A kit to make agroecology accessible to smallholder farmers

The Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming (L3F) has invested in a project in Rio de Janeiro to link water conservation with sustainable farming practices and poverty reduction. The project is supported by Bonafont, a brand of the Danone Group ,and the Sebrae (the Brazilian SMEs development agency). In this project, smallholder farmers will be empowered with sustainable practices so they can implement a 100% chemical-free agriculture. To reach this goal, they will be equipped with the “PAIS Kit”, an agroecology equipment designed by the Sebrae. This kit has proven results as many farmers across Brazil are already using it.

With the PAIS Kit, a farmer can easily start organic food production on a surface area of around 0,5 ha. The plot is organized in concentric circles with a henhouse in the middle. This approach leads to an efficient work organization for the farmers, as their crops are within easy reach. It also leverages the synergies between crop diversification and poultry as the latter, in addition to providing eggs, provides a natural fertilizer for the plants. With a kit at full capacity, a farmer can produce around 500 kilos of healthy fruits and vegetables per month.

The agroecology kit is built on 3 main principles:

  • Drip irrigation: with an autonomous solar energy source, it provides fragile crops a continuous and optimal volume of water without any spillage and without exposure to power cuts.
  • Leveraging Chicken and Plant Interaction: the henhouse is placed strategically at the center of the market gardening circles, so that the animals can be fed with agricultural residues and their excrements can be used as a natural fertilizer for crops;
  • Labor Optimisation: the circle shape optimizes irrigation pipe length and minimizes labor to maintain the crops that can be carried out of family members. Depending on the farm size and shape, this can be adapted.

Crop diversification & efficient work organization with concentric circles

Optimized drip-irrigation thanks a water pump powered by a solar panel

The agroecology kit is made up of the following components, that each farmer assembles on his farm:

  • A complete set of equipment to build the henhouse (stakes, fence, bricks, corrugated iron sheets…)
  • A water tank power by a solar panel
  • A water pump with a solar panel
  • Hosepipes for drip irrigation
  • Fruit and vegetable seeds

The cost per kit including 30 months of training is about 20,000 BRL (about 6,000€). The Livelihoods Fund will provide upfront financing to implement and monitor the project over 8 years. For its long-term sustainability, a solidarity mechanism involving empowered farmers will be implemented. Once a farmer has increased income thanks to the sale of his products, he will partly contribute to the integration of new farmers in the project. The rest will be financed through public subsidies channeled by Sebrae and through result-based fees paid by Bonafont.

Photos: Louis Perrin/ Livelihoods Funds.

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