Farmer First Clusters: Partnerships for Sustainable Land Use in the Cerrado

Published: 27 Sep 2023
Type: News

The Soft Commodities Forum (SCF) is pleased to announce its implementing partners for its flagship Farmer First Clusters (FFC) initiative, which encourages forest-positive land use management for agricultural commodity production.  

Global demand for agricultural commodities such as soy, combined with expanding development in Brazil, poses a pressing challenge for the preservation of the Cerrado's native vegetation. Working to address this issue as the agribusiness sector’s first collective initiative at a landscape level, the FFC has selected five partners to implement financial incentives, technical assistance, and capacity-building actions to reduce deforestation for soy production and conserve native vegetation in the Brazilian Cerrado:  

1) The CONSERV project of the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM), which financially compensates Cerrado and Amazon rural producers who preserve surplus native vegetation. This project, operating in Mato Grasso and Maranhão for three years, will protect 7,000 hectares of surplus native vegetation through ecosystem services payments, deployment of public policy action and development of a long-term business model for the FFC. “Stopping deforestation is crucial for humanity to achieve the Paris Agreement. The Farmer First Clusters plays a central role in engaging farmers in efforts to curb deforestation down, at the same time that rights are respected and production and productivity is increased." André Guimarães, Executive Director, IPAM.

2) Parque Vida Cerrado, through the Conecta Cerrado Program, is a reference conservation, research, and socio-environmental education center dedicated to safeguarding native species in Western Bahia. Through this project, the organization is committed to restoring native vegetation on previously degraded agricultural and pastureland, contributing to the region's ecological revival. The expected results of this project include restoring 300 hectares per year of native vegetation in soybean farms, installing biodiversity monitoring and research stations, and providing environmental education and training for local communities. 

3) Produzindo Certo is an agri-tech platform that offers technical solutions for enhancing the environmental and economic sustainability of the soy supply chain. It operates in accordance with Brazil's Forest Code, a law mandating 20-35% native vegetation cover on Cerrado properties. The platform provides farmers with essential technical assistance, supporting and promoting sustainable soy production practices. The yearly goal of this project is to engage and provide technical assistance to 240 soy farmers, bringing a combined area of 400,000 hectares under sustainable production and Forest Code compliance in Mato Grasso, Maranhão, Bahia, and Tocantins. "The FFC strategy creates a positive ecosystem for companies and farmers acting in the soy production in the Cerrado. Through Produzindo Certo technology and technical assistance for sustainability, a tailor-made action plan for the farm is developed, considering critical aspects of the production, and linking the soy output with its sustainability KPIs." Charton Locks, Co-founder and Chief Operations Officer, Produzindo Certo.

4) Solidaridad is a civil society organization that brings together supply chain actors and engages them in innovative solutions to improve production, ensuring the transition to a sustainable and inclusive economy. The project aims to hold 18 training sessions on sustainable and integrated farming for 90 producers and 90 rural extensionists in three years. Furthermore, it intends to establish demonstration units in strategic municipalities in Tocantins and promote the recovery of degraded pastures.

5) Rede ILPF, a public-private association formed by agribusiness companies and EMBRAPA (The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), encourages agroforestry through integrated crop-livestock-forestry (ICLF) practices with the potential to optimize and diversify land use while increasing productivity. This partnership will provide integrated farming training to 40 producers, 20 rural extensionists, and 10 financial sector representatives per year. Furthermore, financial mechanisms to promote ICLF will be implemented in 10 farms in western Mato Grasso. 

The implementing partners will leverage their expertise in technology, business, agriculture, and stakeholder collaboration to support the employment of sustainable practices within soy production systems through a farmer-centric approach, fostering connectivity with other producers and crucial local stakeholders. This approach is designed to ensure farmers' sustained profit generation, supported by thorough monitoring and evaluation to facilitate scalability in similarly threatened regions. 

The FFC initiative directs its efforts to municipalities with the highest risk of deforestation and conversion, where supportive conditions exist. Addressing deforestation and conversion requires cross-sectoral collaboration, and acknowledging the complexity of the challenge. Accordingly, our partners strategically deploy regionally tailored solutions that effectively utilize resources, to optimize impacts on the ground. 

By prioritizing solutions to transition high-risk areas toward environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable production systems, the initiative is a key mechanism of the Agriculture Sector Roadmap to 1.5°C. Through the FFC, SCF members are delivering on their pledge to invest in initiatives that incentivize sustainable land use, support producers and transform commodity-producing landscapes into forest-positive areas. 

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