The soy bean has been used in the meat production for animal feed since the 1970ties due to its high protein content. The consequences of the expanding agricultural industry are severe for the environment and society. But there are other ways.
Organic soy cultivation by smallholders offers an alternative to the industrial agricultural production with its ecological and social consequences. The renunciation of synthetic fertilizers and harmful pesticides combined with farming methods as crop rotation spare the soils and rivers. Furthermore, ecological farming in Capanema is protecting the neighbouring biosphere reserve of Iguaçu where endangered animals such as the Jaguar are living.
‘Organic’ as an added value for smallholders
The organic farms of Capanema are certified according to EU organic standards. The farmer families thus receive a higher price for their harvest than for conventional goods. Organic soy cultivation is characterized by intensive manual work and is creating job opportunities and income in the preponderantly rural region. Well functioning small-scale farms signify healthy societal structures, less migration to big cities and the maintenance of an unique cultivated landscape.
The direct contact to these more than 300 farmers in Capanema is crucial for gebana Brazil’s work. Well-trained agricultural engineers visit the farmers regularly and train them in organic production. Gebana grants the organic families prefinancing, organizes the bio-certification and provides them with access to the domestic and export market. By these means the organic farmers are able to safeguard their income even on small plots (average land property 18 ha).
The producers and gebana are counting on long-term partnerships: Common solutions are being sought even in difficult periods as with the current Endosulfan problem in order to safeguard the livelihood of the farmer families near the Iguaçu falls in a long-term perspective.
Tofu instead of meat
Soy is the plant containing the highest protein production per cultivated field. It is due to this property that it has been used as fodder in animal feed since the 1970ties. But for the production of one animal calorie, five to thirty calories are being fed. Thus, from an ecological point of view it makes a lot more sense to directly consume the soy (for instance as tofu) instead of using it for animal feed and finally ingesting it through the meat.
Gebana Brazil has specialized in the production of high quality food soy. The key customers of organic soy from Capanema so far were mainly European clients. But they could not buy this last harvest because of the contamination with Endosulfan. Presently the establishment of a market for organic food can be observed in Brazil as well. This is a development that gebana welcomes.