The practice presents the actions developed by the Laboratório de Mecanização Agrícola (Agricultural Mechanization Laboratory) of the State University of Ponta Grossa (Lama/UEPG) with the objective of strengthening the sustainable chain of organic products of the Central-Eastern region of Paraná based on the fair trade approach. To integrate farmers, consumers groups and introduce the concepts/practices of fair trade, the Lama/UEPG conducted a series of activities of Technical Assistance and Rural Extension (ATER), specially on environmental adequacy, agroecological processes and consumers awareness.    

Among the results achieved by the project, the following stand out: the formation of 7 fair trade groups with a total of 25 producers and more than 200 consumers; organic certification of rural producers; introduction of new and healthy food practices through the diversity of consumption of fruits and vegetables contained in the bags (9 to 12 varieties); reduction in the use of plastic bags by consumers; and training and awareness of people about the agroecological and organic production system, as well as the fair food commercialization. 

 

A - General information 

START: 2014 (in progress)

EXECUTING ENTITY: Agricultural Mechanization Laboratory of the State University of Ponta Grossa (Lama/UEPG)

PARTNERS: Petrobras, through the Petrobras Socio-environmental Program and the Departament of Science, Technology and Higher Education of the State of Paraná - Seti/Paraná.

SUBMITTED BY: Pedro Henrique Weirich Neto, Carlos Hugo Rocha, Manuel Hugo Frank Delafoulhouze, Alice Karine Vriesman,  Nátali Maidl de Souza, Ivan Cesar Furmann Moura , Guilherme Pedrollo Mazer

RESOURCES: Third parties

VALUE RANGEUS$5,000 to US$10,000.

CATEGORY: Project.

MAIN THEME AREA: Socio-Productive Inclusion.

KEYWORDS: Agroecology, Sustainable Rural Development, Organic Farming, Certification, Family Farmers, Family Farming, Commercialization, Organic Products.

TARGET AUDIENCE: Family-based farmers and urban consumers of organic products.

GEOGRAPHICAL SCOPE: Regional. 

MICRO-REGION MUNICIPALITIES: São Mateus do Sul, Ortigueira, Reserva, Imbaú and Ponta Grossa. 

SPECIFIC AREA OF IMPLEMENTATION: There are seven (7) fair trade groups in progress in the state of Paraná: one (1) in the municipality of São Mateus do Sul; one (1) in the municipality of Ortigueira; one (1) in the municipality of Reserva; one (1) in the municipality of Imbaú; and three (3) in the municipality of Ponta Grossa.

  

B - Description of the practice

 

1- BACKGROUND

From the 1960s the process of "modernization" of agricultural activities – called the Green Revolution – arrived in Brazil, which is basically a technological package (genetically enhanced crops, productive potential linked to the use of synthetic fertilizers, agrochemicals and moto-mechanization, etc.), with the promise of high yields, but with a high investment cost. The impacts of this production system in developing countries were the marginalization of family farming and the worsening of social inequality resulting in rural exodus.

In the Central-Eastern region of Paraná it was no different; producers with small areas, with low investment power, being massively subjected to economically unsustainable technologies. The basis of these systems is the production of commodities or integration (pure and simple sale of workforce). In this sense, tobacco, milk, broilers and pigs are classic examples of integration, all based on the use of a large package of inputs external to the property, one of the premises of a non-sustainable process.

Farmers looking for other production models, such as organic or agroecological farming, face several difficulties, among them: high cost of organic certification; access to system appropriate technologies; logistics to make food available to the consumer market; dependence and low values paid by the middleman. Small-scale production and the absence of a collective organization tends to discourage the promotion of a sustainable agricultural system. By identifying these bottlenecks in the production chain, the Lama/UEPG developed ATER actions, focusing on organic certification, ecological management of pastures, recovery and use of creole seeds and family agroindustries.

   

2- GENERAL OBJECTIVE

Strengthening the sustainable chain of organic products of the Central-Eastern Paraná by means of the fair trade approach.

Specific objectives:

  • Organizing family-based producers for direct commercialization of organic products;

  • Organizing consumer groups to participate in the system of direct commercialization of organic products;

  • Training producers on organic certification and production techniques in organic and agroecological agriculture;

  • Raising consumers’ awareness on the seasonality and use of vegetables that are part of the basket of organic products. 

