To support conservation and sustainable management of babassu palm tree plantations and recover damaged areas using agroforestry systems in three municipalities in the Amazon biome, in the state of Maranhão
Populations from settlements, quilombos, traditional communities and family farmers
Municipalities of Lago do Junco, Lago da Pedra and Bacabal in the Médio Mearim region, in the state of Maranhão
Project selected in the first Amazon Fund’s direct public call-to-submission of sustainable productive projects
Babassu is a palm tree with oilseeds, from which is extracted an oil used for cooking, for medicinal purposes and as a raw material for the production of soap and coal, among other products. Its main area of occurrence in Brazil is the state of Maranhão, although some other states in the Brazilian Amazon also produce it. The extraction of this product in the state of Maranhão represented about 93% of the volume extracted throughout the country in 2018.¹
The areas occupied by babassu farms in the state of Maranhão are in the process of transitioning to large monocultures or livestock farms. The activity of those who live from the extraction of babassu contributes to the conservation of babassu farms and the local environment, in addition to generating income for the region’s population.
The Association in Settlement Areas in the State of Maranhão (Assema) was formed in 1989, and is run by babassu palm farmers, who are part of and represent associations of female babassu farmers, quilombola communities, settlement associations, production and marketing cooperatives, rural unions, youth associations, and informal productive groups.
Assema operates in 19 municipalities in the state of Maranhão, of which 16 are in Médio Mearim, two in the Cocais Territory (Peritoró and Alto Alegre), and one in Vale do Mearim (Bacabal), comprising a universe of 300 communities, of which 180 are connected to community organizations associated with Assema.
¹ The production (extraction) of babassu nuts in Brazil in 2018 was 50,798 tons, valued at R$ 92 million. Source: IBGE, available at: https://sidra.ibge.gov.br/tabela/289#resultado
Selected within the scope of the public call for support for sustainable productive projects of the Amazon Fund, launched in 2012, the APL Babaçu project aimed at improving the way of extracting babassu oil, its processing and marketing, in addition to promoting the conservation of the local environment by implementing management plans and integrating other production systems in the areas occupied by babassu farms, in order to generate income for the population of the municipalities of Lago do Junco, Lago da Pedra and Bacabal, located in the Amazon biome, in the state of Maranhão.
The project is part of the “sustainable production” component (1) of the Amazon Fund’s Logical Framework. The direct effects expected were defined as follows: (1.1) “development of economic activities for the sustainable use of the forest and biodiversity in the Médio Mearim region”; (1.2) “increase in the added value of chains of agroforestry and biodiversity products in the Médio Mearim region”; (1.3) “expansion of administrative and technical capacities for the development of good practices in the management of non-timber forest products and associations, and implementation of SAFs and cooperatives in the Médio Mearim region”; and (1.4) “recovery of deforested and degraded areas so they can be used for economic and ecological conservation purposes in the Médio Mearim region”.
The project aimed to strengthen the value chain of babassu in the state of Maranhão by promoting the productive inclusion of family farmers, as well as those living in quilombos and other traditional communities, encouraging productive models that contribute to its conservation. It also promoted the recovery of deforested areas through SAFs, contributing to the expansion of the area with native vegetation cover in the Amazon and creating an alternative income for farmers by integrating the simultaneous cultivation of agricultural crops and forest species.
|Date of approval||09.02.2014|
|Date of contract||10.29.2014|
|Date of conclusion||07.21.2020||Disbursement period||60 months (from the date the contract was signed)|
|4º disbursements||06.26.2020||-R$267.95||Total amount disbursed||R$4,897,085.37|
Total amount disbursed in relation to the Amazon Fund’s support
Assema coordinated the integrated arrangement of six subprojects of partner organizations. The activities performed aimed at developing economic activities for the sustainable use of the forest and biodiversity, recovering degraded areas (through the implementation of SAFs), and expanding the administrative and technical capacities of the project’s beneficiaries.
The forest inventory was carried out in 50 areas of occurrence of babassu palms, distributed in 44 villages in the municipality of Lago do Junco. Georeferenced maps were produced, and a Sustainable Forest Management Plan was prepared, covering an area of 10,000 hectares.
The project offered technical forestry guidance to family production units and three agricultural family schools (EFA),¹ having supported the implementation of 210 hectares of SAFs for the management and sustainable use of babassu.
