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The Lear's Corn Subsidy Project

Or, When good macaws go bad...


Lear's Macaws attack the corn fields of a subsistence farmer in Jeremoabo, Brazil


Parrots International Partners in the Lear's Corn Subsidy Project include:


Parrots International

The Lymington Foundation, Brazil

IBAMA, Brazil

CEMAVE, Brazil

ProAves Brazil


Also, thank you for donations from:

Southwest Virginia Bird Club


Click here for the Feb 2006 Field Subsidy Report with English Translation



 Death by farmer has become a very real threat to the survival of the highly endangered Lear's Macaw.


     In early 2006 Parrots International partnered with the Lymington Foundation to initiate funding on a pilot program to reimburse the local indigent subsistence farmers in Canudos and Jeremoabo, Brazil, for damage to their crops from the marauding Lear's Macaws. Although 95% of the Lear's Macaw diet consists of the meat of the Lucuri Palm nut, the Lear's have also grown fond of the sweet corn from the fields of the local subsistence farmers within the macaws' habitat.


A Lear's Macaw takes his "catch" to an adjacent tree. His friend dines in the background.


     In April 2006 Parrots International partnered with the Lymington Foundation to purchase 10 tons of corn, in 60 kilogram sacks, and dispense the corn as compensation to the local farmers based on the severity of the attacks on their plantations. The assessment and dispensing of corn was managed and supervised by Joaquim Neto, of CEMAVE, with the assistance of Monalyssa Comandaroba (whose salary was paid by ProAves, Brazil, during the pilot subsidy).


 In the course of feeding on a farmers' corn crops, the Lear's Macaws will often break the ears off of the corn stalk, fly to an adjacent sentinel tree, and then begin to eat the ear, dropping and wasting more than they consume.


A Lear's Macaw feeds on farmers' corn


For These farmers cultivation of any crop is a struggle, They grow only enough to feed their families and goats. They do not have the modern advantages of irrigation, nor fertilizer, nor farm tractors.


A subsistence farmer and his wife tend to their field.

(photo courtesy of Monalyssa Comandaroba)


Therefore, the farmers see the Lear's Macaws as pests, taking food from the mouths of their children and family. During interviews by Parrots International we learned that the farmers are often forced to keep their children home from school for months at a time to help scare the Lear's away from the families' corn fields. The Lear's, on the other hand, have become increasing acclimated to humans running around the corn fields screaming and waving their arms. The result is that death by farmer has become a very real threat to the Macaws....perhaps a greater threat than poaching and habitat loss.  Over the past decade, as the wild population of the Lear's Macaw has grown, so has the frequency and severity of the attacks on the farmers' fields.


Damage to a corn field from Lear's Macaws.


When the Lear's attack a corn field, they act like all normal parrots and forage with extreme waste. They will bite and damage an ear of corn, but not necessarily eat it before moving on to the next ear of corn. consequently, the damage to the crop is much higher than it appears during a superficial look at the corn field. Once an ear of corn has been nipped or crushed by a macaw beak it stops developing and becomes worthless as a crop.



A typical family home of a subsistence farmer in the Lear's habitat

(photo courtesy of Monalyssa Comandaroba)


     Joaquim Neto, of CEMAVE, a department within IBAMA (the Brazilian equivalent of the US Fish and Wildlife Service)  proposed a method to assess the damage to each farm. Each farm was measured in area in units called a "Tarafa". One Tarafa equals 1/3 of a Hectare. The normal/average production of a corn field is 4 sacks per Tarafa. Based on Joaquim's assessment, each farmer receives compensation based on a sliding scale:


       Each farmer that suffered low attack is ..........subsidized 1 sack/tarafa

       Each farmer that suffered medium attack is ....subsidized 2 sack/tarafa

       Each farmer that suffered high attack is .........subsidized 3 sack/tarafa

       Each farmer that suffered severe attack is ......subsidized 4sack/tarafa



During April 2006 a total of 16 farmers were subsidized, eight from Jeremoabo and eight from Canudos. A total of 161 sacks, 60 kilos each, was dispensed....totally 20,000 pounds, or ten tons, of corn.


In November 2006, Parrots International and Lymington again funded the second Corn Subsidy and increased the reimbursement to 30,000 pounds, or 15 tons of corn total. We do not reimburse in cash, rather in corn. We attempt to reimburse 110% for losses. Thus, the Lear's Macaw becomes an asset, rather than a liability to the farmer. The farmer can let the macaws feed, knowing that he will be over compensated. The farmer does not have to harvest the lost corn, nor process the corn and sack it. All the "work" is "done by the Macaws" and he is handed the subsidized compensation in nice clean sacks of corn at the end of the season. The idea is to create a win - win arrangement for both the farmers and the macaws.


Click here for the Feb 2006 Field Subsidy Report with English Translation


Joaquim Neto of CEMAVE (on right) signing corn subsidy documents with a local corn farmer

(photo courtesy of Monalyssa Comandaroba)



Sacks of corn ready to load in Joaquim's truck for delivery to the local farmers

in the Lear's Macaw Corn Subsidy Project

(photo courtesy of Monalyssa Comandaroba)

Click here for the Feb 2006 Field Subsidy Report with English Translation




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