 

3 - SOLUTION ADOPTED

Family farming is responsible for the production of 70% of the food consumed in Brazil. It has been consolidating itself as the main producer of foods which are healthy, free from pesticides and environment, farmer and consumer friendly. This initiative develops Technical Assistance and Rural Extension actions aimed at the production, certification and commercialization of organic products with family farmers and urban consumer groups. The methodology for the actions implementation seeks the training of farmers and consumers interested in the regular trade of organic products directly from the field to the table.

The first step for the development of a fair trade network between farmers and consumers is to guarantee the origin of the produced food. At this stage, the Lama's team of technicians guides producers in the certification of their properties. The certification process occurs through the adequacy of production and property to a set of state and national standards. In Paraná, the state government issued a program in 2009 that created state universities nuclei aimed at certifying organic crops without financial burden for family-based farmers. In compliance with these standards, the Laboratório de Mecanização Agrícola (Agricultural Mechanization Laboratory) of the State University of Ponta Grossa, the Lama/UEPG, develops studies and new programs for the follow up and certification of organic producers. All producers that took part in the project are certified or about to be.

With the availability of a differentiated production, counting on quality products, a new challenge arises: the commercialization. After meetings with the farmers, they decided to sell the products directly to the final consumers. The identification and organization of the consumer group is an important step of the process. In the first fair trade group, an attempt was made to optimize the fair of the Lama/UEPG-assisted producers, who were converting into organic production, and which was carried out within a company. Contact with the company's nutritionist was held to call a meeting with possible consumers interested in receiving products directly from regional farmers.

Once the consumers' interest was confirmed, meetings were held between the team of "social middlemen" (Lama/UEPG's technicians) and the consumers. In the first meeting, some concepts and meanings lost in time were clarified. What are quality foods? What are organic foods? Family farming? Rural work? Agricultural seasonality? Production time? Possibility of availability of fresh products on the shelves throughout the year? The necessary adaptations to the environment for this production? And the logistics issues.

The series of meetings with the different groups worked as a way of raising their awareness on the situation of Brazilian family farming and creating conditions for the dialogue between the farmer and the consumer.

The following stage was to bring both groups together in order to discuss terms of production purchase commitment, with product selection adjustments, delivery dates, quantities, prices, payment methods, among other details considered in the buying and selling process. In this process, stands out the acceptance of consumers in paying in advance. Such aspect allows the farmer to manage the property in order to avoid waste and to use the available resources efficiently. During the meetings it was also stipulated that the products would be delivered weekly. The value of the basket ranges from R$15.00 to R$25.00 per bag with 9 to 12 products and approximate weight between 7 and 9 kg. The products quantity and variety are very similar, so the price differential has no market logic; basically it is the "valuation" established by the perceptions of consumers and producers, and not a price, that oscillates according to "market's mood".

To avoid that consumer are surprised by the varieties in the bags, a work is conducted aiming at raising the consumer's awareness of the seasonality of production and adverse climatic phenomena that influence the organization of production. The diversity of food preferences and the bag variety with unknown or non-matching products were addressed by means of recipes exchanges in order to find new preparations for food consumption and use. It is common to find in the bags unplanned and/or unknown products, such as seasonings, medicinal herbs, flowers, native fruits, small seedlings, among others. They vary according to the creativity of producers or as a result of informal conversations between producers and consumers at the time of the products delivery.
  

 4 - RESULTS ACHIEVED

Among the results achieved by the development of the organic food production chain in the Central-Eastern region of the State of Paraná, the following stand out:

  • Establishment of seven (7) fair trade groups totaling 25 rural producers and more than 200 consumers involved;
  • Organic certification of rural producers. Currently there are 392 certified producers; this number varies depending on producers entering and leaving the group;
  • Improvements in the production planning and property organization, a result achieved with the technical assistance of the Lama and the consumers advanced payment;
  • Training and awareness of people about the agroecological and organic production system, as well as fair food commercialization;
  • Introduction of new and healthy food practices. The diversity of consumption of fruits and vegetables contained in the bags (9 to 12 varieties) provides a more balanced diet, rich in nutrients and minerals. The recipes sharing among the members of the group made it easier to incorporate new foods in the consumers diet;
  • Reduction of logistics expenses. Each group organizes the food delivery process;
    Reduced use of plastic bags. In one of the groups – which has been running for 18 months–, considering an economy of four plastic bags per project bag, with an average of 35 consumers per week, more than 10,000 plastic bags have been saved in the period (supermarket standard);
  • Lectures, mini-courses, workshops and follow up for organic certification, reaching over 1000 producers; 

