Wednesday, June 23, 2010
As excited a I was for my travels and my meetings, I am more so excited to return home to my family and to absorb all I have learned and experienced!
Thank you to everyone who has supported and helped me have this opportunity!
- the global agenda of sustainability
- importance of agribusiness research for Brazil as a society
- the change of the role of a agribusiness research center to focus on many areas
- the continued struggle of the small family farm to keep up technologically and economically
- global demands for research and innovation
It was a wonderful way to wrap up my travels!
SECTE has established international partnerships and agreements with Italy with energy and automotive, Germany with nanotechnology, France with environmental management, sustainable materials, dairy production, Portugal with recovery of degraded land, Australia with mining, water management, sustainability management and Chile with mining. This year they will host their annual innovation research event - Inovatec - which brings together innovation companies, R&D professionals, Universities, government, investors, venture capitalists and business to form business relationships. The theme of the 2010 Conference is Clean Energy and the World Cup 2014 (there are many business opportunities for companies in work to prepare and host the World Cup). The 2010 partnering country is the US. Visit http://www.simi.org.br/ ...they are excited for the opportunities and, if you know anyone interested, please let me know. I can get you in touch with Cynthia.
In speaking with the group, they shared with me information about four of the "poles" (centers) of excellence around coffee, dairy, cattle genetics and biotechnology. The other "poles" of excellence are: biofuels, biotechonology, environment/forestry, milk/dairy, mineral/metallurgy, electronics, telecom, hydric resources, software. They are doing extensive research to implement new technologies, research, opportunities, trainings for improve production and market opportunities.
Also attending our meetings was Fellow Josiano Gomes Chaves who through his work with the Government in the health care area works with SECTE. After our meeting, Josiano and I went to lunch to discuss our Fellowships and opportunities.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Don't worry...I went back to my hotel to put on my Brazil shirt for the game!!
At the market, we bought many things to bring home for my family to try, drank cold coconut milk and fresh pineapple. Today is GAME day...they cit is getting ready for the Brazilian futbol game at 3:30 so the streets are already coming to life with horns, everyone in green and yellow. Soon all the shops (including the mall) will close until after the game or tomorrow .... depending if they win or loose!
While were in the market, they also had a celebration for Festa Junina. Festa Junina (Junine Party), typically termed São João (Saint John's) as it is centered on that saint's day, is the name of annual Brazilian celebrations (historically related to the Midsummer and Saint John festivities in Europe) which take place in the beginning of the Brazilian winter. These festivities, which were introduced in the country by the Portuguese during the colonial period (1500-1822), are celebrated in the whole country, but are particularly associated with Northeastern Brazil. The feast is mainly celebrated on the eves of the Catholic solemnities of Saint Anthony, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint Peter.
As Northeastern Brazil is largely arid or semi-arid these popular festivals not only coincide with the end of the rainy seasons of most states in the northeast but they also provide the people with an opportunity to give thanks to Saint John for the rain. They also celebrate rural life and feature typical clothing, food, dance (particularly quadrilha, which is similar to square dancing). The "quadrilha" features couple formations around a mock wedding whose bride and groom are the central attraction of the dancing.
Men dress up as farm boys with large straw hats and women wear pigtails, freckles, painted gap teeth and red-checkered dresses, all in a loving tribute to the origins of Brazilian country music, and of themselves, some of whom are recent immigrants from the countryside to cities such as Olinda, Recife, Maceió and Salvador, and some of whom return to the rural areas during that season to visit family. However, nowadays, São João festivities are extremely popular in all urban areas and among all social classes.
If you are American, you have flash backs of square dancing in school!
After the market, we took a ride around town to Pope Park (overlooking the city) and through many neighborhoods. Of course, we did stop for cheese bread.
"Pão de queijo” is typical Brazilian (originated in Minas Gerais) and it’s a delicious snack, which can be found at every “lanchonete” in Brazil. They are gluten free and are eaten at EVERY meal and as a snack.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
I was invited to spend the afternoon with Myrthes, one of the program coordinators in Brazil, her husband, brother, his wife and friends. We had a wonderful day at their home in the mountains. It was breath taking. Her brother cooked a tradition stew of corn and ribs (on the outdoor stove), cod sausage and lamb. I felt like I was with my family .... who I am missing terribly!
Tomorrow is another World Cup game so we will do a bit of touring in the morning and then get ready for the game!
