Santa Catarina State, Brazil
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Historical timeline and the main problems faced
Participatory project to involve local stakeholders and farmers
Current status of the area and the project
|Family of small farmers, descendants from Germans|
The region where they were settled which now is the Encostas da Serra Geral, is extremely rich in terms of biodiversity. It is located between the coastal mountains and the Brazilian Southern Plateau, with altitudes varying from 200 up to 1000 meters. The area was originally fully covered by the Atlantic Forest stricto sensus, considered one of the ten top world hotspots of biodiversity. Nowadays less than 13% of it is left and fragmentation is the highest threat to the maintenance of species diversity and ecosystem services provision.
After the first settlements, in 1850’s, agriculture became the main activity. Along the 1900 century these small farmers changed from completely peasants, selling only the exceeding production, to familiar agriculturists with a very tight relation to the market demand.
|The Atlantic Forest remnants and the topological conditions in the Encostas da Serra Geral|
The stimulation of all these agricultural activities, associated with investment of infra-structure in the region and the growing of market demand, resulted in the increase of environmental problems such as pollution of the rivers, air and below ground water, and caused the slowly loss of native forest to eucalyptus and other agricultural activities, besides generating many social problems.
Rural exodus and “masculinization” started to become a frequent problem for the communities in this region. With the proximity of the capital (around 150 km), the young people and women tend to leave the agricultural activities to the parents and move to the city in search of better work conditions and options. There is no research proven the relation of cancer increase in the region and the use of pesticides, but there are discussions going on taking this fact into consideration.
|Rivers with no permanent preservation areas, erosion and pollution by pesticides and animal waste||Loss of connectivity between fragments and desert pastures without trees|
|Pork intensive farms without appropriate manure treatment||Soil erosion due to overpasture and bad management of cattle|
In the end of 1990’s the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), through the Agrarian Science Center based in Florianópolis, started a small project with the participation of students from Agronomy course to tackle the increase of semi-confinement system and low productivity levels in the dairy production in the region. Professor Abdon Schmitt in partnership with other professors from UFSC and students brought to the Encostas da Serra Geral the “idea” of developing the management intensive grazing or the voisin system as an option to small farmers at the Encostas da Serra Geral.
The project started informally in 1998, with the support of some local stakeholders and the farmers interested on trying the experiment. The focus of the project was small farms (up to 20 hectares). The idea was very bad seen by most of the farmers as well as by the rural extension agency at that time. Nevertheless, it was accepted by some pioneer farmers in the region.
The process was completely participative. For each community, UFSC was presenting the idea and the ones willing to take part on the experiment should also do the investment on seeds, wire, posts, etc…all the materials required. Most of the farmers interested were badly judged in their own communities and normally they were trying one or two plots (paddocks) at a time.
|Student working with the improvement of pasture in the voisin paddocks||Group of students with farmers after implementing the paddocks of voisin|
Nowadays, many of the systems implemented maintained the original concept of the voisin system, but there is also part of the farmers which slowly started to use pesticides and different input to improve soil fertility. Such inputs compromise the ecological principles of the system and are now contributing to pollution of the water in the region. Besides that, the need of shade for the cattle in the paddocks became an increasing demand for the farmers, as the loss of milk production due to heat was clearly noticed by them.Since 2007, EPAGRI is fostering the implementation of alien species with rapid growing as an alternative for shading the pasture. Eucalyptus is the most common species adopted by the farmers at the Encostas da Serra Geral. It is an important source of coal and has a consolidated market in the region. Nevertheless, the use of this and different alien species have influenced the loss of ethno botanical knowledge from these farmers. The importance of the native species is slowly being loss.
|Early stage of a cluster with native species in a voisin paddock (8 açaí palms + 4 different native species)||Eucalyptus shading in advanced stage – after 5 to 7 years the trees are cut|
Civi.net and the project Biodiversity Rich Silvopastoralism are the main activities going on in the region trying to understand economic and ecological problems faced, as well as fostering the discussion of new strategies for rural development in the area. Different problems can arise during our field research activities and many changes are expected, as our understanding of such problems and of the needs of these communities.