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Sustainable agriculture for small farming families

by Iracambi
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Sustainable agriculture for small farming families
Integrated Chicken Coop and Vegetable Garden 

The aim of this project designed by interns and students from the IF Rio Pomba Agroecology course, is to show how the cultivation of vegetables can be integrated with the rearing of birds (chickens).

In this case, the vegetable beds are positioned next to the chicken coop.

All "waste" from cleaning the garden (fallen leaves, weeds, etc.) are offered as food to the chickens.

When cleaning the chicken coop, the waste is collected (faeces), which serve as organic fertilizer for the garden.

With this system, a family living in rural areas can have, in a small space, an organic production of vegetables and also an organic source of meat and eggs (protein), all without the use of industrialized fertilizers.

The community-built project was a great success due to the dedication and energy from the students, They proved to be both proactive and creative, building the entire structure using reused materials.
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The Sustainable Agriculture Project has been through important changes during this time, turning the activities very intense this trimester.

In this trimester, we set a time for the planning of our next actions, which include the management of an area planted 5 years ago which follows the model of Agroforestry- and visits to well-established local sustainable farmers.

The participation in community-work in local rural properties was also included in the planning, as well as the restoration of a previous pasture, and finally a meeting with farmers of the region to promote Iracambi's sustainable agriculture program and to exchange knowledge and ideas.

The activities planned which have already been started includes a walk to potential areas of new field experiments with agroecology in the property of the NGO, as well as the realization of a group-work in the area of test called AREA2, which was a previous pasture that it is now in the process of restoration, specially to contribute to the riparian forest which is located right beside. We chose crops that require minimum maintenance so we can better exemplify the reality of the local farmers of this region.

Another crucial action of this project is to compose and become part of groups of farmers to exchange field experiences. Last month, we started to participate in the Network of Farmers of the Federal Institute of Muriaé (IF-Sofocó). They give free agroecology lessons to the members. The entire staff participated in one of their courses and learned immensely with the class "Soil components and its utilisation on agro-ecological agriculture.", which was extremely an useful knowledge for the NGO for the areas in which we want to restore as for our work in the reforestation nursery.

We still have a long way ahead of us and we count with your donations to keep working with the Planet Earth in search for solutions for food production that respects the environment, with forests that provide a dignified life for wildlife and human beings.

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looks good enough to eat!
looks good enough to eat!

Agroecology at Iracambi  

This exciting project at Iracambi combines three things: producing seeds for green manure, cultivating and selling organic fruits and vegetables, and creating a line of natural cosmetics.  As an added bonus, we’re reforesting stream banks with trees native to the Atlantic Forest in an area that was formerly degraded pasture.  And we’re managing the whole system sustainably.

And the result? Producing natural cosmetics and organic foodstuff with the least possible impact on the environment. Creating and sharing a sustainable model that will generate income for rural communities. Giving field days and writing academic papers in order to share our experiences with the wider public.  

The background  

The current model of conventional agriculture has not served the rural community well – either economically or environmentally. This is evidenced by degraded lands, stressed water resources, and the rural exodus.  Family agriculture urgently needs to develop alternative models that enable rural families to remain on the land and care for the environment.

History of the area

Our agroecology plot was formerly a cattle pasture. Sugar cane had also been planted for the cattle, and the areas bordering the river have occasionally been flooded – although rarely. The area is 2.5 acres.

Development of the project

The Agroecology plot has been in existence for three months.

  • While the trees are growing, we have interplanted maize, manioc, and leguminous species for green manure, in order to increase soil fertility and produce seeds.
  • Simultaneously we are developing our range of natural cosmetics, and are currently testing a range of soaps.
  • We’ve strengthened our ties with the Natural Plants Working Group of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Brazil’s premier research center. We are also developing partnerships with universities and technical institutes to work together on techniques of agroecological production.  
  • The next stage will be to hold field days to work with local producers on best practice organic food production and creating natural cosmetics using low impact techniques that provide an economic return for low income rural families

Your part in this!  

With your help we’re raising rural living standards and helping smallholder farm families live better and more healthily than they do under conventional agricultural systems. Producing organic food and natural cosmetics is good for people, and good for the land. It’s a way of transforming lives.  Thank you for being a part of it!

