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Environment

$400 million for rainforests

At the World Economic Forum, Norway announced it will set up a fund to make small-scale farmers more productive and thus fight deforestation. Food company giants are joining in.

The new fund is designed to kick-start investment in deforestation-free agriculture, and to reform harmful small-scale farming, the government of Norway announced at this week's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The Norwegian government will commit up to $100 million to the fund. It is hoped it will reach $400 million by 2020 with the help of the private sector.

According to the World Economic Forum, agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation in Brazil. 2.3 million square kilometres of forest were cut down between 2000 and 2012.

Increasingly, agricultural production tends to favour expanding into rain forest and increasing the amount of soil available, instead of intensifying agricultural production on existing land.

Saving forests

The fund will be formally set up later this year and aims to protect over five million hectares of forests and peatlands by 2020, equivalent to the size of Costa Rica.

Amazon burning (Reuters)

Forests are burned to generate new land for agriculture

Crucially, the fund is expected to help rainforest countries meet their commitments under the UN's Paris Climate Agreement, the landmark deal signed in 2015 to curb global warming.

"The future of the planet depends on our common ability to both protect and restore forests at an unprecedented scale, while simultaneously increasing agricultural production to meet growing global needs," Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, said in Davos.

The Global Environment Facility, the UN Environment Programme and the Sustainable Trade Initiative have joined the partnership .

"It's extremely important that we join forces to protect forests and peatlands and therefore our climate," said Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment Programme. "We're delighted to have the fund in place, and it's especially important that we also have the private sector on board."

Detergent, food and beverage producer Unilever has promised to invest $25 million in the fund over a five-year period. Carrefour, Marks & Spencer, Mars and Nestlé have also expressed their support.

It is not the first time Norway has invested in the protection of Brazil's rain forests.

Back in 2008, Norway pledged $1 billion to Brazil's Amazon protection fund to help it fight deforestation, and fulfilled this commitment in 2015 after Brazil showed it had reduced deforestation by 75 percent.

bo/iq (afp/wef)