Mata Viva: a BASF initiative spreads the benefits of sustainable farming in Brazil
This summer, members of the Brazilian farming cooperative Cooperativa dos Agricultores da Região de Orlândia (CAROL) and employees of BASF in Brazil have planted seedlings of a hundred species of native trees, giving a fallow tract of cleared land back to nature. The reforestation effort – called “Mata Viva” – is a concrete effort of an expanding land use and reclamation initiative launched by BASF’s Crop Protection division and co-financed by Germany’s development financing arm DEG. For the CAROL cooperative, the newly seeded forest marks the successful completion of workshops and training on sustainable farming practices. Two other cooperatives have also reached Mata Viva’s implementation phase and many others are on their way.
The Mata Viva idea was born 24 years ago when BASF began restoring the land around its main South American chemical complex at Guaratinguetá. Considered a biodiversity hot spot, this Atlantic Forest region along the Paraíba do Sul River inspired the company to forge ahead with more ambitious environmental goals by promoting sustainable practices in local farming. Combining theory with practice, the Mata Viva outreach program established by BASF Crop Protection is convincing agribusiness as well as growers that sustainable farming is not only possible but efficient.
Participants learn to assess the degradation of their own lands and how they can prevent further damage of this resource. In Guaratinguetá, more than 128 hectares of native forest have already been restored. BASF Crop Protection farming customers have already signed up to recover another 350 hectares in the next two years. Altogether that will make an area the size of 478 soccer fields dedicated to the preservation of native species.
Mata Viva has included an environmental adequacy program since 2007. Selected customers, technicians and agribusiness professionals are trained to assess the environmental impact of farming. Guided by Brazilian environmental regulations, Mata Viva instructs these professionals in identifying and mapping degraded areas. They also learn how to restore this land and upgrade farming methods with solutions that demonstrate how environmental sustainability is good for business.
The extension of the Mata Viva reforestation program to Brazilian growers is being carried out by Espaço ECO Foundation, which was set up by BASF with the support of the German development agency GTZ. Espaço ECO Foundation seeks to promote sustainable development by transferring knowledge and technology in the areas of ecological efficiency, environmental education and reforestation. Espaço ECO Foundation works in many Latin American countries.
“We are contributing to the success of our clients, the company and society,” says Walter Dissinger, vice president for crop protection in Latin America. “A sustainable and healthful production process that has minor environmental impact is just vital. Whether the product’s final destination is local or a foreign market, sustainability is a condition that determines the success of agro producers.”
The success of Mata Viva takes financing. BASF alone is committed to spend about €600,000 (R$1.5 million) on the program in the 2007-08 business year. DEG - Deutsche Investitions - und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH, one of Europe’s largest development finance institutions, will also contribute €120,000. “DEG supports the BASF initiative as part of the Public-Private Partnership-Programme of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development,” says Marco Christ, DEG’s investment manager. “Mata Viva became a very interesting project because it aims at assisting agricultural cooperatives spread over four Brazilian states.” From São Paulo and Paraná, Mata Viva will expand reforestation and reclamation to states with even greater degradation and tougher conditions, Christ said.
Mata Viva’s results radiate multiple benefits for Brazilian society. The recovery of degraded land restores biodiversity, helps sequester carbon dioxide and makes local farm products more marketable abroad. As farmers raise their sales, rural poverty declines and new jobs open in the fields of environmental sustainability and responsible farming practices. Mata Viva makes a tangible contribution to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
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