Behind the popularity of the organic produce available in Latin American supermarkets, there is an army of farmers who struggle for acknowledgment: there are nearly 10,200 organic farmers in Brazil and 319,500 throughout the region, numbers that are increasing every year.
Their first challenge is to make the transition from traditional to organic agriculture following the “do or die” philosophy. Many farmers (and their families) were sickened by the pesticides used in the fields. They also believed those chemicals affected water and soil quality.
"The soil is dead in many farmlands of Rio de Janeiro, especially due to the widespread use of herbicides,” said agro-ecology expert Eiser Felippe, a consultant for the Rio Rural program, a partnership between the World Bank and the Rio de Janeiro State government.
The problem goes beyond Rio de Janeiro and farmers – it affects consumers as well. Alarmingly, Brazil has been the world leader in total pesticide use since 2008. Every person in the country consumes the equivalent of five kilos of poison every year. In Latin America, pesticide sales doubled in 12 years, according to a study by Science Magazine.
Switching to organic production benefits health and the environment, but also requires considerable resources and technical assistance: farmers have to learn about new ways to fertilize land, combat pests and plagues and adapt to the new responses of the soil. Some of these farmers recount their experiences in the video above.