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Some sustainable agricultural programs and initiatives we discussed included:
- flexible fuels
- clean energy alternatives - half of Brazil's energy comes from sugar cane (burning the mass for energy purpose), biomass and hydraulic/electric
- integrated crop-livestock-forestry production system
- no tillage system to save fuel, prevent soil erosion, improve water retention, reduce carbon gases, long term productivity improvement
- two and three crop productions
- alternative chemical techniques
- adoption of micro basins as the basic planning units for rural areas
- new crop varieties
- buyers receiving tax exemptions if they purchase the crops of small farmers from poorer regions
- introduction of mechanized farming practices
- legal restrictions on land utilization - in the Amazon a farmer must keep 80% of his/her land in legal reserve and only farm 20%. If it has been previously cleared, he/she must replant. Other areas vary with reserves between 20-35%. Additionally, it is mandatory to preserve river banks, areas around lagoons, lakes, or water reservoirs and peaks.
These steps will continue to strengthen Brazil's agricultural potential. Again, many of their agricultural industries such as ethanol are young and have not come close to meeting their capacity. Brazil land resources, technology and investment capacity are rare and have tremendous potential with cautious advancement. The Ministry of Agriculture sites its top goal as protecting the environment.
Below is a bit of information on Brazil to help keep things in scale:
- area: 8,514,000 km2 (5th largest)
- population: 191.3 million (5th largest population)
- GDP: US $1.6 trillion (10th biggest economy)
- Per Capita income: US $8,ooo
- 2009 Exports: US $159 billion
- 2009 Imports: US $136 billion
- Agriculture and livestock areas make up approx. 30% of Brazil's territory mainly in the southern and central regions
Product /Export in US$ billions
Coffee/ 3.762 (major threat is Vietnam who is exporting Robusto coffee which is used for instant; Brazil exports this as well but Arabica is what we mainly import)
Orange Juice / 1.619
other top exports include tobacco, ethanol, chicken, corn
Our meeting started with a discussion I have heard many times since arriving in Brazil, the challenge of infrastructure and the limits and economic hardships it places on producers. Brazilian agricultural is growing rapidly with a 9% increase in Q1 of 2010 alone. Though this pace is not expected to continue, the transport problem will. It is estimate that approximately $1 billion USD is lost annually because of lack of transport or increased cost. The cost of transportation is estimated at 50% of value of the crop.
The Secretary felt the GDP investment should be around 4% to meet with the current needs. The other transportation challenge lies in the "Green Belt" an area comprised of the Southern Amazon, State, Federal and Indian Preservation lands that transportation cannot cross through and must travel around. Work is under way for a East to West rail (5-10 years); the current North to South rail is owned by a mining company and has limited use and expansion capabilities. Many farmers are excited about the completion of the BR163- a route that should greatly reduce costs. The current model for transportation is a multi transport approach - truck to barge to train; truck to train to truck...... The additional stress of this type of transport is the lack of cold storage. Therefore, many crops risk being destroyed. Transportation will be the main hindrance in the rate of agricultural growth.
Soy has experienced rapid growth with investment by large buyers - ABCD - Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Cargill, Dreyfus. With pressure from Greenpeace, Brazilian soy has implemented the Soja Plus program. The programme will add to a separate initiative in Brazil (Soy Morotorium) that prohibits the sale of soy produced on newly deforested land in the Amazon rainforest in the far north. Nearly all Brazil's soy is grown in the southern half of the country.
Soja Plus/Soy Plus
Soy farming has been indirectly blamed for deforestation by spreading over pasture land and pushing ranchers north into the Amazon region, but government figures show the planted area has been stable since around 2003.
As an additional incentive to growers considering switching to the costlier farming methods Soja Plus requires, banks keen to promote environmentally and socially sustainable business may consider offering cut-cost loans.
The entities that developed the label include Abiove, the soy and corn producers' association in the state of Mato Grosso and the industry-funded Ares Institute for Responsible Agribusiness.
The plan will also contribute to entities' strategic aim of avoiding loss of foreign custom were buyers to impose sustainability criteria of their own for Brazilian soy imports.
Antoher challenge facing agriculture is around certification. The biggest issue with the certification is that there are many that exist and there is not one clear standard making it especially hard for small farmers to comply and survive. The FAS would like to see one standard that can be agreed to.
In a country where 80% of the population lives in the coastal area and 5% of the population have 80% of the weather, reaching the rural areas is critical for social change. The Brazilian government has a program called Bolsa Familia.
Bolsa Família, roughly translated as "Family Stipend" or "Family Grant" is a part of the Brazilian governmental welfare program Fome Zero (Zero Hunger). Bolsa Família provides financial aid to poor and indigent Brazilian families on condition that their children attend school and are vaccinated. The program attempts to both reduce short-term poverty by direct cash transfers and fight long-term poverty by increasing human capital among the poor through conditional cash transfers. It appears to benefit the younger generation the most though supporting family members also improve their life quality.
