Muda Cana: providing improved services to the sugarcane sector over six years 

Solidaridad celebrates six years of its award-winning Muda Cana, or Changing Cane, programme in Brazil. The joint initiative, launched in collaboration with Orplana, which represents cane producer associations, has developed and improved the numerous services that associations provide to Brazilian sugarcane producers.

Solidaridad publishes the results from its Muda Cana programme in Brazil.

In 2023, representatives from 15 producer associations from Orplana met to present the latest results from the project to commemorate the sixth year of the Muda Cana project. Though Muda Cana has faced a number of challenges, the successes are many: nearly three-quarters of the Brazilian member associations participate in the programme; over 9,000 producers have benefited; and Muda Cana received the Bonsucro Inspire Award in October 2022. 

Paths of Change

The visiting participants shared their stories of hard work and committed effort to provide technical assistance to Brazilian sugarcane producers. That accumulated experience from producer associations scattered  throughout the country has now been compiled into a new publication, Paths of Change: Lessons learned with the Muda Cana Programme.

Teams from Solidaridad and the Organization of Cane Producer Associations in Brazil (ORPLANA) commemorated the sixth anniversary of their collaboration on Muda Cana.

We had many lessons from things that went well and from things that didn’t work. This enriched the document with details that can be an inspiration for future projects, not only in the sugarcane chain.

Mariana Alves, Quality and Monitoring Coordinator from Solidaridad in Brazil

This comprehensive report tracks changes in the project as it was adapted to professionalization levels among the sugarcane associations providing technical assistance to their producing members. Luiza Magalhães, the Relationship Manager with Associations in Orplana says that,  “72% of our member associations participate in Muda Cana. Currently, 9,500 producers indirectly benefit from the project. We believe that we can connect more easily with producers by strengthening their associations.”

At its start, Muda Cana was designed to use digital solutions to support the adoption of good practices on sugarcane producing farms. However, in the process of implementing the project, the team soon came to understand  the systemic role that the associations play in Brazil’s sugarcane sector. Paula Freitas, Strategy and Value Chain Manager at Solidaridad in Brazil, says, “We departed from the assumption that digital solutions improve the effectiveness of technical assistance on agronomic aspects. While working with Orplana, we realized that the associations provided a much broader range of services, related to legal, labor, administrative matters, and representation. So, we redirected our support to consider all of those fronts as well.”

Moving forward with Muda Cana

As outlined in the report, to strengthen the producers’ associations, the partners restructured the programme to emphasize four pillars of action: attitude change, union and associativity, business development, and continuous learning. The programme went from being a simple pursuit of sustainability through digital innovation to holistic support for business viability that improved the effectiveness of the associations and increased producers’ management capacity. Alejandra Carvajal, Quality and Impact Manager for Solidaridad Latin America, says that, “…in the case of sugarcane or other productive chains, associations are usually the main source of comprehensive technical assistance for producers. However, management issues, or a lack of resources and staff can limit the service.”

The Technical Coordinator of the Ascana Association, Fabiano Baldacim, presented the successful results of their project to implement a mobile near-infrared (NIR) spectrometer to increase sample sizes and optimize analysis in real time.

Muda Cana gave us the opportunity to think in-depth about what producers need from their associations. Understanding how to develop associations was a huge gain.

Alejandra Carvajal, Quality and Impact Manager for Solidaridad Latin America

To evaluate the challenges, the potential, and unique needs of each association, Solidaridad collaborated with Orplana to build productive relationships with the associations. These relationships, built on trust, have led to well-documented successes, and the newly published study contains three case studies that summarize the associations’ accomplishments during their participation in the project.

According to Orplana’s Luiza Magalhães, the associations prioritized the development of a service portfolio to address the needs of their members and associates. The portfolio includes methods to measure customer satisfaction, assessments of sustainability, pathways to implement new technology, as well as indicators that reflect performance and communication levels. 

Edneia Cornaccini, AFCOP Association Manager, says, “During the implementation of Muda Cana I took on the manager position at AFCOP, and in 2022 we redefined our mission, vision and values, placing the associates at the center of all our decisions and the creation of products and solutions. This added value to the association.”

Daiane Bertholo, Administrative Supervisor and Quality Manager at the Assobari Association, remarks that, “Muda Cana marked a milestone for the association. We had the human resources, but we lacked the methodology to fit the talent of each person, their strengths and weaknesses into each segment. With Muda Cana, we not only managed to place the pieces of the puzzle together, but also to see it as a whole. We managed to work on our weaknesses and improve or expand our strong points.”

Representatives from the Assobari Association built productive partnerships through Muda Cana.

Giovana Barboza Zizas, Agriculture Coordinator at the APMP Bioenergia Association, says that, “Muda Cana gave us guidelines for some of the activities that we wanted to carry out in the association. It supported us to organize our actions and standardize some activities. In other words, it was a structure for all the work we have been developing up to now. We managed to optimize our work and field visits. This allowed us to save resources and redirect them to other activities.”

In December of 2022, at the end of the first phase of Muda Cana, the programme had directly strengthened 23 of Orplana’s member associations, which includes close to 4,000 producers and covers up to 85,000 hectares of sugarcane. Moving forward, Solidaridad intends to continue its’ award winning efforts to support sugarcane producers. Whether it’s engaging new stakeholders, or continuing its effective collaboration with Orplana and the sugarcane associations, the Muda Cana programme has become a powerful tool to provide technical assistance to farmers and producers throughout Brazil.

Download , Paths of Change: Lessons learned with the Muda Cana Programme here.