Family farming as the protagonist of conservation
by Luana Luizy, Communication Officer, International Education Institute of Brazil
The Sertão Veredas, in the north of Minas Gerais, is not only the scene of the writings of Guimarães Rosa - a Minas Gerais author who knew how to describe local regionalism -, it is also the place where extraction is the protagonist in the generation of income, in conservation of the Cerrado and sustainable management.
THE Sustainable Family Agriculture Cooperative Based on the Solidarity Economy (COPABASE) it has 140 members and provides an example of good practices to keep the Cerrado standing. Headquartered in the municipality of Arinos (MG), the cooperative also operates in Bonfinópolis de Minas, Buritis, Formoso, Pintópolis, Riachinho, Urucuia and Uruana de Minas.
Focused on the cultivation, production and commercialization of fruit pulps from the Cerrado & #8211; such as acerola, mango, guava, tamarind, mangaba, cagaita, araticum, sour coconut and umbu & #8211; , COPABASE supplies schools in the region, while giving employment to local producers.
“We struggle to maintain conservation, but also to generate income for rural families, who live off the production of their small properties”, Dionete Barboza, director of COPABASE is proud.
The diversification of production chains - harvested in different periods & #8211; guarantees income throughout the year. The products sold range from cassava to flour, brown sugar, the baru, honey, and, more recently, organic cotton.
The baru chain
Although the cooperative's flagship product is the production of fruit pulp from the Cerrado, the “golden goose” is the baru chestnut, common almond in the regions of Goiás, northern Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso and Maranhão.
The food has specific production at a certain time of the year - before the rainy season - and brings with it the principles of sustainability, since it is collected manually, in an extractive, artisanal way. “The baru has a differential, as it is inside a fortress (the bark); and extracting the almond has a higher financial cost for us, but it gives us a greater margin of performance ”, explains Dionete.
About 80% of COPABASE's income came from the sale of fruit pulp from the Cerrado to local schools; however, suspension of classes due to Covid-19, impacted the income of small producers.
Without government support, the association needed to reinvent itself. “It was very difficult, as we had a large stock of food. However, we managed to raise funds for the distribution of basic baskets with products from family farming. Thus, we were able to place a good part of our inventory on the market. The pandemic sparked this look of thinking about the next, but also of covering the financial hole", tells Dionete.
Partnership with CEPF and IEB
The promotion of Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and support from the International Institute of Education of Brazil (IEB), through the project & #8220; Sustainable Production Practices as Promoters of Biodiversity Conservation in the Urucuian Wilderness & #8221;, contributed to the socioeconomic organization, logistical support, training and even exchanges as a way to enhance the COPABASE extractivism.
“We invest in training to strengthen family farming and generate income for small farmers and traditional peoples. We understand that, by encouraging agroextractivism, we also contribute to the conservation of the environment ”, explains Aryanne Amaral, project assistant for CEPF Cerrado's regional implementation strategy.
The production of foods such as brown sugar, rapadura and manioc flour valued the traditional knowledge of families, while bringing technical knowledge, adding differentiated and quality products.
According to Dionete Barboza, the partnership with CEPF and IEB was a foundation for producers, as it allowed them to develop actions, work new production chains and conduct training aimed at environmental management within schools.
“All the technical guidance work that CEPF helped us provided for the systematization of the methodologies of our work. We did a lot that was not written; today, we synthesize in eight primers in areas such as management, agroecology and women”, Adds Dionete.
For more information about Copabase, access the site of the cooperative.
The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of the French Development Agency, Conservation International, the European Union, Global Environmental Management, the Government of Japan and the World Bank. A key goal is to ensure that civil society is involved in biodiversity conservation.