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Rural Development Program
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The principle of sustainable development is to meet the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. This principle guides the actions of Cultivating Good Water's Sustainable Rural Development program.

Its target is on the nearly 26,000 small family farms in the Paraná River Basin, which represent about 90% of the total number of farmers in the area. After decades absorbing industrial technologies through the process of modernization, the production of these small family farms is organized into capital-intensive single crops that use a large amount of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Such production systems result in low sustainability and high potential for environmental degradation (soil erosion, contamination of springs, low biological diversity), besides great risks to public health.

As a consequence of this model we have production systems that generate a small number of jobs, lack food safety, are unable to conserve natural resources, and erode ancestral and folk knowledge and wisdom.

That is why the Sustainable Rural Development program is based on participatory methods and offers small family farmers a host of options to develop the entire chain of production. The program provides them with support for their production process, encourages the handmade transformation of products, helps them organize their sales, and also fosters rural tourism.

The strategy was guided by the search for a sustainable matrix and the understanding that this matrix can be built on the current production systems. The following actions, therefore, have been taken: Crop Diversification, Organic Agriculture, Rural Technical Assistance and Extension Network, Family Agriculture, and Rural Tourism.

Main themes were structured to connect the actions proposed in the work strategy in order to make sure the program could fully develop its activities. These themes are as follows:

Research and development. Its purpose is to identify problems in production systems. Research organizations and other partners look for solutions to the problems within the context of the program.

Organization and training. This theme is directly related to the success of small family agriculture considering that it depends on organization, cooperation and outreaching activities. It encourages families to join efforts in order to develop countless actions. Training farmers by relaying to them the information generated by research work is extremely important for the maintenance of the production system in addition to technological innovation and learning how to manage farms.

Sales and marketing is the theme that encourages farmers to develop a closer relationship with their customers. The idea is to offer cheaper and healthier foods, and having customers appreciate the work done by farmers. Strengthening fairs and stores carrying small family agriculture products is an important action. Giving products the proper appearance and characterizing them as deriving from family agriculture is highly valuable to encourage consumption as well as to provide end-customers with guaranteed quality.

Qualification and certification. Its purpose is to make small family agriculture products competitive. First, the entire chain of production is qualified. Next, or at the same time, organic products are certified to allow farmers to reach more demanding markets.

Value Adding. By processing and/or refining agricultural products, farmers are able to store products for longer periods of time and get a higher margin than the one they would have if they sold unprocessed products.

Rural technical assistance and extension. This theme permeates every action and all the other themes. Therefore, it is the "glue" that holds the program's actions together – training, research, organization, sales – which are performed with support from technical advisors.

People benefited

• 1,400 small organic farmers or those converting to organic agriculture served directly
• 7,000 small farmers served indirectly, especially via the dissemination of technologies and activities to diversify their production systems
• 534 families granted land by the agrarian reform
• 5,000 students served in training activities and events dedicated to the sustainable development of small family agriculture
• 41,000 consumers benefited by organic fairs, stores, green products and meals (lunch, breakfast and snacks)
• 15,000 people going on the scheduled hikes amidst nature

Actions and Results

Activities are proposed and introduced with Crop Diversification actions such as fruit growing, milk production in pastures, agroforestry systems, production of honey and other bee products, palm cabbage production and also organic cotton, among others.

Excellent results have been obtained through research, development and technical support regarding production alternatives on small farms, which have expanded income generation opportunities and improved sustainability conditions.

With respect to fruit growing, a technology showcase has been set up at the Advanced Research Center in the city of Santa Helena. The fruit grown are pineapples, avocados, mango, bananas, grapes, macadamia nuts, citrus fruit, guava, and wild crapemyrtle (acerola). Farmers and students have also been trained to work in this field. In the Paraná River Basin, nine Test and Validation Units (UTVs) have been set up for pineapples and three for grapes, one in the city of Diamante do Oeste and two in Guaíra. There is also an organic grape production observation unit in the city of Missal. Another two UTVs for passion fruit and one for bananas have been implemented.

Technology showcases dealing with agroforestry systems have also been set up in the cities of Santa Helena and São Miguel do Iguaçu, besides three production units in the cities of Entre Rios do Oeste, Guaíra, and São Miguel do Iguaçu.

This action has also benefited countless families via training, quality analysis, and technical assistance for the production of milk in pastures and honey.

Organic Agriculture encourages BP3 farmers to convert their properties into agroecology-based organic production without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers so as to prevent river contamination and offer healthy, quality products to the population. It also structures organic product sales in the area.

The program's efforts and its ability to round up partner institutions to get the activities off the ground have made it possible to bring together about 1,400 organic farmers or those converting to organic agriculture in the area. That means a reasonable number of farmers interested in changing their conventional production model based on the excessive use of chemical inputs.

Partners have helped boost the sales of small family agriculture products, leading to the creation of three fairs and five permanent points of sale in BP3 cities. Fairs such as the one called Organic Life take place on a regular basis. People also get information about the Green Products project and the countless organic meals provided by family farmer associations from the basin area.

The purpose of the Rural Technical Assistance and Extension Network is to provide farmers with technical and methodological training and consolidate an assistance network to disseminate sustainable and agroecology practices. This network is the perfect place for building a common identity, a common language, and a technical-political-ideological discourse that defines the actions of each member.

For activities to take root and to make the area a sustainability benchmark in small family agriculture, local farmers and beekeepers have been provided with technical assistance from Itaipu Binacional partner institutions. Rural extension is being reinforced as extension agents are trained. These agents are the farmers themselves, who are instructed on how to perform organizational, leadership, association, and knowledge sharing activities that benefit their associations and members in an effort to consolidate family agriculture within the sustainable production framework.

The Family Agriculture branch carries out activities on agrarian reform settlements and countryside towns encouraging them to refine and process their agricultural products by setting up agro industries.

In order to add value to small family agriculture products, 19 agro industries have already been implemented or are under implementation in the BP3. They make various products such as jam, sweets, preserves, pasta and bread, brown sugar, molasses, and others.

Local settlements have received technical assistance and incentives for their development. They have been given equipment and machinery to be used with animal traction, as well as with draft animals.

Providing farmers with knowledge has been one of the commitments of this action. Hence, several activities helping structure and strengthen the Agrarian Reform Research Institute (ITEPA) have been carried out such as the implementation of agroecology teaching units and lodgings to house 64 students.

Rural Tourism, furthermore, encourages farmers to go beyond conventional farming and ranching activities and explore their land's physical endowments and cultural aspects to increase their income. In an effort to qualify rural tourism in the area, experiences are being exchanged especially between Paraná and Tuscany, Italy. Additionally, tours and hikes amidst nature are being set up.

By boosting tourism, the program seeks alternatives to turn the countryside into a tourist and ecological destination. The work includes training local agents and farmers, creating tours, and engaging local communities in activities such as green hikes. Since 2003, 30 ecological hikes were held in BP3 cities.

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