Brazil’s agricultural sector has grown significantly over the last few decades, including growth of more than 25 % from 2007 to 2012. Much of that agricultural growth has taken place in the Cerrado biome, the savanna-forest mosaic located in central Brazil, south and east of the Amazon region, covering almost one-quarter of the country. Estimates indicate that accumulated deforestation in the Cerrado is proportionally more severe than in the Amazon. During the 2002–2008 period, Amazon deforestation represented 3.2 % of the biome’s area (18,954 square kilometers per year), with 82 % of the original forested area remaining, while over the same period the Cerrado lost 4.1 % of its cover (14,200 km2/yr), leaving native vegetation on only 52 % of the area (around 1 million km2). The Cerrado region still possesses very large areas with agricultural and forestry potential, so agricultural activity is expected to continue to increase. The main challenge for Brazil’s agriculture sector, therefore, will be to promote adoption of agricultural technologies that reduce GHG emissions without compromising productivity and profitability and maintain low rates of deforestation across the country.
The Sustainable Production in Areas Previously Converted to Agricultural Use Project was designed to support the National Low-Carbon-Emission Agricultural Plan (Plano de Agricultura de Baixa Emissão de Carbono, Plano ABC). This provides a subsidized credit line for rural producers to convert traditional agricultural practices to low-carbon technologies, including recovery of degraded pasture land; crop, livestock, and forestry integrated systems; no-tillage farming systems; biological nitrogen fixation; cultivated commercial forests; and treatment of animal waste. Initially, ABC-related lending was at a low level, mainly due to lack of information and technical assistance for producers. The Sustainable Production in Areas Previously Converted to Agricultural Use Project served as a pilot for using training and technical assistance to promote adoption of low-carbon technologies. The project found that, aside from the environmental benefits of adopting low-carbon agriculture technologies, the rural producers realized that adopting these practices led to positive economic outcomes. The economic approach was key for the project’s implementation, as it fostered producer engagement and a higher rate of adoption of low-carbon agriculture practices. In addition, the economic returns of technology adoption are essential to support continuity of low-carbon agriculture practices after project closure.