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Conservation and sustainable agriculture in southern Brazil

FFI is working in partnership with business and civil society in southern Brazil. Credit: Steven Lowe/FFI.
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Written by: João Guimarães
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Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working in partnership with business and civil society to establish an economically viable approach for farmers to maintain and restore biodiversity through threatened landscapes of southern Brazil.

The project partners are British American Tobacco (BAT) subsidiary Souza Cruz and Brazilian NGO Sociedade de Pesquisa em Vida Selvagem e Educação Ambiental (SPVS).

Araucaria forests and farms

Brazil’s South Region is the country’s primary agricultural centre and the main location of Souza Cruz’s tobacco growing operations. Much of the region’s crops are grown by small scale farmers whose livelihoods depend on agriculture.

The South Region is home to Araucaria forests, one unique ecosystem of the Atlantic Forest Biome, a World Biosphere Reserve recognised for its high biodiversity and threatened species including howler monkeys and the distinctive Araucaria tree.

The distinctive Araucaria tree of Brazil's Araucaria forests, which have been severely degraded and deforested through agriculture and forestry. Credit: Steven Lowe/FFI.

The distinctive Araucaria tree of Brazil’s Araucaria forests, which have been severely degraded and deforested through agriculture and forestry. Credit: Steven Lowe/FFI.

However, agriculture and forestry have driven severe deforestation and degradation in Brazil, and most of the remaining fragments of Araucaria forest survives on small, privately owned farms.

Finding solutions on farms

In southern Brazil, small farms play an increasingly important role in sustaining biodiversity to deliver nature’s services. From the genetic diversity of home-grown beans called feijão crioulo’, to pollination of family citrus groves by native bees, to water supply from healthy Araucaria forest river buffers, biodiversity underpins the agricultural productivity of the region.

In 2010, a Biodiversity Risk & Opportunity Assessment (BROA) carried out by Souza Cruz identified a high risk to the company: a lack of farmer understanding around biodiversity and nature’s services and how to manage them for sustainable farming.

The BROA also highlighted opportunities to address wider ways that agriculture impacts and depends on biodiversity and ecosystem services in BAT’s operational region in southern Brazil.

Drained wetland farming in Paula Freitas municipality, Paraná State, Brazil. Credit: Steven Lowe/FFI.

Drained wetland farming in Paula Freitas municipality, Paraná State, Brazil. Credit: Steven Lowe/FFI.

Partnership for biodiversity

In 2012, the BAT Biodiversity Partnership launched a collaborative project to improve agricultural sustainability, biodiversity conservation and livelihoods in southern Brazil.

Through a partnership between farmers, business and NGOs – Parcerias pela Biodiversidade (Partnership for Biodiversity) – the project is strengthening the business case for biodiversity and ecosystem services management and encouraging widespread adoption of local good practice.

The project has already:

• Identified simple, economically feasible farm management actions that have been selected and trialled by 16 farmers in Paula Freitas municipality, Paraná State

• Held three demonstration and training days run by trial farmers for over 80 local farmers to stimulate uptake of these practical actions

• Introduced the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services for agricultural production in five cities for over 700 farmers

• Engaged agricultural companies and cooperatives in the region to encourage adoption of the approach

Parcerias pela Biodiversidade (Partnership for Biodiversity) is encouraging widespread adoption of sustainable agricultural practices in southern Brazil. Credit: Steven Lowe/FFI.

Parcerias pela Biodiversidade (Partnership for Biodiversity) is encouraging widespread adoption of sustainable agricultural practices in southern Brazil. Credit: Steven Lowe/FFI.

Ultimately, the project aims to change the way farmers and agribusinesses perceive their dependence on intact ecosystems. It is working to engage and influence the agribusiness sector, government institutions and other stakeholders in the South Region of Brazil.

By 2015, the project will have:

• Produced sound recommendations on what actions farmers can take to manage biodiversity and ecosystem services, backed by farmers, local government and the agribusiness sector

• Established the cost of management actions to the farmer – crucial information to motivate action by farmers and companies

• Engaged with approximately 2,500 farmers on biodiversity and ecosystem services management on farms by attending standard farmer meetings

• Informed all 30,000 of Souza Cruz’s farmers of the project and good practice management and reached thousands of non-Souza Cruz farmers in the South Region through presentations, workshops and other communications

• Raised the profile and feasibility of biodiversity and ecosystem services management on farms within the corporate sector

Learn more about the Brazil project in this brief (PDF).

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João Guimarães

João Guimarães is a conservation specialist with a MSc degree in Environmental Conservation from Federal University of Paraná (Brazil). He has extensive experience in private lands conservation and ecosystem services project development, in which he was able to apply his knowledge of conservation mechanisms for private lands, water resources, environmental legislation and geographic information systems. Since then he has been involved in threatened ecosystems conservation efforts in Brazil, including working at a world leading mining company and with conservation-driven Brazilian and international NGOs Fundação Boticário and The Nature Conservancy. João has been involved with ecosystem services since 2003, and coordinated one of first projects of this kind in Brazil.

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