The program is a centerpiece of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's social policy. Bolsa Familia is currently the largest conditional cash transfer program in the world, though the Mexican program Oportunidades was the first nation-wide program of this kind.
The Bolsa Familia program has been mentioned as one factor contributing to the reduction of poverty in Brazil, which fell 27.7% during Lula's first term in government.About 12 million Brazilian families receive funds from Bolsa Família.
Given all the activity and opportunity in Brazil, there is alot of foreign investment occurring especially given that foreign investors can be land owners without Brazilian partners. Many industries are still young - like ethanol. The presence of Brazilian agriculture is tremendous and will continue to grow but at what rate will depend on continued investment.
I got see the Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasilia. On 12th September 1958, the Cathedral’s cornerstone was laid. The Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasilia is an expression of the architect Oscar Niemeyer. In 1960, the Cathedral’s structure was finished, and only the 70 m diameter of the circular area and the 16 concrete columns were visible. These columns, having parabolic section and weighing 90 t, represent two hands moving upwards to heaven. The Cathedral was dedicated on the 31st May, 1970.
Evangelists sculptures Four bronze sculptures 3 m high, representing the Evangelists, can be seen at the external square in the entrance of the Temple. These sculptures were made with the help of the sculptor Dante Croce, in 1968.
Inside the nave, three sculptures of angels are suspended by steel cables. The smallest angel has 2,22 m of length and weighs 100 kg. The medium one has 3,40 m of length and weighs 200 kg. The big one has 4,25 m of length and 300 kg weighs. The sculptures were made by Alfredo Ceschiatti, with the help of Dante Croce, in 1970.
Having an oval form, the Baptistery has its walls covered by a panel of ceramic tiles painted in 1977 by Athos Bulcão. If you stand at the end of one wall, you can talk into the wall and hear it on the other! The local architecture is completed by a bell tower. Its four big bells were donated by Spain. (see pictures)
I also saw the Congress/Senate building, Presidential residence, and the JK Bridge.
The Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge, also known as the President JK Bridge or just the JK Bridge, is a steel and concrete bridge that crosses Lake Paranoá in Brasília. It links the southern part of the lake, and St. Sebastian Paranoá the Pilot Plan (or the central and original part of the city), through the Monumental Axis. Inaugurated in December 15 of 2002, the structure of the bridge has a total length of crossing of 1,200 metres, a width of 24 meters with two carriagewayswith three lanes in each direction, two walkways on the sides to use cyclists and pedestrian 1.5 meters width and length total span of 720 meters.
It is named for Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira, former president of Brazil, who in the late 1950s decided to build Brasília as the new capital of the country. It was designed by architect Alexandre Chan and structural engineer Mário Vila Verde.
The main span structure has four supporting pillars submerged under Lake Paranoá, and the deck weight is supported by three 200-foot-tall (61 m) asymmetrical steel arches that crisscross diagonally. The decks are suspended by steel cables alternating at each side of the deck, interlacing in some kind of twisted plane (parabolic like). The entire structure has a total length of 1,200m.
We discussed the history of the cooperative structure in Brazil. Cooperatives started 100 years ago in Brazil. In the 1930's, the government role with cooperatives was to inspect the principles of the structure. 1950-1960s, the government formed a bank to lend money to producers and help cooperatives. The mid-1960s-1988 the government increased its influence with cooperatives to move farmers forward. However in 1988, the new Constitution stopped the Government from intervening with cooperatives. The government no longer provided funding to cooperatives but provided (and still does) training and technical assistance (production methods, exporting information, research) to the cooperative members. In 1998, SESCOOP was formed. http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=pt&u=http://www.ocb.org.br/&ei=FqoaTMiIEMOAlAfB-cnLCg&sa=X&oi=translate&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBkQ7gEwAA&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dsescoop%2Bbrazil%26hl%3Den
SESCOOP is a private organization funded with some public monies (retirement fund monies) to help form cooperatives of small producers. Most of these cooperatives are found in the South of Brazil while the North, Northeast and the Amazon have the fewest number of cooperatives.
Today some new changes approved by Congress (Cooperativism Plan for Brazil) have allowed the Government a more active role with cooperatives. This plan looks at agricultural cooperatives and non - agricultural such as banking, housing, health care, and transportation.