Pedagogical practices were carried out in the EFAs, accompanied by the structuring of productive sectors such as fish farming, with recovery of tanks for the creation of fish to be used in school meals; horticulture, with implementation of greenhouses for the production of vegetables for commercialization and consumption; and fruit growing, with the structuring of fruit pulp processing houses and nurseries for the production of seedlings to supply the demand of schools, families, and the market.
The structuring of the fish farming, horticulture and fruit growing sectors (including the renovation and modernization of three fruit processing units) required several different investments, from improvements in the water distribution system to the purchase of equipment, e.g, fruit pulper, tow-behind carts, motorcycles and freezers.
In the scope of babassu byproduct processing enterprises, the babassu soap plant of the Association of Female Babassu Farmers of Lago do Junco and Lago dos Rodrigues (AMTR) underwent civil, electrical and hydraulic renovations.
The investment in this plant also included the purchase of equipment, machines, materials and supplies for the production of soaps, including a new packaging system for finished products and the installation of a new soap production system, with significant impacts on productivity and working conditions.
As for the management, production control and safety objectives, a quality management plan, a guidance manual on good production practices, an occupational safety plan and an environmental risk prevention program were developed.
To expand the production of babassu oil, a laboratory for the chemical analysis of the oil produced was installed in the Cooperative of Small Babassu Farmers of Lado do Junco and Lago dos Rodrigues (COPPALJ), with the purchase of various equipment (colorimeter, centrifuge, greenhouse, distiller, etc.), which has been in operation since 2018, allowing the identification of necessary improvements in the production process.
Investments to improve and expand COPPALJ’s babassu oil production included the renovation of the raw oil production system, with the purchase of a new press with pressing capacity of 200 kg of nuts per hour, increasing the extraction capacity by 70%.
The training processes for young people and the project’s technical staff included courses on good hygiene and food handling practices, training in mitigation of fire risks and control of forest and domestic fires, and an exchange of experiences consolidated in the SAFs with other regions.
The project’s beneficiaries participated in agroecology meetings aimed at identifying, discussing and reflecting on the main advances of the agroecological movement, as well as in exchanges between the communities covered by the project, wherein a group of beneficiaries would share experiences with another. These exchanges also included visits to exemplary experiences of sustainable production in neighboring municipalities.
In order to encourage the use of all parts of babassu fruits, three new food products were developed within the project: dry noodles and instant porridge mix made from the mesocarp, and lactose-free babassu biscuits. A visual identity was also developed for the products sold, with the printing of the brand “babaçu livre” (free babassu) on their labels and packaging.
¹ Agricultural family schools (EFA) are managed by community organizations that adopt their own pedagogy, adapted to their public and the rural universe.
RESULT AND IMPACT INDICATORS
The activities of the project contributed to the results related to the component “sustainable production” (1) of the Amazon Fund’s Logical Framework.
Direct effect 1.1: Development of economic activities for the sustainable use of the forest and biodiversity in the Médio Mearim region
The main indicators used to monitor this objective were:
- Area of forest directly managed as a result of the project – hectares (outcome indicator)
Goal: 13,000 | Result achieved: 10,054
- Revenue from the production of nuts of the project’s beneficiaries (outcome indicator)
Goal: undefined | Result achieved: R$ 900,000.00
Although the goal of 13,000 hectares was not fully achieved, the area of directly managed babassu farms was expanded from 6,000 to 10,000 hectares. The annual revenue from the commercialization of babassu nuts obtained by the producers slightly increased from R$ 824,000 (2015) to R$ 900,000 (2019). It should be noted that in 2016 and 2017, the revenue from the commercialization of raw nuts fell due to the reduction in the price of babassu oil. Nevertheless, it can be said that both the objective of expanding the conservation of babassu farms and generating income for the beneficiaries of the project were achieved.
Direct effect 1.2: Increase in the added value of chains of agroforestry and biodiversity products in the Médio Mearim region
The main indicators used to monitor this objective were:
- Revenue from the sale of “Babaçu Livre” soaps (outcome indicator)
Goal: R$ 160,000.00 | Result achieved: R$ 56,000.00
The annual revenue from the sale of soaps increased from R$ 27,000 (2015) to R$ 56,000 (2019), and production increased from 24,000 to 33,000 units. Although the annual revenue achieved almost tripled in relation to the baseline, this result was well below what was planned. It is believed that the partial achievement of the expected result was due to the fact that the investments in the soap production plant took place in the final phase of the project’s implementation, with no time for maturing.
