The role of agroforestry in restoring Brazil’s Atlantic Forest: opportunities and challenges for smallholder farmers

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Yara Shennan-Farpón, Morena Mills, Katherine Homewood

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Restoring the degraded Atlantic Forest biome is one of the biggest conservation challenges in Brazil. Across the tropics, agroforestry is emerging as a forest restoration approach which can provide benefits to smallholder farmers and biodiversity, but its potential to support rural livelihoods remains largely unexplored in Brazil. Smallholder farms are essential to national food security, producing the majority of fruit and vegetables consumed in Brazil, and can provide important stepping stones for biodiversity. To better understand their role in Atlantic Forest restoration, this study explores the use of agroforestry by smallholder farmers from the Movimento Sem Terra (MST), the Rural Landless Workers Movement, in the Pontal do Paranapanema region. We combine quantitative and qualitative methods to understand the mechanisms which aid agroforestry implementation, the barriers, and the impact of agroforestry on indicators of well-being, food security and ecosystem services. We compare indicators between MST farmers using agroforestry and conventional farming, and find eight out of 18 tested variables are significantly higher on agroforestry farms. We show attitudes to agroforestry are varied, but common themes emerge including mitigating climate change impacts on agriculture and the difficulties in selling agroforestry produce. Our results show that MST farmers face multiple barriers to implementing agroforestry practices, such as lack of policy support, lack of community organizations, and initial investment costs, missing out on potential benefits. Smallholder farmers should be fully integrated into the Atlantic Forest restoration agenda to help reach biome restoration targets while supporting rural livelihoods and national food security.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program