In Agriculture, the Government would like to strengthen the cooperatives so that they can improve the trade and economic sustainability for their producers. A new National Program has experienced tremendous success with its two parts:
- Gender Cooperatives - initiating women to form cooperatives - currently women mainly work in the production work (cleaning, packing)
- Youth Cooperatives - bringing in a new farming generation
The approach of this program is customized to each region and its cultural and traditional differences. Between 2004-2009, the Gender Cooperative program has educated 26,000 women directly and 64,000 indirectly. This program has received international awareness for its great results and being the only cooperative program in the world to be dedicated to women cooperatives. The Ministry feels that bringing women into the cooperative model through education and decision making skills will help resolve some of the challenges of cooperatives. The main problem being the lack of control with ethics, financial participation and long term decision making.
The youth program has had such a large impact that they have privatized the program and have brought it into schools and offer a prize for students to form successful models sponsored by Banco Brazil.
The Ministry focuses on two important goals: social sustainability - creating jobs; and economic sustainability -helping create markets and profits. They shared the example of a Dutch cooperative operating in Brazil called Holambra, in flower production, that incentives the development of new cooperatives from generation to generation in a family. They help the next generation form their own cooperative and move into more rural areas where land is more readily available at a reasonable price. This type of development has led to improved infrastructure and an education system in these rural areas. As the government continues to struggle with education, the help these cooperatives provide is critical.
I will be interested to look at the long term success of the cooperatives in Brazil and what the government role will be.Holambra Cooperative - (as mentioned above) Holambra is a farming and stock-rearing co-operative whose land, with a total area of 15,000 hectares/37,500 acres, extends over the communes of Jaguariúna, Cosmópolis, Artur Nogueira and Santo Antìnio da Posse. It was founded by Dutch immigrants who settled in Brazil in 1948. Combining hundreds of production units under a single roof, the co-operative was able to grow into the largest exporter of plants in Brazil. It also rears sheep, cattle and pigs and grows citrus fruits and grain.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Brasilia is a planned city. Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, was inaugurated on April 22nd 1960, in the central area of the country. Just five years before, the area resembled a desert, with no people, scarce water, few animals and plants. The city was founded and executed in 3 years and 11 months!
President Juscelino Kubitschek, who became President in 1956, invited the best Brazilian architects to present projects for the new capital. Oscar Niemeyer, today one of the most famous world's architects, combined straight and rounded shapes to create innovative architectural masterpieces. Lucio Costa, reknowned Brazilian urbanist, devised a lay-out combining beauty, simplicity and functionality.
I have not seen much of the city as a I arrived later in the day but maybe between my meetings tomorrow I will see a bit more!
It is a beautiful area with many restaurants/street cafes, shops, markets and parks. It is a area safe to walk around. It has a wonderful beach front that is full every day of people walk, running, biking, people playing volley ball and soccer on the beach. Sometimes...they are even playing soccer over the volley ball net. Friends greet with two kisses, one on each cheek (as different than Uruguay with only the right cheek kiss).
People in Rio are referred to and call themselves Cariocas. Cariocas are known especially for their lighthearted attitude (Cariocas claim São Paulo is for work, while Rio is for play). They joke about everything, which can catch you off guard when some of the topics can seem a bit politically incorrect. Time is something they take lightly and don't worry about things...no worries.
I have truly enjoyed my time in Rio and feel very comfortable here. It is an amazing place and lifestyle by the water. I would say it is a not miss for travelers!
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I attended a home party with the step-mother a friend from the US. She graciously welcomed me into her home with her friends and family. When Brazil scored, the streets came alive - firecrackers, horns, cheers, etc. After the game, people remained to party but in a orderly fashion. They play again on Sunday where I will watch it with another friend in Belo Horizonte.
Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. To do that, Slow Food brings together pleasure and responsibility, and makes them inseparable. They have over 100,000 members in 132 countries.
Speaking with Margarida, I had a chance to share information about Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP). Please take a look at our site and if you are available, I recommend the Farm to Table Dinner on June 21st! :
We discovered we share similar challenges:
- distribution for small farmers
- ensuring the economic viability for the small farm through market development
- need to educate the general public on the importance of buying local as it pertains to social, economic and environmental factors
- how to get restaurants to partner with small producers or adopt a farm to buy their products
Margarida and I walked through their first organic outdoor market in the park in Ipanema. The government has not financially offered support for these organizations so they struggle to fund programs without private monies. She is holding children's cooking programs where children 7-11 visit a producer, take the food back and cook. They then have a cooking contest of "heritage" dishes. Margarida people are loosing their "voice/culture" when they loose traditional food and cooking techniques for ramen noodles! We tried wonderful artisan cheeses, spreads, fruits, breads....fantastic! Unfortunately, US customs will not allow me to return with them or any of the amazing fruits.
After, Margarida brought me to a hidden restaurant that serves only organic items. It was a delight to spend time with her and I could have spent all afternoon if we did not need to be going by 2 to make sure we could watch the game!