Advancing sustainable cattle production in Brazil

Photo: Thomas Sennett (World Bank)

Project description

This project investigated how to harness private sector cattle certification to reduce the amount of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions from cattle farming in Brazil. The project team of master’s students, researchers, and certification specialists collected and analysed biophysical, socio-economic, institutional, and industry data to study land-use change, farmer decision-making, and the impacts of changes in agricultural management practices on greenhouse gas emissions. They used the more established experience of certification in the coffee sector to learn lessons for the cattle sector.


A complete list of publications and related key outputs is located at the bottom of this page.

The project supported stakeholders to develop:

  1. Pathways by which certification programs can contribute to enhanced sustainability
  2. Models of the potential for improved on-farm agricultural practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cattle farming in Brazil
  3. Understanding of farmer participation in certification programs
  4. Smallholder access to certification programs

Data collection and analysis took place in 2015 with farmers, extension agents, regional policy makers, and the private sector.  In 2016, the team is engaging with stakeholders a synthesis workshop for policy-makers and certification decision-makers in Brazil to summarize findings from research and to inform decision-making for the development of more sustainable agricultural practices that can benefit farmers, consumers, and the environment. The project delivered journal articles, policy briefs, reports, and master’s theses to the international community.  Publications and other news, including presentations and blogs, are found at the bottom of this page. Watch and listen an April 12, 2016 workshop presenting project results at the University of Sao Paulo.


CCAFS worked with the Institute of Agricultural Management and Forest Certification (IMAFLORA), the Rainforest Alliance, and the Universities of Michigan, Oxford and São Paolo with support from the Global Innovation Initiative.

Further information

For further information, please contact Project Leader, Arun Agrawal at

Senior Researchers


Alves-Pinto H, Newton P, Pinto LFG. 2013. Certifying sustainability: opportunities and challenges for the cattle supply chain in Brazil. CCAFS Working Paper No. 57.

Alves-Pinto H, Newton P, Pinto LFG. 2015. Reducing deforestation and enhancing sustainability in commodity supply chains: interactions between governance interventions and cattle certification in Brazil. Tropical Conservation Science.

Bogaerts M, Cirhigiri L, Robinson I, Rodkin M, Hajjar R, Costa Junior, C, Newton P. 2016. Climate change mitigation through intensified pasture management: Estimating greenhouse gas emissions on cattle farms in the Brazilian Amazon. CCAFS Working Paper no. 188. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Institute for Forest and Agricultural Management and Certification. 2016. Sustainability is good business for agriculture. Sustentabilidade em Debate 3:1-46.  Also available in Portuguese: A sustentabilidade é um bom negócio para a agricultura.

Maguire-Rajpaul VA, Alves-Pinto HN, McDermott CL, Galuchi T. 2016. How Brazil’s sustainable cattle schemes could beef up to conserve forests, reduce emissions, and sustain rural livelihoods. CCAFS Working Paper no. 148. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

McDermott CL, Irland LC, Pacheco P. 2014. Forest certification and legality initiatives in the Brazilian Amazon: Lessons for effective and equitable forest governance. Forest Policy and Economics.

Milder JC, Arbuthnot M, Blackman A, Brooks S, Giovannucci D, Gross LH, Kennedy ET, Komives K, Lambin EF, Lee A, Meyer D, Newton P, Phalan B, Schroth G, Semroc B, van Rokxoort H, Zrust M. 2014. An agenda for assessing and improving conservation impacts of sustainability standards in tropical agriculture. Conservation Biology.

Newton P, Agrawal A, Wollenberg L. 2013. Enhancing the sustainability of commodity supply chains in tropical forest and agricultural landscapes. Global Environmental Change.

Newton P, Agrawal A, Wollenberg L. 2013. Interventions for achieving sustainability in tropical forest and agricultural landscapes. CAPRi Working Paper No. 110.

Newton P, Alves-Pinto HN, Pinto LFG. 2014. Certification, forest conservation, and cattle: theories and evidence of change in Brazil. Conservation Letters.

Pinto LFG, Gardner T, McDermott C, Omar K, Ayub L. 2014. Group certification supports an increase in the diversity of sustainable agriculture network–rainforest alliance certified coffee producers in Brazil. Ecological Economics.

Pinto LFG, Hajjar R, Newton P, Agrawal A, Adshead D, Bini D, Bogaerts M, Cirhigiri L, Maguire-Rajpaul VA, González-Chaves A, McDermott C, Milder J, Pinho P, Robinson I, Rodkin M, Wollenberg E. 2016. Transitioning to more sustainable, low-emissions agriculture in Brazil. CCAFS Info Note. Also available in Portuguese: Transição para uma agropecuária mais sustentável e com baixas emissões no Brasil

Pinto LFG, McDermott C. 2013. Equity and forest certification—A case study in Brazil. Forest Policy and Economics.

Winters P, Kuo HW, Niljinda C, Chen B, Alves-Pinto HN, Ongun M, Daryanto S, Newton P. 2015. Voluntary certification design choices influence producer participation, stakeholder acceptance, and environmental sustainability in commodity agriculture sectors in tropical forest landscapes. Journal of Sustainable Forestry.

Other key outputs