New partnership aids Brazilian soy farmers as they foster biodiversity

Solidaridad and BASF have teamed up on a co-creation project that promotes sustainable farming practices on soybean farms in Brazil. The project will explore how eco-friendly agricultural practices can benefit biodiversity and pollinators with a long-term goal of rewarding farmers for delivering nature-positive projects.

BASF and Solidaridad have teamed up to understand the possible positive impacts of sustainable farming activities on biodiversity, environmental conservation, and the potential for the coexistence of agriculture and pollinators. The partnership project, which began in January 2024, is being conducted within a network of small to mid-sized soybean farmers in Brazil, and is set to run for a year.

Soy production plays a crucial role in the global food and feed industry. However, its expansion has raised concerns about the loss of biodiversity in regions of Brazil, the world’s largest producer of soybeans. Recognizing the importance of sustainability, the partners hope to address these challenges and drive positive change. 

“What is new about this project is the multi-stakeholder co-creation approach. We want to jointly develop metrics and practices to favor the creation of a biodiverse environment that are accepted and achievable by all stakeholders — farmers, NGOs, the industry and other experts,” said Sergi Vizoso-Sansano, Senior Vice President BASF Agricultural Solutions Latin America.

The project will be supported by two organizations: GeoApis, an apiary  consultancy that will monitor managed bees and facilitate communication between farmers and beekeepers, and Wheatley Young Partners, to assess the feasibility of a nature-market in Brazil where farmers are paid to deliver and maintain environmental service projects on their land.  The number of farms, metrics to be collected, and activities carried out will be jointly defined in the course of the project. 

“We are very excited about this partnership, as the basis of our work is to support farmers to produce better and reduce the environmental impact of food production”, said Rodrigo Castro, Country Manager of Solidaridad in Brazil. 

“We will support small and medium-sized soybean farmers with technical assistance to enhance productive resilience and sustainability of the farms. Adjustments to activities carried out on the property, as well as new practices will be promoted to create a favorable context for biodiversity and production.”

A particular focus of the project will be on pollinator insects, like bees. Although most soybean varieties are bred to be self-pollinating, studies have shown that pollinating insects can have a positive impact on soybean production. Pollination or cross-pollination can increase yields up to 12 percent by improving the seed set, or the number of seeds a plant produces per soybean pod.

“There can be downsides to food production when there is a lack of certainty, value, awareness, and access to the most sustainable practices,” Vizoso-Sansano adds. “In a world where preserving biodiversity is critical for our future, we need to create solutions that integrate enhanced biodiversity on farms with productive agriculture. We are excited about the potential for nature-markets to incentivize farmers to improve their sustainable practices.”

Based on insights gained from the field, the partners will develop and test the feasibility of a nature-market in Brazil. The long-term goal is to create an ecosystem in which farmers are incentivized to deliver nature-positive projects alongside existing agricultural practices. For example, companies could meet their environmental goals by purchasing nature-positive credits through a market that pays farmers to deliver and maintain environmental projects and practices on their land.