Brazilians destroy native habitats for two major reasons: to grow soybeans and to raise cattle. In 2004, facing pressure from international organizations and internal protests, the country began to curb deforestation. The rate of forest destruction slowed until 2008, then rose until 2016. Between August 2016 and July 2017, about 2,500 square miles of rainforest were destroyed. Cattle ranching is a particularly vexing -- and grievous -- threat to Brazil's rainforest. Ranchers cut down forest to create pasture, which becomes less productive each year until they abandon it, then clear more rainforest to create new grazing space. And most ranchers, it turns out, aren't getting rich doing it. In the Brazilian state of Pará, they earn only about $250 per hectare (about 2.5 acres) by raising cattle. For a small rancher with fewer than 10 hectares, this translates into less than $2,500 a year. And that doesn't reflect the debt they often acquire when buying cattle and land.
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