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Results Briefs October 27, 2020

Promoting Agricultural Productivity through Climate Smart Practices in Brazil


Pastureland with and without the adoption of low-carbon emission practices. (Pasture recovery). Photo: World Bank

Photo: World Bank

Brazil disseminated low-carbon-emission agricultural practices throughout the Cerrado biome (Brazilian savannah), restoring more than 93,000 hectares of pastureland and strengthening the capacity of 9,227 small and medium rural producers and technicians, of whom 2,057 were women. The project had an indirect positive impact on over 378,000 hectares of land.


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.


Producers and technicians were trained


The ABC Cerrado Project, which was designed to promote the adoption of sustainable low-carbon- emissions agricultural technologies by mid-sized producers in the Cerrado region, delivered several significant outcomes between 2012 and 2019:

  • The agricultural area using the technologies recommended by the ABC Plan increased 16 % in relation to the total productive area of the participating producers.
  •  Beneficiaries received 184,628 hours of technical assistance.
  •  A total of 9,227 producers and technicians were trained, of whom 2,057 were women.
  • Sustainable land management practices were adopted for 378,513 hectares of land area.
  • Improved agriculture technology promoted by the project was adopted by 2,931 clients.
  • Technological Reference Units (early-adopter farms of low-carbon technologies) attracted 8,644 visitors.

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank, through the Forest Investment Program (FIP), provided a grant of US$10.62 million to the National Rural Learning Service (Serviço Nacional de Aprendizagem Rural, SENAR). The Bank also helped SENAR introduce a very detailed monitoring and evaluation system and a rigorous process for evaluating the impacts of the training and technical assistance provided.


A strong partnership among key development partners in Brazil’s agriculture sector facilitated the project. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply led the coordination of investments and analytical work. SENAR executed the project very effectively, using its long-established capillarity throughout the Brazilian rural ecosystem. In addition, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária, EMBRAPA) supported the project by providing scientific inputs and validation to the selected low-carbon technologies disseminated by the project.


Training to field technicians, who serve as multiplier agents, on low-carbon emission practices, Brazil. Photo: World Bank


Mr. Wender Borgers, a field technician, presented the results obtained from the Buritizinho farm, which adopted integrated crop-livestock (ICL) practices. Aside from producing feed for the farm’s livestock during the dry season, the ICL system recuperated the farm’s previously degraded pastureland. During the results presentation, managerial data were analyzed using economic and zootechnical indexes. According to Mr. Wender Borges, all planting activities used soil and water conservation measures, such as contour engineering. These practices had an average cost per hectare of R$3,248 (from planting until harvesting and silage), an average production of 42.85 tons per hectare, and an average cost per ton produced of R$75.79. “More than a low-cost agricultural production, the recuperated pastureland remained as profit.”

Farm owner Valdir Ferreira de Aquino highlighted how the project changed his perspective and practices in managing his farm. “Before, I used to think that agricultural producing was just about planting and harvesting. Today, I know that I have to correct the soil, do contour engineering, use quality seeds, [and] make a production cash-flow spreadsheet. In fact, I realize now that, before the project, I did not actually know my farm and was working without the proper tools. I did not even know that pasture was a crop nor how much I was spending and earning. Today, I know that the farm is like a private company, and it has to be profitable.”

Moving Forward

Based on the project’s results and, primarily, the impact evaluation methodology outcomes, other Bank-financed projects are being designed and implemented to scale up similar initiatives. One example is the Rural Landscape Project, also financed by the FIP, that builds on the experience of the ABC Cerrado Project. The Rural Landscape Project aims to address rural producers’ compliance with the Brazilian Forest Legislation and to foster forest restoration and conservation on private rural properties with connecting elements at the landscape level. Finally, project outputs will be used to support further development of Brazil’s Federal Low-Carbon Agriculture Policy.