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RapidEye: Elemental to Environmental Problem Solving

Rather than fight the laws, the Mayor of Paragominas, Adnan Demachki, wanted to develop a plan to turn his county in to a national example for green conservation. He turned to people across different societal sectors to create alliances which developed into a solid plan to ensure that the farmers in his county can coexist with the forest.


The RapidEye satellite constellation has proven invaluable within the scientific and governmental arenas since the first images were taken over four years ago. Its five meter multi-spectral imagery can be used for a wide range of purposes from assisting farmers in monitoring their crops to helping foresters manage beetle infestations killing their trees. In addition, RapidEye imagery has proven well-suited for projects that are important for the environment and meaningful for future generations.

RapidEye has secured a continuing role in environmental monitoring because of its high revisit capability, spatial resolution, and five spectral bands including the Red Edge band. As an added bonus, collection capabilities have recently increased from four million km² to an astonishing five million km² of data every day. RapidEye’s five satellites, capable of returning to any point on earth daily and featuring a seventy-seven (77) kilometer imagery swath width, makes the RapidEye system a leader in providing large area coverages within short time frames.

Currently, RapidEye imagery is used as a key component in important environmental programs including MALAREO (, aimed at the elimination of Malaria in southern Africa; supporting the UN REDD initiative in Guyana, and helping to stem the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest.

John Ahlrichs from RapidEye and Carlos Souza Jr. of Imazon recently sat down in Brazil to discuss the background and history of the Green Municipality Program, which relies on RapidEye imagery for its solution to control deforestation in the Amazon.

CARs’ Can Save a Forest:
How Imazon and Santiago & Cintra Consultoria are Helping to Decrease Degradation in the Amazon With a Solution Incorporating RapidEye Satellite Imagery

Drawing the Line

Putting an end to illegal deforestation and forest degradation in the Amazon has become a priority in Brazil, and over the years, laws have been implemented which require a certain percentage of each rural property be set aside as a Legal Forest Reserve.

The Rural and Environmental Cadastre system (CAR in Portuguese), is a federal program that contemplates the needs of environmental sustainability as well as of agricultural production and is responsible for managing and tracking more than five million individual properties and owner compliance with the forest reserve’s rules.

While CAR has been in existence since the late 1990s, only a small percentage of properties have been registered under this system. The expectation is that the program will eventually produce a CAR certificate for each landowner.

The Economic Impact of Law Enforcement

Brazil passed a law in 2008 that placed individual municipalities with above average deforestation and degradation rates on an environmental blacklist. Just one year later, 43 of the over 900 municipalities (counties) in the Amazon basin had been blacklisted. Once on the blacklist, counties are no longer eligible for any state environmental development aid, nor are banks able to provide farmers operating loans until it can be proven that their land use is abiding by preserve regulations.

Greenpeace Brazil also became involved and insisted that the market play a role in reducing deforestation. In response to the pressure, an industry association called ABIOVE began preventing these same ranchers and farmers from selling cattle or soybeans for noncompliance with the law, which caused an immediate economic impact in the affected counties. This action by ABIOVE became known as The Soybean Moratorium.

As a result of these actions, the county of Paragominas was placed on the blacklist. Paragominas, located in the eastern Amazon, is home to more than 100,000 people and is 20,000 km² or twice the size of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, United States.

Rather than fight the laws, the Mayor of Paragominas, Adnan Demachki, wanted to develop a plan to turn his county in to a national example for green conservation. He turned to people across different societal sectors to create alliances which developed into a solid plan to ensure the farmers in his county could coexist with the forest.

In his search for resources, Mr. Demachki approached Imazon, one of the key regional NGOs working toward ending deforestation in the Amazon, to find a solution. Carlos Souza Jr., formerly the Director, now Senior Researcher and Coordinator of the Forest Monitoring Program at Imazon, has a strong GIS and image analysis unit located in Belem, in the state of Pará. Mr. Souza and his team promised to help the mayor find some answers.

