Amazon Agroforestry System and Market-Driven Adaptation

CAMTA (Cooperativa Agricola Mista de Tomé-Açu) is a Cooperative that has the key elements of the agricultural resilience: perseverance and adaptation capacity. Formed by Japanese immigrants that arrived in the Para State in 1929, the settlements were part of an agreement between Japan and the State Government to develop a remote area of Amazon. Nowadays CAMTA has approximately 172 members among small and medium-sized farmers.

The group is a reference when considering a Cooperative in Amazon region which has overcome different sorts of local challenges as tropical diseases, production shortfalls, commercial and logistics adversities besides the usual challenges of agriculture production of smallholder’s producers in Brazil.

The production’s challenges triggered the implementation of the agroforestry system by the Cooperative. CAMTA’s producers adapted the system to Amazonian biome and named it SAFTA (Agroforestry System of Tomé-Açu). Now, at production sites, through SAFTA’s high labor use, an increased rural employment per hectare is generated – in comparison to average employment for pasture land use. It also became a reference in integrated production and has been spread around other areas of Amazon as a social technology.

JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) supported the group establishment through technical assistance and grants of approximately USD 4.5 million during a period of 20 years. These resources aimed the investments in roads, electricity infrastructure and the Cooperative organization. An initial project supported the implementation of an agroindustry that is nowadays a profitable business which often receives reinvestments to operations expansion.

CAMTA has a diverse customer base due to their distinct product portfolio. In 2017, the total revenue of the Cooperative was USD 15.3 million, of which almost 57% is generated by the agroindustry. Pulps of pineapple, cashew, acaí, acerola, carambola, guava, graviola and passion fruit are mainly sold in the regional market. These sales accounted USD 5.2 million in the last year and total sales of fruit pulps in the entire Brazilian market of USD 8.2 million (2017).

The oil and butter processing plant applies a circular economy when handling passion fruit and cupuaçu seeds. These were initially residues of the agroindustry but are now sold to the Brazilian cosmetic industry. Further than these by-products of agroindustry production, the Cooperative also produces andiroba and Brazilian nuts oils.

The production and sales of dry products, such as black and white pepper and cocoa beans, are other relevant parts of the Cooperative’s business. These products are mainly exported to international markets, for example, Argentina, Europe, and the USA. The year 2018 has so far presented a promising increase in cocoa value, along with increased exports to Japan, which is consequently motivating producers to invest in this crop.

An unexplored potential exists in the forestry structures as carbon collectors. Although the mechanisms required to measure carbon fixation in agroforestry are onerous and not yet commonly valued by the market, results show that the forests are viable and relevant components to increase carbon stocks and hence contribute to CO2 sequestration. The potential for carbon collection is an opportunity for further positive impacts when considering environmental sustainability in the ‘social carbon’ context.

As increasing the availability of renewable energy sources in the area could help to mitigate the unstable electricity supply, the group will invest in solar and biomass power generation for producers and for the Cooperative.

Edimundo WatanabeToday we can’t talk about agroindustrial production in the Amazon without talking about sustainability. Therefore, there are several requirements we want to improve concerning water quality of the reprocess, decantantion tanks... We have the composting process but we want to integrated all the residues that cooperative produces in order to be more and more sustainable. We want to be reach the sustainability excellence. (Edimundo Watanabe, agroindustry director)
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