 

5 - REQUIRED RESOURCES

Human Resources: Social middlemen" technicians, certified farmers for the organic production and consumers groups.

Material resources: Durable market bags for the products delivery. The bags used by the groups are made of recycled canvas (plastic used for banners much used in marketing campaigns), made by associations of seamstresses at a cost of R$7.00. Generally two bags are planned per consumer.
Vehicle for food delivery. The number of vehicles vary according to the arrangement between farmers and consumers; inputs availability on the part of the farmers

 

6 - PRACTICE TRANSFER

The essential factor for the replication of the project is to have knowledge of a group of producers with regular and quality production. Generally, ATER agencies, organizations working with ATER calls, city governments, rural workers associations and unions can start planning such actions with farmers. Once the farmers understand the practice, the second step would be the discussion with some group of interested consumers, generally facilitated by the employment bond. Groups must be small – around 30 consumers – and nothing prevents an initiative from having more than one group in the same place. It is believed that with small groups the construction of the dialogue and the consequent commercialization process is facilitated.

The Lama has several ATER projects and is frequently requested for lectures and mini-courses about its actions. In the years 2015 and 2016, more than 15 Rural Youth Meetings were held, with discussions on succession in family farming. In these events ATER actions developed by the laboratory were discussed and workshops on fair trade took place. Around 100 young delegates, representing 40 rural schools, participated in each meeting, totaling approximately 2000 rural youths reached by the event.

O Lama possui vários projetos de ATER, sendo frequentemente solicitado para palestras, minicursos a respeito de suas ações. Nos anos de 2015 e 2016 foram realizados mais de 15 Encontros de Jovens Rurais com discussão sobre a sucessão na agricultura de base familiar. Nestes eventos foram discutidas ações de ATER desenvolvidas pelo laboratório, entre elas foram realizadas oficinas sobre comércio justo. Em cada encontro estiveram presentes em torno de 100 jovens delegados, representantes de 40 escolas rurais, totalizando aproximadamente 2000 jovens rurais atingidos.

 

7 - LESSONS LEARNED

During the groups implementations it can be observed that usually the consumers undertake the process, once the farmer is culturally shyer. This situation can lead to future problems, since most consumers are now part of the process because they have knowledge about organic products, that is, they are "conscious" consumers. The inclusion of new consumers should be managed in order to avoid the wear down among members or that they insist on discussions already reviewed by the group.

The project is recognized as a good practice once it gathers the two most affected groups when it comes to the process of food production and consumption. Rural producers and consumers must discuss common interests aiming at a real balance in the market logics. Paying and being paid a fair price for the food motivates both farmers and consumer to maintain cooperation and respect relationships.

The main hindrance in the development of the project is technical action. The social middlemen must really know the practice and be commitment to it; perhaps a more ideological commitment to family farming than to the technique itself. During the performance of the project, it was also clear the need for the producer to be trained and oriented about the organization and planning of the production of quality food (including post-harvest). The lack of technical and organizational knowledge about the organic production system is another hindrance to be taken into account. It is necessary to approach the research carried out in the technical institutions to the family producer.

  

8 - ORIGINALITY OF THE PRACTICE

The general principles of this system are known. Many universities and international institutes study and conduct similar systems, although most of the cases are large-scale practices, between cooperatives, involving large retailers, countries, etc. The originality of the practice lies in having – as its basic element – the social and environmental aspects of the relationships concerning production as a motivation for economic development. 

 

 

 

 

Visits can be carried out at any time. However, date availability must be checked in advance. The visits can have two moments: discussion and access to documents and reports from the executing agency, and at the moment o the listing of the products deliveries. The number of visitors should not exceed ten for the visits successful performance.   

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