- Revenue from the sale of babassu oil (outcome indicator)
Goal: undefined | Result achieved: R$ 3.9 million
The annual revenue from the sale of babassu oil increased from R$ 1.9 million (2015) to R$ 3.9 million (2019), which shows a clear rise in the annual revenue. With the support of the project, the revenue from babassu oil increased by R$ 2.7 million in the period from 2016 to 2019. This increment is calculated by comparing the annual revenue in a given year with the baseline, being added over the years of the project’s execution and, after consolidated, it represents the increase in revenue generated by the production chain supported.
- Number of individuals who directly benefited from the activities supported by the project (output indicator)
Goal: 1,337 | Result achieved: 1,200
The public directly involved in the sustainable productive activities supported by the project was expanded from 460 (baseline) to 1,200 individuals.
Direct effect 1.3: Expansion of administrative and technical capacities for the development of good practices in the management of non-timber forest products and associations, and implementation of SAFs and cooperatives in the Médio Mearim region
The main indicators used to monitor this objective were:
- Number of young people effectively using knowledge acquired at the EFAs (outcome indicator)
Goal: 50 | Result achieved: 45
- Number of community organizations strengthened (outcome indicator)
Goal: 6 | Result achieved: 6
The project also provided technical assistance and rural or agroforestry extension to approximately 470 sustainable production units, including the more than 70 families who directly benefited from the implementation of SAFs and the approximately 400 families covered by the Sustainable Forest Management Plan developed within the scope of the project.
Direct effect 1.4: Recovery of deforested and degraded areas so they can be used for economic and ecological conservation purposes in the Médio Mearim region
The indicators used to monitor this objective were:
- Area of SAFs implemented (output indicator)
Goal: 280 hectares | Result achieved: 210 hectares
The project allowed the implementation of 120 hectares of family SAFs and 90 hectares of integrated systems in the EFAs supported. Finally, the behavior of the deforestation rate in the municipalities of the state of Maranhão that benefited from the project’s actions was monitored. According to data from INPE, the forest area of the municipalities of Lago da Pedra and Lago do Junco had already been 100% deforested prior to the project’s implementation. In the case of the municipality of Bacabal, no new deforestation occurred during the period covered by the project¹.
Institutional and administrative aspects
Assema coordinated the integrated arrangement of subprojects of six partner organizations, involving traditional communities and babassu farmers. Three of them are associations focused on income-generating activities (a women’s association, a cooperative and an association of settled residents), and the other three are EFAs.
The partner organizations were as follows:
- Association of Female Babassu Farmers of Lago do Junco and Lago dos Rodrigues – AMTR;
- Cooperative of Small Babassu Farmers of Lago do Junco – COPPALJ;
- Association Vencer Juntos com Economia Solidária – AVESOL;
- Association of the Agricultural Family School of Lago do Junco – AEFALJ (EFA São Manoel);
- Association of the Family Center for Alternating High School and Vocational Education (Acemep), and
- Association of the Agricultural Family School of Lago da Pedra – Aefalpars (EFA Agostinho Romão da Silva).
Risks and lessons learned
The community agreements of coexistence with babassu involved all of the project’s beneficiary organizations, making them protagonists of the initiative to strengthen family agriculture through the good management of babassu palm, combined with other productive arrangements that contribute to the local economy.
The project involved the beneficiary public at different stages of its implementation. The beneficiaries participated, for example, in the discussions to establish the density of palm trees in areas of pasture and traditional plantations, the practice of extracting leaves, and the management of areas with larger palm trees, resulting in the collective agreement on practices and guidelines for the good management and conservation of babassu, combined with other productive arrangements. The knowledge that has been generated, systematized, and shared through these guidelines may be of use to other stakeholders.
Sustainability of results
It can be said that the project has developed favorably. In terms of results, all the products and services planned were implemented, and all their objectives were achieved.
These results tend to be sustained over time, as the SAFs consolidate themselves as an income option for these populations and the processing of these products continues (production of babassu soap, raw and refined babassu oil, etc.) In fact, it is expected that production will grow in the coming years, since the investments made have improved its quality and expanded the installed capacity.
Finally, the results achieved by the various training programs carried out within the scope of the project have expanded the knowledge of the benefited public on the implementation of SAFs and associations and management of units for the processing of agroecology products, as well as other technical topics. These programs tend to have lasting and extended effects, considering that three of the partner organizations are EFAs.
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