Project fosters sustainable indigenous cattle farming in Roraima

Seminar discussed proposals to advance cattle genetic improvement and commercialization at Raposa Serra do Sol

Sustainable cattle farming in the Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous Land (TIRSS), in Roraima, is going through a review and innovation process in 2020. One of the challenges is to renew participants’ commitment under the community cattle breeding program, which started forty years ago, while implementing better livestock production practices, ensuring environmental sustainability and the protection of the indigenous territory.

In order to support indigenous leaders in this endeavor, the "Bem-Viver" project, which promotes the well-being of indigenous peoples in Roraima, is coordinating the implementation of pilot programs focused on advancing new livestock management, genetic improvement and commercialization techniques. The idea is to implement them in three areas within the reserve (Serras, Surumu and Raposa/Baixo Cotingo), working with around 5,000 animals in each one. There are approximately 50,000 heads of cattle in the region.

These proposals were discussed during the seminar on “Sustainable Indigenous Livestock”, held between March 16 and 18 at Lake Caracaranã (in the municipality of Normandia, 149 km from Boa Vista). The event brought together leaders from over 200 communities in Roraima.

The program was organized by Bem-Viver, led by the Brazilian Education Institute (IEB), the NGO Nature and Culture International (NCI) and the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR). It aims to improve territorial governance and environmental management of indigenous lands in Roraima, in addition to promoting income generation through the sustainable development of the cattle production chain, conserving its territory and reducing unsustainable practices.

Bem-Viver activities are also focused on the development and implementation of Territorial and Environmental Management Plans (PGTAs) throughout the Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous land (which encompasses 1.7 million hectares). 

“ We brought together representatives from all regions, including women, youth and traditional leaders. The proposed models have been developed based on previous ones, and can be culturally absorbed,” explains Reinaldo Lourival, Bem-Viver Coordinator at NCI.

With the temporary closure of some areas within the indigenous territory as a result of the covid-19 pandemic since the end of March, their objective for the coming months is to engage in discussions with indigenous groups so as to move forward with the actions and their implementation.

The beginning -The current project for sustainable livestock production, known as “M Cruz – Uma Vaca para o Índio”, was launched in 1980, long before their land was demarcated in 2009. At that time, the region was under intense pressure of invasion by miners, loggers and land grabbers. The project proposed collective and autonomous cattle farming as a means for promoting food security and management of indigenous territory.

Now, years after their demarcation, this reality of invasions has returned to haunt communities in the region, as a result of the pressure to open Brazil's indigenous lands to leasing and mining. “In this context, we are seeking to strengthen the cattle farming project, which gave autonomy to those indigenous people and is also sustainable,” says Lêda Leitão Martins, NCI Field Coordinator.  

According to the “Uma Vaca para o Índio” project proposal, initially launched in Maturuca (153 km from Boa Vista), the cattle were delivered by the Diocese of Roraima to specific communities in batches of about 50 animals. These communities would keep the herd for five years, after which they would pass it on to another village. This helped to build a stronger relationship among communities, in addition to generating food and income.

One of the people who helped implement the project in the 1980s, along with indigenous leaders, was Father Giorgio Dal Ben, who also participated in the seminar. In addition to him, Embrapa researchers from Roraima and Mato Grosso do Sul also attended the event, as well as a rural producer from the Brazilian Pantanal (wetland region in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul – MS) and two indigenous people from the Kadiwéu nation, who live in the border region between MS, Bolivia and Paraguay.

One of the ideas is to use the cattle farming model developed in the Pantanal as an example for Raposa Serra do Sol. In the state of Mato Grosso do Sul (MS), producers buy calves and take them to native pastures, which are low-cost and sustainable areas.


Anselmo Dionísio Filho, who coordinates activities within the Surumu ethno-region, visited the Pantanal in 2019, with the help of the Bem-Viver project, to learn about the region's cattle farming and management techniques. When attending the seminar at Lake Caracaranã, Dionísio, who belongs to the Macuxi ethnicity, said, "I am happy because we have an opportunity to move forward in farming and production activities.”

Nilo Batista André, who coordinates “Uma Vaca para o Índio” in the Serras region, recalls that their herd has decreased in number in recent years. “With the project, we are looking for improvements. This part of Bem-Viver will strengthen our efforts,” says Batista, who is also a Macuxi. According to him, the Serras region has 56 breeding plots, with 15,375 heads of cattle in total.

Resources – According to Lourival, a system for distributing the revenues obtained from their new trading arrangements was also proposed during the seminar. If indigenous leaders accept the idea, half of the amount collected would be passed on to producers, a quarter would go to the cooperative, and the remainder to a community fund.

This fund could use the money for community improvements, such as, equipping schools or improving their infrastructure.