Good looking field!
Good looking field!
planting with love
planting with love
healthy growth!
healthy growth!
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The Iracambi Agorecology polyculture is evolving, by leaps and bounds, and we can’t wait to tell you about it! It started as a model project to demonstrate to local farmers the benefits of producing organic crops in an agroforestry system. We’re now doing three things: producing seeds for green manure, raising organic fruit and vegetables, and making natural cosmetics out of native medicinals. We want to demonstrate to our family farming neighbors that this system saves money through minimum use of chemical fertilizers and maximum use of organic pesticides and herbicides. We want to show that organic crops are good for the soil, taste great, and are good for the consumers. Although there isn’t much of a market for organic produce in the rural areas, there is a demand in the local towns, and farmers can get a better price for organic produce – which of course is a great attraction! Once our polyculture is in full production – and now that the rains have come you can practically see everything growing! – we’ll be giving our first workshops, sharing and learning with local farmers and students. Our first one is scheduled for early December and we’re being overwhelmed with candidates! So here’s a quick rundown of how we put it together. We started by plowing up the land and applying calcium to correct our acid forest soils. The great thing is that we won’t have to do this again because there’ll be enough organic matter from the leguminous trees that we’ve planted. We’ve planted 250 native forest trees to attract fauna, provide seeds, and provide inputs for making natural cosmetics: creams, soaps and shampoos. As you can see in the picture of one of the saplings, we’re using recycled margarine pots to protect the trees from one of our great plagues – leaf cutting ants! These trees will also recycle nutrients, retain humidity in the soils and protect them from erosion. Intercropped with the trees we planted beans and maize as well as green manure crops. We also planted a type of local potato which is much in demand and provides a good income for family farmers. So thank you so much, dear donors, for supporting this project. Between us we’re creating a model that will help family farmers restore their soils, grow, eat and market healthy organic produce, raise their incomes, diversify their outputs, and adopt a sustainable model of farming: good for the producers, good for the consumers and good for the ecosystem.

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Agro-ecology, feeding people without damaging natural resources

               The practices of sustainable agriculture, recently established in Iracambi, have been developing in an espetacular way, indicating future success.

               In three months of work, the demonstrative units of low environmental impact agro-productions are gaining the right format as well as being solidified as an example of generation of income for family agriculture.

 

Production of High Quality Agro-ecological Coffee

          Coffee is the most common income generating crop for rural families in Brazil. Because such practice develops well in higher altitudes, the region we are located: ‘mares dos morros’, in translation ‘the sea of hills’, is perfect for growing coffee.

          Coffee production gives low income families a decent social condition and aggregate jobs in the rural field.

          Due to being shade tolerant, coffee adapts extremely well in forest systems, either being grown perennially or just annually. However, the locals in the region do not take advantage of this fact, either because of a lack of interest or knowledge.

          Locals still use standard out-dated practices, with fields under full sunlight and under high application of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

The following are coffee-growing techniques utilised by the locals in the region:

  1. Coffee Monoculture: Monoculture induces pest vulnerability to plants because it damages the habitat of natural predators. On top of that, because this region has deep soils, the planting of only one species lead to drastic erosions and fertility loss.
  2. Use of Pesticides: The easy pest invasion in the monoculture fields lead to local farmers turn to radical measures so they will not loose productivity. They apply a high quantity of extremely damaging pesticides, intoxicating themselves, the soil and its biota, and consequently everyone who uses their products. Not only, these chemicals are expensive, leading the farmers to be in debt due to the acquirement of rural credits.
  3. Synthetic Fertilisers Application: Like pesticides, chemical fertilisers are very expensive. Most of the farmers’ income is used to acquire these. Because they are very soluble and volatile, such products are easily lost in the environment, thus leading to low production efficiency by the farmers, as well as creating cracks on soil and inputting a high quantity of salt in water resources. 

These three factors mentioned above cause high environmental and social impacts. Figure 1 illustrates this current scenario in the region.

Because the farmers loose the productivity of their soils and with time, enter into debt, they abandon their lands and move to the city in extremely poor conditions.

Due to this context, our mission is to create a model for these families to promote a sustainable, financially viable and socially just rural activities.

At Iracambi, it is utilised alternative agro-forestry techniques which are more appropriate for these families. The polyculture of species in one specific area does not allow severe ecosystem imbalances, in which pests do not have the proper habitat for their proliferation. In such mixing of species, there is more soil micro-biodiversity and its activity control the pathogenic fungai and bacteria activity of the soil, while above the soil, the higher diversity of plants create more habitat for natural predators.

In Figure 2 it can be observed four ecosystem extracts in the coffee plantation.

Extract 1: This ecosystem contains large trees with deep roots, with the capacity to absorb nutrients and water in deep soil horizons, and through the evapotranspiration and leaf and twig loss, the nutrients gathered are transferred to the ecosystem, forming a natural cycle of water and nutrients.

Moreover, these trees have the capacity to prevent soil erosion. Not only, these trees loose their leaves only at the time of the development of the coffee seeds, thus not interfering with the productivity of the field.

