Smart tech for smarter farming
Deforestation has long been a way to increase land area available for food production, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that this strategy isn’t sustainable. As a major domestic and international supplier of commodities such as soy, beef and sugarcane, Brazil has expanded its agricultural sector at significant environmental cost, from higher greenhouse gas emissions due to deforestation to freshwater contamination and loss of biodiversity. To limit global warming to well below 2°C, carbon must be pulled out of the atmosphere. One of the most efficient ways to do this is by protecting and restoring natural landscapes.
Proper management of soils and trees would allow Brazil’s farmers and ranchers to triple food production using existing farmland, and carbon markets provide incentives to restore degraded lands using integrated crop, livestock and agroforestry (ICLA) systems. Yet poor access to upfront capital, perceived risks and a lack of financial incentives targeted at improving productivity keep Brazil’s food producers from switching to more sustainable practices.
ICLA systems offer many environmental benefits, such as increasing soil carbon and moisture and improving microclimates, water quality and pollination. ERA aims to help farmers restore degraded lands by implementing ICLA management, thereby improving their bottom lines and long-term resilience to climate change. Specifically, ERA helps farmers track and report their greenhouse gas footprint so they can access financing, premium markets and certifications and enables them to receive compensation for farming smarter and for storing additional carbon on their land.
ERA supports farmers to measure and benchmark their farms’ environmental impact, primarily based on greenhouse gas emissions and sequestrations. Based on this analysis, farmers decide what system they want to implement to improve productivity and unlock additional revenue streams by, for instance, generating carbon credits or accessing premium commodity green labels and certifications. ERA is also testing a smallholder solution whereby farmers can access a technical package that includes inputs and technical assistance to finance their transition to regenerative practices.
For farmers who choose to participate in a carbon credit project, ERA oversees the project development and the registration and transaction of credits. By leveraging technology to aggregate a large number of projects, the company will achieve a scale that’s economically viable and attractive to carbon credit buyers.
IMPACT ACHIEVED SO FAR?
ERA is still in the early stages of its development. It is aiming to work with a diversified portfolio ranging from smallholder and marginalized farmers to large agricultural companies managing multiple farms. As of November 2019, it had conducted 13 greenhouse gas inventories on larger farms and implemented ICLA systems on two pilot farms in the state of Tocantins, one of which has been working closely with neighbouring subsistence farmers. ERA is collaborating with several farming cooperatives and local implementing agents who have relationships with farmers and promote ICLA practices in order to scale up the approach.
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