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This project aims to investigate trade-offs between water use, deforestation, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with soy and beef commodity production and exports from Brazil.

Aerial view of cattle near body of water in Lindoeste, Pará State, Brazil

Photo: Ricardo Lima / Getty Images.

Active project


The production and trade of soy and beef from Brazil is linked to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and biodiversity. These impacts motivate existing zero-deforestation commitments from countries and companies, but the effects of such commitments on local water use and scarcity are poorly understood.

One of the main pathways for achieving deforestation-free supply chains is to intensify agricultural production a process which can be highly demanding on water resources. Brazilian soybeans rely almost entirely on rainfall whose magnitude can decrease with upwind deforestation and increase with upwind irrigation; a growing Brazilian cattle population will require an increasing amount of drinking water typically stored in farm impoundments on the landscape.

This project explores the links between the global trade of Brazilian soy and beef commodities, water use and water scarcity, and policies designed to improve the sustainability of supply chains (particularly zero-deforestation commitments).

Our work also seeks to use Trase to highlight the links between water use for soy and beef and commodity exports from Brazil, and the effects of land use and land use change on regional precipitation.

Funder: Formas
Partner: Stockholm Resilience Centre


  • Quantify regional water use for Brazilian soy and beef sectors in relation to product exports
  • Reveal the shared responsibility of producers and consumers on the impacts of deforestation and agricultural intensification on the regional water cycle
  • Assess trade-offs between water use and environmental impacts resulting from producer and consumer interventions and policies that aim to combat deforestation.
irrigation system watering a farm field of soy, in Brazil

Photo: Alfribeiro / Getty Images.


SEI team

Michael Lathuilliere
Michael Lathuillière

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Ylva Ran
Ylva Ran

Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

Rafaela Flach
Rafaela Flach

Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

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