This profile was prepared when Alexandre Martinez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Alexandre is working to align the interests of Brazil’s private landholders, state and federal governments, and land management bodies, to promote improved land conservation. By using cash incentives to drive private conservation in a way that is both effective and sustainable, he has made the structures envisaged by Brazilian law environmentally beneficial. He works first and foremost with what are known as Private Natural Heritage Reserves (RPPN units)—private land permanently designated for conservation purposes. As the most widely recognized of the government's incentive schemes, the RPPN units are meant to encourage farmers to conserve a portion of their land in exchange for a value-added ecological tax, provided by the federal government. While sound in theory, however, the tax—known as the ICMS Ecologico—is channeled first through the municipalities, and due to widespread corruption, rarely reaches its intended destinations. Alexandre has developed a series of reforms to fix the system, and to ensure that all parties win from private conservation. Under his model, 50 percent of the earmarked funds go to the municipality, while the other 50 percent are placed in the hands of the local association of participating landowners. The association can keep up to 15 percent of these funds for its sustainability, and distribute the remaining 85 percent directly to the landowners. Landowners are thus afforded a steady and secure income stream, and because the associations keep a portion of the payment, each one now has the money it needs to advise and support owners on effective RPPN use. Municipalities that encourage their constituents to invest in the reserves, in turn, receive more money than ever before, creating a win-win situation across the board. Having successfully implemented the mechanism in the state of Parana, Alexandre is working with three other states, including Tocatins, and intends to expand his efforts to other parts of the country in the coming years.