illegal fires, and to join efforts between the federal government and the states.”
However, not all agree that the situation is improving under the current government. Raphael Bevilaquia, a federal prosecutor based in Rondonia, Brazil, stated, “The situation is really desperate. The executive power is playing against us. It’s disheartening.”
Additionally, Facebook has refused to take action to deduce which sales are illegal, stating it would be too complex a task for the company to carry out itself, and instead this task should be left to the local authorities.
Some have begun losing hope in the issue with the prediction that Brazil’s deforestation will just continue getting worse and worse, but hopefully, authorities will successfully take control of the illegal bargaining and take another step to combat deforestation in the Amazon.