Climate Change has no boundaries:Help rural Brazil

Dec 7, 2011

III Forum Adapta Sertao

The III Fórum Adapta Sertão (October 7th to 9th)  was titled “Reflexion dialogue: climate change and food production – Innovative public policies for small farmers in the Brazilian semi arid”. It was conceived as a dialogue opportunity to discuss five themes that are central to the development of the Bacia de Jacuipe county, state of Bahia, where Adapta Sertao is mostly working. The Bacia do Jacuipe county has a total population of 250,000 and it is fairly representative of the whole semi-arid region of Brazil in terms of socio-economical structure and environmental settings. All themes were approached from a climate change adaptation perspective that represented the cross-cutting theme.
The five themes that were discussed were.
•    Access to technology, technical assistance and knowledge
•    Research and technical development
•    Commercialization programs
•    Access to credit
•    Infrastructure (focus on water infrastructures)
To facilitate the discussion, each theme was discussed initially through two or three presentations by relevant experts and/or representatives of key regional organizations in the field. Each presenter was asked to focus his/her presentation on key questions and barriers, looking especially at the policy framework and where possible changes should have occurred. The objective of this forum was therefore to:
1.    Get to know initiatives, technologies and projects related to the production of food within the Bacia do Jacuipe, that can be considered as a reference to guarantee food security of the local population
2.    Identify limitations e barriers for a n effective dissemination of the most promising initiatives, technologies and projects
3.    Elaborate  ideas and proposals for public policies for a better integration of issues related to food production and food security in the context of an intensification of climate variability
During the second day, each theme was discussed in more details to elaborate possible proposals that could be eventually taken to policy makers in the state of Bahia.

During the discussions it emerged the difficulty to elaborate key proposals in an integrated way for a number of different reasons. Many of these issues are well known also by government officials. However it seems that the process of making changes in the legislations has very complex dynamics that go beyond the presentation of good proposals and ideas and have different levels of complexity. It was very difficult to identify one or two themes to develop specific proposals, as each group had its own expertise in specific themes, and it was very difficult to identify a issue that could be considered objectively more relevant than any other one by all participants.

In the next forum in March 2012, the Adapta Sertao technical and coordination team will go to Brasilia to propose to work with state and federal government on a possible integration of existing policies and take Adapta Sertao experience as a common ground for testing such integration. 

The key barriers/issues that were identified by were:

o    Small farmers already struggle. They perceive small changes already on a yearly basis and it is necessary to have technology and knowledge to help them adapt
o    Better education in childhood/primary and secondary school. The education system in the region seems to be fairly poor and farmers today have serious difficulties to assimilate innovations and knowledge because they have not been prepared to deal with changes and incorporate innovations rapidly in their life.
o    Decentralize technical assistance. It is important for the federal and state governments to allow cooperatives and farmers associations access financial resources to provide technical assistance. Technical assistance provided mostly by federal and state entities show to be often poor and inefficient.
o     It is necessary to identify specific technologies that respond to the farmers’ needs and develop dissemination mechanisms. These are technologies that have to be adapted to the reality of the farmers and not vice-versa

o    The federal micro-credit system PRONAF is providing good conditions (2% annual interest rates) for farmers. However there are some serious limitations that need to be overcome: Famers do not need to present real guarantee to take the loan. This is a risk for the financial institutions that if a financial crisis occurs (example of Europe), then several financial institutions can go bankrupt;  PRONAF is not equally distributed across Brazil. In terms of density, the semi-arid region should receive at least the double of what it is receiving now; A lot of bureaucracy to get the loan;  Better monitoring on where the resources are allocated: some farmers access much more financial resources than other farmers but on which basis?
o    PAA is the federal school feeding program, where all schools have to provide to the students at least one meal per day. Since 2009, at least 30% of the food has to be purchased by small farmers (the PAA program). The PAA is providing  a crucial market access  opportunity for small farmers in the region. It shows to be an important instrument for capacity building. It is  also promoting various changes in farmers’ production and organizational processes such as creating structures and cooperatives and employing better production methods
o    PAA has also strengthened farmers’ organizations because it requires food purchase to be done from formal groups.
o    The values offered by PAA are used by farmers as a reference price in negotiations with middlemen. This is increasing the selling power of farmers
o    It is important to complement the commercialization opportunity with further support to farmers’ production and organizational process. This means to improve the way in which technical assistance is given. There is a clear need of technical assistance services especially for production planning, which is a  major factor to be improved in the PAA
o    Today water infrastructures have improved a lot the reality of the local population. In 1993, farmers had to walk over 2 km to harvest water. Today they are not doing it as much because local water  infrastructures (rainwater harvesting systems  and small earth dams) that have been constructed by NGOs and governments, improving local access to water
o    Farmers have also learnt how to adapt themselves to water scarcity and they are open to adopt water conservation technologies. However, from a animal breeding erspective, it is essencial to improve the production system for example by disseminating plants that store water like “palma forrageira” or by having a more adequate management of the local water resources.
o    There are several low cost strategies that can be implemented but farmers do not have money to do them, also because their pay back is uncertain in specific conditions. It seems that government subsidies are here important: the government needs to invest much more money to improve water infrastrctures but in a decentralized way 

Post-forum field visit to Adapta Sertao projects
Post-forum field visit to Adapta Sertao projects
Post-forum field visit to Adapta Sertao project
Post-forum field visit to Adapta Sertao project



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Thais Corral

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Rio de Janeiro, RJ Brazil

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