Brazil-Mexico Exchange Programme on Agroforestry and Sustainable Production Systems
Employing agroforestry systems as a productive instrument for poor family farmers in semi-arid regions of Brazil and Mexico
Semi-arid regions in Latin America have some of the largest pockets of poverty in the world and are among those most affected by climate change. In these regions, rural development projects that promote water access and production infrastructure face serious challenges because there are but few options for production diversification. In Mexico, small-scale farmers are particularly susceptible to adverse climate conditions, which are compounded by a relatively extensive livestock system, irregular topography and poor rainfall. Furthermore, there are few examples of sustainable management practices of natural resources in semi-arid areas, in addition to difficulty in coordination between producers living in similar biomes. The reliance on livestock production and the lack of alternative income sources in the Mexico’s driest rural areas demand new solutions that connect water access with sustainable production and consumption systems in order to raise productivity, food security and income for poor family farmers.
Towards a Solution
New solutions using agro-ecological and agroforestry systems have proven effective in streamlining the connection between water access and sustainable, diversified production systems by raising productivity, food security and income for poor family farmers. Accordingly, the Sustainable Development Project for Communities in Semiarid Areas (PRODESZA) and the Cariri and Seridó Sustainable Development Project (PROCASE) supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and with co-financing from the Governments of Mexico and Brazil, respectively, focus on improving agricultural production and poverty alleviation in semi-arid regions. PROCASE is implemented in Brazil’s driest state – Paraíba – to tackle climate change using agroforestry mitigation systems combined with sustainable agricultural production and environmental awareness.
The approach employs the syntropic agroforestry system, which can be defined as a model of agricultural production that combines native tree species (fruit and/or timber) of the semi-arid biome with agricultural crops and livestock, promoting both economic and ecological benefits. Seedlings are planted using intercropping systems, with harvesting occurring soon after the start of the project, so that the farmer obtains immediate income from vegetables, fruit, animal forage and crop sales while increasing the soil carbon stock and avoiding desertification.
The exchange programme between Brazil and Mexico emerged from activities already executed by PROCASE in the context of Paraiba’s climate resilience emergency plan, which includes the following water infrastructure for agricultural production:
- 539 water wells and 222 underground reservoirs, with water extraction through renewable energy (solar and wind power);
- four medium-sized conventional dams;
- 31 agroforestry units;
- 61 desalinators.
The agroforestry systems have been integrated into the plan to increase the carbon stock and forage production in order to minimize water wastage using water reserves from wells and reservoirs. The systems result in an increase in animal production through their consumption of high-quality forage, and also favour biodiversity in general due to the formation of ecological corridors and the increased benefit of pollinating agents. They serve to mitigate the effects of climate change and improve food and nutritional security, in compliance with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1 (No poverty), 2 (Zero hunger), 6 (Clean water and sanitation), 13 (Climate action), 15 (Life on land) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).
From a socio-economic perspective, the agroforestry systems also enable a reduction in agricultural herbicide input use, ensuring more sustainable production and consumption. The results obtained to date show enhanced food security among households as well as a positive impact on the conservation of natural resources and diversification of crop and animal production, leading to climate resilience and improved incomes. To date, 31 systems have been implemented with an average area of 0.5 ha per farmer containing 20,000 seedlings, and directly benefiting 345 families.
In November 2019, in response to a demand from Mexico for Brazilian expertise, IFAD promoted the first Mexico-Brazil agroforestry exchange programme in the state of Paraíba. The exchange visit was organized by the Semear International Programme with an IFAD grant in Brazil for knowledge management, monitoring and evaluation, and South-South cooperation towards the sustainable development of the Brazilian semi-arid region. The delegation comprised 30 participants from Mexico and Brazil, including technical staff, researchers, producers and farmers linked to the two projects and from local universities.
The activity included visits to agroforestry research institutions, animal fodder production units, native seed banks, water collection and storage stations. At the debriefing meeting, the participants agreed that both countries would maintain a running dialogue on cooperation and on sharing experiences on agroforestry systems, and a string of follow-up activities have been implemented in 2020. In particular, a Brazilian PROCASE member of staff contributed to the Mexican Forum on Renewable Energy and Technical Assistance in April 2020. The main focus of the Forum was on adapting successful Brazilian experiences to the current needs of family farmers in Mexico, especially among groups led by women and small cooperatives working with non-timber forest products, as well as on the new COVID-19 challenges.
In addition, as a new follow-up activity, one of the host farmers of the exchange, Mr Rivaldo, will contribute to a new capacity-building event, Agroecological Transition, promoted by the Agriculture Secretary of Mexico, which is scheduled to take place in the second half of 2020.
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Primary SDG Targets
Secondary SDG Targets
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