Furthermore, these trees have extrafloral extracts which attract natural predators capable of fighting pests. Another function of these trees is to provide fuel for cooking as well as fruits for the Iracambi residents.

Finally, these trees turn the soil more permeable contributing to the refilling of the natural springs surrounding the coffee plantation.

Extract 2: This extract contains smaller species of trees which produce a high level of biomass. Such biomass increases the organic matter of the soil. Through the subsequent increase of microorganisms, the mineralization of the soil increases, thus providing nutrients for other plantations.

Further, these trees decrease the spreading of invasive species and protect the soil from the direct impact of thunderstorms. Finally, the strong solar irradiation coming from their roots retain for longer the humidity of the soil, balancing the rate of the water infiltration in the soil.

Extract 3: This ecosystem extract is the coffee plantation. The coffee trees are plants that can withstand up to 40% of shade without loosing their productivity. Other than the benefits mentioned earlier, a great benefit of its cultivation under shade is that the fruits take longer to develop, increasing the quality of the coffee.

Extract 4: This extract contains plants from the leguminoseae family which act as a natural fertiliser to the coffee plants. They also act as a natural herbicide. In this extract, it is also possible to cultivate annual crops such as beans, corn, banana, and others.

Because of the hilly landscape of the region, local coffee producers can only care for the crops manually. This is why we are focusing on increasing the quality of small coffee fields in the surrounding community.

Recently, high-quality coffee has had more power in the market and can be an excellent source of income for small rural producers, since it is worth three times more than conventional coffee.

High quality coffee contains only selected grains that are fully mature and are dried in greenhouses to better their quality. Figures, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 depict the process of agro-ecological cultivation from the start to the drying process.

Through this technique, we produce a special agro-ecological coffee with 85 points without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers.

With this model we are sustainably influencing the local coffee producers of the region, through an open dialogue during several visits to their properties as well as welcoming them at Iracambi.

Some producers are already successfully adopting some of these techniques. Figures 8 to 12 show the experiences of some.

The next step is (with your help) to promote field meetings with the community to disperse agro-ecological knowledge, including organic fertilising and biological remediation.

In this way, we develop a good relationship with the local farmers, promoting development in the rural community.

 

Agro-ecological Garden

          A 100% organic garden has been implemented at Iracambi, which includes alternative techniques to properly generate income to the rural community. In the same way as the coffee, we are dispersing agro-ecological techniques to the locals, including the exchange of saplings and non-sterile seeds.

The following is a brief description of the sustainable techniques that are being used:

Selected area: The area selected was absolutely degraded with invasive plants and with a very compacted soil. Figure 13 shows how the area was before the garden was implemented.

We removed the unwanted plants and used the organic matter for composting, which was later enriched with efficient microorganisms of the forest. Figure 14 illustrates the process of composting. The final product was a rich compost with essencial nutrients and micro-organisms for the vegetative growth of the garden.

After, the soil was prepared and the fields for the crops established. Calcium carbonate was also applied to reduce the acidity of the soil which decreases the development of plants. Figure 15 depicts the process.

After the last steps, the soil of the fields was enriched with the compost we made ourselves. In sequence, several species of vegetables and medicinal plants were planted, including natural repellants to strategically control pests and several non-conventional edible plants.

Figure 16-20 demonstrate step-by-step the process of establishing the garden from beginning to the current moment. All of this was only possible with your contribution!

With your help, we plan to share our knowledge through the entire rural community to assist local farmers in increasing their income and by agro-ecologically enriching their diet with a more diverse range of nutrients.

 

Production of Honey with Native Bees

As a way to generate alternative income and promote conservation of the native honey-bees, we are creating models of apiculture that are uncommon in the region.

These bees are extremely important pollinators, thus being vital for the functioning of the forest ecosystems. This unity of production is still in initial development and we are currently in the process of capturing the bees.

With the help of a local apiculturist who is passionate about saving the native bees, we established a small place for capturing the bees with pheromones. The figures 21 and 22 illustrate the process.

 

Conclusion

There is still a lot to be done. The agro-ecology program of Iracambi has only been established three months ago.

With your help we are progressing towards a model of sustainable agriculture in our land and in the community.

Our experience is really important to promote viable examples to the local farmers.

Family agriculture is in crisis. Families are being marginalised by conventional agricultural system and are loosing their power. We are here to empower them, since 70% of the food consumed daily in Brasil comes from family agriculture.

Our demonstrative units of agro-ecology envisions the progress of these families, by straightening their relationship with the environment and by providing them a better and dignified life.

 

Translation: Carla Faccina

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Organization Information

Iracambi

Location: Rosario da Limeira, MG - Brazil
Website:
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Project Leader:
Regis Reis
Rosario da Limeira, MG Brazil

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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