Water preservation and fight against poverty:

60km upstream from Rio de Janeiro, Tinguá is one of the key water catchments of the city of Rio. For Bonafont, the Danone brand that operates the mineral water bottling factory of Tinguá, water preservation is a priority. And its quality depends on sustainable farming practices. Tinguá is also a community of smallholder farmers with low revenues. How can we sustainably preserve water quality, while securing increased revenues for farmers?

Launched in 2018 by the Livelihoods Funds for Family Farming (L3F), Bonafont-Danone and SEBRAE (the Brazilian SMEs development agency) the Livelihoods-Caruanas project takes up the challenge. The project’s goal is to secure safe land use to preserve the water resources of Tinguá, while converting the smallholders adopt organic farming to access the urban market. One year after its launch, the project is already promising.

Transition to organic farming: 50 farms certified under the Brazilian Organic Agriculture label

Is it possible to preserve water resources while answering the growing demand for organic products in Rio de Janeiro? This is what the Livelihoods-Caruanas project testifies. And what is more, in a short-circuit. In total, the project will ensure the transition of 250 farms located around the Bonafont plant to adopt sustainable farming that will preserve the watershed.

When joining the project, the farmers benefit from a 30-month training curriculum financed by the Livelihoods Funds to adopt organic farming practices. The programme includes individual training provided by an agrotechnician, addressed to each farm. The farmers also receive group trainings to share good practices, increase mutual help and collective action. What is more, each farmer receives an agroecology kit, designed by SEBRAE (the Brazilian SMEs development agency) that has already been implemented among 10, 000 farms in Brazil with measured results. The agroecology kit provides improved production planning, water preservation and increased productivity.

45 out of the 50 first farms who joined the project in 2018 have already been certified under the Brazilian Organic Agriculture label. The remaining 5 are under certification. And by the end of 2019, 100 farms will have joined the programme. « The farm families who joined the project in 2018 have shown great enthusiasm. Earlier this year, we received 72 requests from new farms to join the training programme. Both individual and collective training sessions have been fruitful: 100% of trained farmers shared with us that they appreciated the team spirit and the training content. », explains Pedro Vasconcellos, Sustainable Development Manager from Danone Brazil who supervises Tinguá’s operations.

For the farmers: a 60% potential of increased revenues

Increase by 60% Tinguás’ farmers revenues. To achieve this goal, the Livelihoods-Caruanas project implements the PAIS methodology (Portuguese acronym for Sustainable Integrated AgroEcological Production) designed by SEBRAE. With the PAIS kit, a farmer can easily start organic food production on a surface area of around 0.5 hectares. The plot is organised in concentric circles with a henhouse in the middle and includes 3 main parts:

  • Drip irrigation: with an autonomous solar energy source, it provides fragile crops with a continuous and optimal volume of water without exposure to power cuts.
  • Leveraging chicken and plant interaction: the henhouse is strategically placed at the centre of the gardening circles, so that the animals can be fed with agricultural residues and their excrements can be used as a natural fertilizer for crops.
  • Labour optimization: the circle shape optimises irrigation pipe length and minimises labour to maintain the crops that can be carried out of family members. This can be adapted depending on the farm size and shape.

The agroecology kit includes: a complete set of equipment to build the henhouse, a water tank powered by a solar panel, a water pump with a solar panel, hosepipes for drip irrigation and fruit and vegetables seeds.

Using this fully operational kit, a farmer can produce around 500 kilos of organic fruits and vegetables per month and replicate this agroecological know-how to the rest of his plot.

To this day, the first 50 farms which have been equipped with an agroecology kit in Tinguá have managed to diversify their production by focusing on healthy fruits and vegetables. They succeeded in removing all chemical inputs from their practices, therefore avoiding any water contamination risk.

The project dynamics: 50 farms have already been equipped, 100 will have joined the programme by the end of 2019.

An ambitious goal: generate 60% of increased revenues thanks to the agroecology kit provided to each farmer.

Market connexion and empowerment thanks to a farmers’ association

Livelihoods-Caruanas project operates on the production but also marketing phases to answer the increasing demand of organic products in the city of Rio. To do so, it focuses on the short-circuit process. This will result in creating the biggest organic food production hub of the state of Rio de Janeiro.For the moment, 4 distribution partners have shown interest in commercialising the smallholders’ productions. The farmers have already started selling their products to schools and local supermarkets. “Connecting to Rio’s markets is done in a rather informal way for the moment, so we make sure to help the farmers access them. There is a growing demand for organic products, which highly motivates the smallholders to produce more and diversify their productions. By the end of June, we will have completed the opening of an association that will be managed by the farmers themselves. This will help them reach wider markets”, outlines Pedro Vasconcellos, Danone Brazil.

4 identified distribution channels to commercialise the organic products of Tinguá farmers.

Mutual help and the opening of an association to help the farmers access wider markets.

Photo credits: Louis Perrin/Livelihoods Funds.