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Swiss fight deforestation in the Amazon

The Brazilian government welcomed the project, which aims to regenerate the Amazonian rainforest (www.ac-dijon.fr) The Brazilian government welcomed the project, which aims to regenerate the Amazonian rainforest (www.ac-dijon.fr)

A Swiss project is seeking to regenerate part of the Amazonian rainforest and reverse some of the damage caused by deforestation.

This content was published on September 18, 2002 - 14:02

The ambitious scheme - costing SFr454.5 million ($300 million) - includes the construction of a factory to produce cellulose for export.

The idea is the brainchild of Walter Vogel, who came to Brazil from the Swiss capital, Bern, 30 years ago.

Vogel and a group of Swiss investors launched the Brancocel project last year in the hope of benefiting from the upturn in the price of cellulose on the international market.

With the construction of their factory, they expect to be able to offer employment to 4,000 indigenous people.

But the project is a gamble, as Brancocel director Claudio Schmidt readily admits: "No one could imagine setting up a wood pulp factory in such a God-forsaken place!"

Acacia plantation

Vogel has been farming his land in Roraima state - at the northern tip of Brazil and in the heart of Amazonia - for 20 years.

Eight years ago, with deforestation rampant, he and other Swiss investors began to plant acacias.

"It was a first attempt to go against the practice at that time," Vogel told swissinfo.

Vogel's plantation now extends over more than 8,000 hectares.

Instead of selling his raw timber, Vogel plans to pulp it at the new factory and export the resulting cellulose, mainly to Europe.

The Brancocel project envisages an initial investment of $60 million to increase the size of the plantation five-fold.

A further $250 million would be needed to get the factory up and running by 2006.

The Brazilian government, which is eager to attract investment, has welcomed the project with open arms.

swissinfo, Thierry Ogier in San Paolo

Key facts

The project will cost SFr454.5 million.
Construction of a factory is planned to produced cellulose.
The factory is expected to employ 4,000 people.

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