Brazil Implementing Climate Smart Agriculture Techniques To Both Increase Productivity and Conserve The Environment

Dan Butler
Thu, 21 Jul 2016
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Historically, there has been a perceived trade-off between the economic benefits and environmental consequences of agricultural activity. Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) techniques may be the solution to this issue by integrating crop production with conservation efforts.

These techniques have already resulted in improved crop adaptability to the effects of climate change while also increasing productivity and income for farmers. CSA implementation is beginning to grow in Brazil, attracting the interest of global investors.

According to the FAO, land used for crop and animal farming is the biggest contributor to Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions. CSA techniques, which implement ‘low-carbon’ farming practices such as CLFI Sytems, are therefore vital if Brazil is to meet its ongoing climate commitments.

CSA techniques optimise environmental services such as soil fertility, carbon sequestration, water conservation and reduced soil erosion.

These practices also generate unprecedented economic opportunities. Coordinated efforts to implement CSA techniques could position Brazil as a world leader in the sustainable, low-carbon agricultural markets of tomorrow.

Brazil already has conservation legislation in place that requires land owners, i.e. agribusiness and smallholders, to have a certain amount of legal reserves. However, landowners are struggling to understand and implement these commitments. There are also problems with smallholders accessing funds put in place by the government to encourage CSA practices, such as the Sectorial Plan on Agriculture and Climate Change (ABC Plan).

CSA is a novel idea for Brazilian farmers and so implementing it on an industrial scale will require significant investment. Roberto Waak, founder of sustainable timber producer Amata, estimates that a $50-100bn investment of public and private funds will be necessary for successful implementation.

Industry experts expect the best short-term goal to be increased access to Bank of Brazil funding because they already have credit lines for low-carbon, sustainable farming with varying interest rates for varying kinds of producers.

Movements in both Brazil’s public and private sectors are pushing the interdependency agenda of agriculture and forests.

Moving into the longer term, environmental performance indicators must be adopted in order to guide smallholders and collect data for continuous improvement of sustainable agricultural practices. The government will also have to standardise and officially endorse technology platforms under the forest code to provide stability and a more attractive environment for investors.

Market development, and subsequent investment, will follow and likely lead to preferential contracts for producers and cooperatives that utilise sustainable agricultural practices.

“Movements in both Brazil’s public and private sectors are pushing the interdependency agenda of agriculture and forests,” commented Dr. Aubrey Longmore, Head of Global Agriculture at Challenge Advisory. “This is a promising and opportune time for conservationists and investors alike.”