South America: New developments on training and certifying soy family farmers

Since 2009, Solidaridad South America has been working with more than 800 soy family farmers in South Brazil by supporting them to improve their economic, social and environmental performance as well as by stimulating these smallholders to pursue Roundtable for responsible soy (RTRS) certification.

Our local partners “gebanaBrasil” and producer cooperative COOPAFI started the project with training for the farmers on how to reduce the negative effects of soy cultivation. A Swiss Company, Gebana has the mission of developing sustainable and marketable organic products. In Brazil, Gebana works together with COOPAFI and small scale farmers in the municipality of Capanema in the south-west of Brazil, not far from the world-famous waterfalls of Iguaçu. In this area, many farmers have started to refrain from chemical pesticides and fertilisers since the 1980s.

The project with Gebana has leveraged several activities to create more responsible production and implemented of appropriate internal systems. In 2011, the project was selected by the International Finance Cooperation under their Biodiversity and Agricultural Commodities Programme (BACP) and received a new injection of funds to further their work. This includes improving the sustainability of soybeans in the region and preserving the biodiversity in the farms and around them. 

Solidaridad’s toolset for producers of agricultural commodities 

Another important activity in this project is the development of a toolset for producers of agricultural commodities. Solidaridad has been working with this new tool since 2010 and one of the pilots was realized with the soy smallholders in Capanema. Another pilot is with sugarcane producers of varying land sizes in the state of São Paulo.

The toolset consists of a self-assessment guide on the basis of continual improvement and uses as benchmarks the Brazilian federal legislation and the applicable roundtable certification standard (RTRS for soy and Bonsucro for sugarcane). Gebana and COOPAFI, after a testing phase in 2011, applied the self-assessment guide to 378 producers this year.

The application has provided a wealth of information which is now actively used by producers, their associations and local policy makers. Since it is the first time the toolset has been applied on such a scale, it also became evident that there are some shortcomings in the process.

Self-assessment guide

Please find below an overview of the idea and some links to useful related documents which are part of the learning process. It is our goal that an improved Version 1.1 of the self- assessment guide will become public in the second half of 2013.

For more information please contact:

The project searched also answers for the following questions:

  • How do small farmers master the sustainability challenge?

Read on our extensive training programmes here.

  • How do you plant organic soy without tilling the soil?

See our groundbreaking answer here.

  • Which soy system is right for you?

We have scientifically studied how organic farming and other systems of production compare