In 2011, the German government is aligned to the international organization IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and has created a challenge: restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes up to 2020 and 350 million hectares up to 2030. Almost a decade later, the initiative already collects 74 commitments to restore 210 million hectares.

In the Climate Change Conference (COP26), which happened from November 1 to 12 in Glasgow, Scotland, an accordance in order to contain the deforestation, with the support of the main forestry countries, has shown that the cientists’ warning of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was heard. On the last report, the organization warned that, without a radical action in order to globally recovery the forests, it will be impossible to keep the heating in 1.5 degree Celsius, as wanted and required.

Given this scenario, it is important to mention the Vale’s initiative, which is committed to recover and protect 500 mil thousand hectares up to 2030. In order to achieve its goal, the company has created the Agroforestry Sistems (SAFs) and, to develop them, it counts with the essential help of two of its arms: ITV DS and Fundo Vale.

The main point of SAF is that it was created to solve not only the degraded soil issue, but also the socio-economic part of family farmers, according to Sâmia Nunes, ITV DS researcher. In two of the municipalities where Vale acts – Canaã dos Carajás and Paraopebas – six families were chosen. After being qualified and benefit themselves from the project, the idea is that these people may stimulate others to invest more in agroforestry systems as a measure of subsistence or creation of a larger income.

“It is possible to harvest in several cycles, and the short cycle gives the farmers the possibility of having some return in a short period of time. They are those species – such as banana, açaí – which are produced faster. This is important to make the farmer excited and make him go further. We made the whole process in partnership with them, because we know their will is important to make it work.  At the same time, the system helps to capture carbon, and the animals return, which also helps to preserve biodiversity”, said Sâmia Nunes.

On a second stage, once the families that will participate on the project are chosen, the species that may be planted were selected. That was when the scientific knowledge of ITV DS was helpful:

“It was a joint development. Each species has a category to be used: the one which is better on the furrows, the one which is better between the furrows, the one whose job is to cover the soil and will be removed from the system soon or the one which will last longer on the system. Within those groups, presented by us, farmers were selecting the species that they were interested in”, tells Sâmia.

The first SAF was implemented in November, 2019, following the suggestion of Fundo Vale, from a model that was different from the traditional restoration. The agricultural engineer Bia Marchiori, from Vale Natural Reserve, helped to plan the system and explains that it works with short, medium and long term cycles.

“When companies build a recovery project, they usually use two systems: vegetable restoration (planting in order to get back to what it was) or natural restoration (surrounding a piece of the land where plants can grow naturally). But none of these models is productive to farmers. Fundo Vale has proposed a forestry recovery in the middle of a productive recovery. As much as a production is a anchor one – cocoa, for instance, has greater potential because it has a very large demand in the market – in order to have a more continuous cash slow, it is required to plant it with other species”, explains her.

In 2020, Fundo Vale has established a partnership with five agroforestry start ups and, in 2021, work has been done with biodiverse forestry systems. It is a way to include the animal component and the organic culture on the Agroforestry System.

“ITV DS helps a lot with the study of soil, structure, which are an obstacle arising from the business itself. All this Agroforestry System, built in partnership with Fundo Vale and ITV DS, help Vale to reach the Forest Goal”, explains Bia Marchiori.

Interview/ Sâmia Nunes

Focus on the family agriculture

What is the main purpose of the Agroforestry System (SAF)?

Sâmia Nunes – It was created in order to try to solve the degraded soils issue, but also the socio-economic part of the families. The whole project was focused on small-scale farmers who are not familiar yet with agroforestry systems and do not know the benefits they may bring. In this sense, we are able to select families that did not have this practice, in order to give them the opportunity to test it.

How was the operational part of contacting the families? Was it damaged by the pandemic scenario?

Sâmia Nunes – Yes, it was because our goal was to talk with more families. Even though, we were able to make workshops in both municipalities – Canaã dos Carajás and Paraopebas. Under these circumstances, we had a reasonable number of participants, not only Vale’s employees, but from local public power and from farmers who did not participate the project, but wanted to.

What was the scientific contribution of ITV DS?

Sâmia Nunes – We bring the knowledge of what is technically more indicated to planting, using species which family farmers are interested in. Each SAF is a different model because each one of them was suitable to the area and the family. We try to use some fruit species that farmers already plant at the location, but we stimulate some key types that help to increase income faster. Açaí and cocoa are two examples.

Does SAFs also help on the water issue?

Sâmia Nunes – Yes, any type of forest which is in the margins of a water Permanent Preservation Area may help on the preservation.

Interview/Bia Marchiori

“It gets easier to convince the farmer to keep the forest standing”

What was the participation of Fundo Vale in the SAFs?

Bia Marchiori – When we knew about Forest Goal, we proposed a way to build a recovery project which was different from what most companies do. Our idea was building a forestry recovery in a productive way.

What do you mean by that?

Bia Marchiori – When we talk about environment, we usually take mankind out of the context. But when we think on a recovery model of a productive agroforestry soil, we are including mankind, because they are able to plant and generate income from it. It gets easier to convince the farmer to keep the forest standing.

How does felling is treated on SAF?

Bia Marchiori – The wood works as a type of saving, because if you actually plants a tree, you will only get its profit after a few years. This is another benefit of the agroforestry system: it allows the combination with agricultural cultivation or animal husbandry. That means: you have a cash flow for longer, since you may start with a short cycle, which will generate income sooner, and keep the tree, which will generate income later.

Is the proposal of Fundo Vale only valid for both municipalities?Bia Marchiori – No. What Fundo Vale is proposing is the recovery of a hundred thousand hectares – of the Forest Goal – with support and investment in agroforestry businesses that generate a positive socio-environmental impact. We are talking about three states in Brazil, in three biomes: Roraima, Pará, Bahia, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rondônia and Mato Grosso. In 2020, Fundo has planted a thousand hectares with two agroforestry startups, and now we have partnerships with five ones. In this year of 2021, our plan is to reach five thousand hectares.