With Brazil emerging as the top exporter of agricultural products, its agricultural practices have come under scrutiny. Critics of Brazilian agriculture seem to ignore the reality on ground.

Woken by wide-spread criticism of its Amazon forests, the Latin American nation has involved environmental non-governmental organisations to set things right. Brazil has come up with various “carrots and sticks” to force its growers an environment-friendly policy.

According to some environmentalists, the problems with Brazil are illegal logging and cattle ranching.

These two activities have caused more harm to the forest cover rather than any crop such as soyabean or sugarcane.

A positive outcome of the concerns raised over the destruction of Amazon is the creation of Rural Environment Registry or CAR.

compliance

According to the US-based NGO, The Nature Conservancy that has been working Brazil for the last three decades projects, projects launched in Mata Grosso and Para States by it in 2010 are becoming a model for compliance with environmental legislation on farms and ranches.

In Mato Grosso, for example, the Greener Soyabeans projected launched by the Conservancy allows farmers who had illegally cleared forests till 2007 to regularise their property without being penalised.

In turn, they have to help in restoring the environment and promote sustainable development.

Under CAR, the landscape in a particular region is mapped by satellite and mapped.

conservation of water

Areas for farming and protection are clearly identified and steps are taken to ensure the ecologically sensitive areas, especially along waterways, are preserved.

According to Ms Giovana Baggio de Bruns of The Nature Conservancy in Brazil, one of the most important projects launched in Brazil is the one to conserve water. The project envisages conservation of water by villages for cities.

Farmers are encouraged to save water or conserve it by various means such as watershed programmes.

For this, an agreement is signed between the concerned farmers group and municipalities. Agreements differ from group to group and municipalities.

Under the agreement, the municipalities pay a fixed amount to farmers for conserving water. Farmers in turn use technology and scientific methods to tap water.

This also ensures that no pollution takes place, prevents soil erosion and preserves the aquatic population. One of the cities that has benefitted from this is Rio de Janerio metropolitan region.

In fact, this has led to paying farmers for conserving forests and protecting waters sources. In 2010, 18 environmental agreements were signed for the Guandu Projects and 20,000 Brazilian real were made available to farmers.

Payment for environmental services is a simple concept but making it work is a legal and administrative challenge.

But is an experiment that is worth trying in developing countries such as India, particularly when there is so much stress on water supply.

mrsubramani@thehindu.co.in

Responses are invited from readers. They may be sent to agribiz@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 1, 2012)
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