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Managing landscapes for Climate-Smart Agriculture systems


Financial sustainability for environmental services in Brazil

The Rio Rural Programme, which has been implemented by the State Secretariat of Agriculture and Livestock of Rio de Janeiro, with funding from GEF (2006-2011) and the World Bank (2010-2018), federal and state programmes and the private sector, promotes sustainable development in rural areas of the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro. The objective of the programme is to empower family farmers, raise their awareness about environmental issues and promote their social inclusion and integration into broader food systems. In this way, farming families can act as equal partners in the sustainable management of natural resources and engage in environmentally friendly agricultural production. Since 2006, the Programme has reached 59 municipalities and 270 micro-watersheds, delivering benefits to 37 000 families – approximately 30 percent of the rural population of Rio de Janeiro. The Programme, which is scaling up its activities to reach 366 micro-watersheds in 72 municipalities, is extending the delivery of benefits, introducing an approach focused on the sustainable management of landscapes, and increasing the competitiveness of small-scale family farms so that they have better access to markets (Rio Rural, 2016). The Programme will benefit 48 000 farmers, of which 16 000 will benefit from direct financial incentives and technical assistance to improve productivity. In return, farmers agree to implement conservation and restoration activities in parts of their land. These activities contribute sustaining the Atlantic Forest biome, protecting its biodiversity and augmenting its capacity to store carbon. Improved practices on dairy farms, which are also supported through the Programme, also reduce greenhouse gases from dairy production. In this manner, farm production is sustainably increased, the farming household's the adaptive capacity is improved and emissions are reduced or removed.

The Programme develops micro-watershed plans that integrate individual farm plans and community projects (Figure 1). These plans take into account assessments of the drivers of watershed degradation, the best practices required to counter this degradation, and long-term rural development community goals. The Rio Rural Programme's climate change approach is aligned with other actions supported by the federal and state governments. This multilevel institutional coordination is in line with Brazilian national policy on climate change that assumes that a systemic approach to climate change must include initiatives that simultaneously combine social, environmental and economic aspects. This approach encourages farmers to improve productivity and income, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reverse pasture and forest degradation. This virtuous cycle also ensures that farmers will be able to cope better with the longer and more frequent drought periods that have been affecting Rio de Janeiro State.

Figure 1. Flow of the micro-watershed methodological approach

  • Motivation phase: (i) presentation of the project; (ii) mapping of watersheds; (iii) the selection process of watersheds; (iv) community engagement. 
  • Planning phase: (i) preparation of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA); (ii) development of Executive Micro-watershed Plan (EMP) (PRA and establish EMP counterparts); (iii) identify beneficiaries; (iv) development of the Individual Development Farm Plan (IDP). 
  • Implementation phase: (i) preparation of executive sub-projects; (ii) and their implementation. 
  • Monitoring phase: (I) complete monitoring system; (ii) participatory monitoring

The micro-watershed plans are used as fundraising tools, which support farmers and communities in gaining access to a variety of public programmes that support conservation and development goals. Farmers may obtain a number of benefits including fencing materials and seedlings for the conservation of hilltop forests; support for the rehabilitation of vegetation around springs and along riparian areas; technical services to improve animal and plant breeds; and rural credit to upgrade storage and processing facilities.  

The Rio Rural Programme is an umbrella programme, which combines a variety of public and private investments that promote more efficient sustainable development. Public programmes supporting this approach range from those that reward conservation to those that support production and upgrading of activities to reduce environmental impacts and increase rural income. Examples include the Ecological Sales Tax, which provides tax relief to municipalities that increase their private or public protected areas, and the Water Producer Programme, which finances, through water-user fees, activities that recharge the water table and reduce pollution (e.g. bio-digesters for rural sanitation). The Brazilian Low-Carbon Agriculture Programme, offers subsidized loans for producers who want to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by adopting new cleaner technologies or rehabilitating degraded pasture and forest lands. The Brazilian National Agro-ecology and Organic Farming Programme to Strengthen Family Farming also provides agricultural credit to support the transition to agro-ecological and organic production, and the development of forest plantations and agroforestry systems. Farmers who adopt best practices can also receive support to upgrade their quality and health and safety procedures to access the public procurement programmes, such as the Food Acquisition Programme. The National Programme for School Feeding also supports small-scale farmers to create cooperatives to supply schools with local organic and agro-ecological products. Private investors, like Petrobras, the Acu Port Complex and FURNAS (a regional power utility) also contribute to various project activities. This approach encourages farmers to improve productivity and income, reduce GHG emissions and reverse pasture and forest degradation. This virtuous cycle also ensures that farmers will be able to cope better with the longer and more frequent drought periods that have been affecting this area of the Rio de Janeiro State.