From Lula to Bolsonaro: number of Ibama officials falls by up to 55%

“The rise in deforestation is a consequence of the weakening of enforcement agencies”, affirms expert

Translated by: Ítalo Piva

TeenPatti | São Paulo |
With no new hires since 2014, Ibama, Brazil's environmental enforcement agency, has lost 55% of its workforce over the last decade - Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama

The number of enforcement officials in the Brazilian Environmental and Natural Resources Institute (Ibama), has dropped from 1.311 in 2010, to 591 in 2019, a reduction of almost 55%. Now, in 2020, there was a small increase in employee numbers after the Institute hired 103 new monitors, raising the number to 694, still 47% lower than when compared to the previous decade.

Verifying the reduction in the number of officials was made possible by the Access to Information Law (LAI), through the work of the Letting You Know (Fiquem Sabendo) collective. The information shows that a decrease in staffing, coincides with an increase in deforestation during the Jair Bolsonaro government. Data from the National Space Research Institute (Inpe) reveals that between August 2019 and August 2020, there was a 34% rise in the number of wildfires in the country when compared to same period the year before.

The Real Time Deforestation Detection System (Deter), which is run by Inpe, points to a 25% increase in deforestation in the first semester of 2020 compared to 2019. In June alone, 1034.4 thousand square kilometers of the Amazon was destroyed, the biggest amount since 2015.

In 2010, the final year of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s term, the number of enforcement officials was 1311. Since then, there have been staffing cuts at Ibama. In 2011, under Dilma Rousseff, there was a 4.6% decrease to 1255.

These small reductions continue until 2019, when Michel Temer is the country’s president, and there is 16.13% fall in relation to 2018, from 930 to 780 staffers.

Also in 2019, the first year of Bolsonaro’s term, Ibama enacts yet another dramatic cut in the number of oversight officials, 24,23%. It goes from having 780, down to 591 staffers to monitor the entire territory of Brazil.


Raoni Rajão, an engineering professor at the Federal Univesity of Minas Gerais (UFMG), laments that Brazil has backtracked on the achievements and positive indices from the beginning of the century. “The reduction [in deforestation] of more than 80% we saw between 2004 and 2012 was the result of two main factors: the creation of conservation units in key areas, and an increase in the State’s capacity to enforce environmental legislation. These command and control actions were made possible by hiring hundreds of officials, and developing new monitoring systems through Inpe”.

The professor warns us that since 2014, Ibama has not held hiring exams for new staff and that “the rise in deforestation, is a consequence of the weakening of Ibama and other monitoring bodies since then”.

“Though we have seen technological advancements over the last few years, the number of enforcement officials currently at Ibama is clearly insufficient. We have a country that spans an entire continent, even with the Environmental Registry System (CAR) and the monitoring abilities Inpe provides, many actions need to be taken on the ground. Actions in indigenous territories and areas of conservation, where deforestation has exploded over the years, are of critical importance”.

Edited by: Rodrigo Durão Coelho

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