A Farmers’ Union that represents more than 1000 producers in the Western State of Bahia, in Brazil, signed a partnership with Solidaridad and IDH (the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative) to promote the RTRS certification among their members.
The project is called “Selo de Sustentabilidade RTRS para o Oeste da Bahia” (or “RTRS Sustainability Seal for Western Bahia”), and aims to promote RTRS certification in a region where soybean production occupies 1.3 million hectares.
The project is funded by resources of Soy Fast-Track Fund (SFTF), financed by IDH and managed by Solidaridad. Farmers will receive incentives to comply with RTRS standards, ensuring the preservation of areas of high conservation value and promoting best management practices, fair working conditions and respect to land claims.
Field visit by delegates
In March, IDH Programme Director, Jan Nicolai, visited the region to monitor the process of responsible agricultural expansion. He visited farms that grow soybean, cotton and corn, like Fazenda Bananal. Ruud Tijssens, Director of Agrifirm, a major farm cooperative in the Netherland, joined the group. Together they visited farms that are in the process of certification and areas where soybean expansion is taking place.
A meeting with the presence of the Dutch delegation, traders, directors, farmers and journalists was held at the Farmers’ Union office. After the presentations, the Brazilians and Dutch delegation exchanged experiences and discussed about the public image of farmers.
At the end of the discussions there was consensus that farmers in Brazil and in the Netherlands have been struggling to inform the general public about the importance of agriculture and its sustainability.
Opportunities for farmers through certification
The Farmers’ Union in Bahia believes that the RTRS Standard for Western Bahia brings the opportunity to differentiate their production in the marketplace. Other benefits are access to new markets; influencing the value chain in the search for sustainable sources, being shielded against litigation, greater transparency in management, and greater bargaining power with easy access to data and increasing in the value of your farm.
In the next three years, the goal is to reach 80 000 hectares of certified soy in western Bahia. As a transformation facilitator, Solidaridad reaches out to farmers and helps them towards RTRS certification.
Compliance to RTRS in the frontier area of the Cerrado brings concrete benefits such as:
- The RTRS standard which gives guidance and training to implement agricultural best practices;
- Being certified, which provides access to premium markets with the RTRS brand;
- Assist farmers to become compliant to the Brazilian law, and being a pro-active player in the sustainable management of high biodiversity frontier;
- Provide RTRS certification which gives access to preferential finance entities or banks;
- RTRS also gives access to support funds in order to catapult the transition process towards RTRS certification; and
- An RTRS farmer has access to (modest) market premiums.
Demographics of large soybean area production
The Western region of Bahia is situated on the western side of the São Francisco river and consists of 39 municipalities totaling an area of 6 million hectares, of which 4 million hectares is suitable for rain-fed and irrigated agriculture.
In general, land use can be divided into two distinct regions: the “Valley”, characterized by clay soils and undulating topography with an altitude of 500-600 meters, and the “Cerrado Highlands”, which is flat and consists of more sandy soils and an altitude of approximately 800 meters.
The “Valley” region has more livestock and family-based agriculture, while the Cerrado Highlands are suitable for modern commercial agriculture on a large-scale using the latest technologies to produce soybeans, corn, cotton, beans coffee, tropical fruits and vegetables.
With a well-defined rainy and dry season, the region has a subtropical savanna climate with rains starting in October and ending in April. This allows a producer to select the growing season to optimize results. The region is particularly favorable for the production of cotton, coffee and grain crops.
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