A solution eventually emerged to develop a rural cadaster process for each farmer or rancher to register his land using recently-collected five meter RapidEye imagery as a background and to verify ongoing compliance with annual image collections.

As the preliminary solution went outside the funding and organizational scope of the NGO, Imazon entered into a strategic partnership with Santiago & Cintra Consultoria (SCCON), RapidEye’s sales partner in Brazil, to assist in the development.

The resulting partnership then prompted the Paragominas municipal government to implement the first county-wide land registration system in March of 2010.

What is now known as a CAR certificate can be produced to authenticate compliance with the new Forest Code. The certificate shows that the landowner has filed a map of his property and outlines the boundaries of his Forest Reserve Lands. Once the CAR certificate showing compliance can be produced, farmers and ranchers are able to have these restrictions lifted and resume their day-to-day farming operations.

How It Was Done

Recognizing the significant time pressure (as investment and agricultural sales in the country were effectively being embargoed), SCCON and the consulting company Eco-Lógica created a straightforward rural land registration solution for Paragominas.

The land registration database was built around a new series of 1:50,000 scale maps produced by Imazon using RapidEye imagery of Paragominas imaged over three months in 2010.

With five meter resolution RapidEye data, the farmers and ranchers were able to quickly and clearly validate their land holdings and the status of all of the forests on their lands. Compliance, or lack thereof, was clear and transparent. As each land holding was mapped, individual CAR certificates were issued to landowners.

As a result of these new processes, illegal deforestation has effectively been stopped in Mr. Demachki’s county, and the state removed Paragominas from the environmental blacklist. This enabled the county, which is only one of two counties to be removed from the blacklist so far, to access federal rural development funding again. In addition, growers with CAR certificates in-hand can once again receive operating loans from banks and sell their commodities.

Ten additional counties, including Ulianópolis and Dom Eliseu, both due south of Paragominas, have signed on for the program in the state of Pará. All have requested quick implementation of the same solution and are in the process of working with Imazon and SCCON. The Imazon-SCCON solution, now known as the Green Municipality Program, is expected to quickly extend to many of the other 41 remaining municipalities on the environmental blacklist.

The benefits which make this solution scalable are its simple design and built-in transparency. RapidEye’s five meter imagery provides the necessary information and positional accuracy which give landowners the ability to quickly and easily see their land holdings at an appropriate resolution for their large rural tracts.
Getting the base CAR system installed in such short time-frame took incredible effort. Now there are numerous demands to expand the system country-wide.

Automating the change detection and monitoring system which is currently a time-consuming and manual task, is the next priority for Imazon and SCCON. They’re now devising a classification-based, automated change monitoring system that would incorporate an annual coverage using RapidEye imagery.

While the bad news is that nearly 20% of the Amazon has been lost, the good news is that the expanded CAR system will help Brazil keep a firm grip on what is left. These quantifiable efforts to reduce deforestation and forest degradation not only benefit Brazil, but contribute to the betterment of the planet, now and far into the future.

Property boundary map of an area in Paragominas incorporating RapidEye imagery

Cartographic reference map of the same area in Paragominas derived from RapidEye imagery

About RapidEye

RapidEye is a leading provider of quality high-resolution satellite imagery and derived geo-information products. With a constellation of five EO satellites, RapidEye images over 5 million square kilometers of Earth every day and its archive of imagery grows by over one billion square kilometers every year. With an unprecedented combination of wide area repetitive coverage and five meter pixel size multi spectral imagery, RapidEye is a natural choice for many industries and government agencies.


  • Kim Douglass, Marketing Communications Manager, RapidEye
  • John S. Ahlrichs, Ph.D., Vice President of International Sales, RapidEye
  • Carlos Souza Jr., Senior Researcher, Imazon
  • Iara Musse Felix, Director of Business Development, Santiago & Cintra Consultoria

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