Family farming

According to the legislation (Act No. 11.326, July 24, 2006), a family farmer is the rural family entrepreneur who practices activities in rural areas and:

  • Does not hold, in any way, an area greater than four (4) fiscal modules;
  • Uses, predominantly, the labor force of their own family in the economic activities of their establishment or enterprise;
  • Has their family income result mostly from economic activities linked to the establishment or enterprise;
  • Manages their establishment or enterprise with their family.

In Brazil, 4,367,902 family establishments, or 84.4% of all rural establishments, occupy 24.3% of the total area of rural establishments, or 80.25 million hectares, distributed in grasslands (45%), forests (28%) and crops (22%).

The family farming produces 87% of the national manioc production, 70& of beans, 46% of corn, 38% of coffee beans, 34% of rice and 21% of maize, plus 58% of the milk production, 59% of hogs, 50% of hen and 30% of the cattle (Agricultural Census, IBGE 2006).

Production model and deforestation

In recent decades, the historical process of occupation in the region influenced by the Transamazonian Highway (BR-230) has been responsible for the significant loss of large areas of forests and their capacity to provide multiple environmental services. The high rates of deforestation to establish productive activities based mainly on extensive cattle raising and cut-and-burn agriculture have contributed little to improve the local population’s life quality. Because there are no opportunities to enable a new productive model for the region with the purpose of increasing productivity and profitability, this scenario is characterized by the constant need to open new forest areas to grow pastures and annual crops. After 5 to 8 years, they are abandoned, and fire comes in as the primary management tool.

The Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) has been working in partnership with Fundação Viver, Produzir e Preservar (FVPP), and rural leaders in the Transamazonian region since 2001 to support efforts that promote an effective change in the rural development model in the region. They share technical knowledge to design and implement projects focused on reducing deforestation in the region, adopting sustainable production alternatives and improving socio-environmental quality.

IPAM’s contributed mainly to prepare the proposal known as “ProAmbiente” (Pro-Environment) and to its subsequent adoption as public policy of the federal government in 2004. This proposal resulted from a demand from social movements regarding the use of property integrated management and compensation for environmental services provided to strengthen family agriculture in the region. Despite all the accumulation in recent years under the ProAmbiente Program, it has never been put into operation nor consolidated, for a variety of reasons. These reasons include lack of a legal framework that would allow for paying producers for providing environmental services, lack of continuous technical assistance and the program not being a priority on the federal government’s planning anymore.

From then on, IPAM partnered with FVPP and, with the support of the Netherlands Embassy, performed a study in the region between 2007 and 2008 to understand the potential the producers registered with ProAmbiente to reduce emissions caused by deforestation and fires in their properties.

Since IPAM believes in valuing this sector, it has been working with family farmers in the Amazon area, specifically in the Xingu and Transamazonian areas of influence.     

In 2012, IPAM launched the Amazon Sustainable Settlements Project (PAS –Projeto Assentamentos Sustentáveis na Amazônia, in Portuguese), with the support of the Amazon Fund and the FVPP, proposing and implementing a model that associates increased income for family farmers and reduced deforestation levels in land reform.

After five years, the project has achieved a 79% decrease in deforestation in the covered lots, and gross income of 68% for the families.


Content by Simone Mazer

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