Sustainable Fruit farming In the CAatinga: managing ecosystem service trade-offs as agriculture intensifies (SUFICA)

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Biological Sciences

Abstract

The SUFICA project aims to enhance the competitiveness, sustainability and long-term resilience of fruit farming in the São Francisco valley in north-eastern Brazil, as it intensifies. The project will work with growers and international supply companies to co-design and test nature-based innovations on fruit farms, aiming to generate multiple environmental benefits whilst enhancing fruit yield or quality and reducing inputs. It takes a trans-disciplinary approach, bringing scientists, farmers and industry together to tackle the challenge of managing a sensitive agro-ecosystem at the food-water-environment nexus, in the context of economic development.

There are three major outcomes: 1) SUFICA experimentally tests 'ecological intensification' as a pathway to sustainable intensive agriculture; 2) SUFICA establishes the necessary research infrastructure and tools to monitor and continually improve biodiversity and ecosystem services on farms in the São Francisco valley; 3) SUFICA demonstrates how a partnership approach enables the benefits of agricultural growth and environmental protection to be combined. This approach can be applied in other developing countries.

The SUFICA partnership is a response to strong market signals in the agri-food sector that farmers should take action to support biodiversity. The project links this biodiversity objective with production-enhancing ecosystem services - pollination and water flow regulation - to assess the potential for management that benefits both biodiversity and production. The approach, termed 'ecological intensification', has shown promise in Europe and North America, but has not been experimentally tested in tropical semi-arid environments.

The underlying scientific hypothesis is that multiple regulating ecosystem services can be co-erced to flow in bundles, and thus be synergistically enhanced in semi-arid agricultural landscapes, with accompanying biodiversity benefits. SUFICA tests this hypothesis using a replicated, farm-scale, Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) experiment, co-designed with farmers to monitor the effects of management actions that are feasible and attractive to growers in the region. The SUFICA experiment is the first scientifically robust, replicated test of 'ecological intensification', in which multiple environmental and agronomic outcomes are directly monitored. We include carbon sequestration, as climate change mitigation in agriculture is a development goal for Brazil. The research will use state-of-the-art mapping and modelling approaches to explore mechanisms and predict changes to natural capital stock and ecosystem service delivery.

The SUFICA experiment incorporates different landscape and farming contexts and builds capacity among farmers. Through carefully designed knowledge exchange processes, larger farms will learn from ecological and diversified practices of small farms, while small farms are supported to engage with international export markets. All farmers in the project will be involved in developing globally recognised farm-scale biodiversity assessment tools, through which they can demonstrate their positive actions.

The São Francisco valley lies in the caatinga, a semi-arid ecoregion of seasonally dry tropical forest with globally important biodiversity. The caatinga is threatened by habitat loss and degradation due to agriculture, and predicted increases in aridity due to climate change. Agricultural development is key for both poverty reduction and long-term economic growth in Brazil. With old intensification trajectories, this growth will come at the expense of biodiversity and ecosystems, reducing long-term resilience and disproportionately impacting on smallholder farmers and the rural poor. SUFICA will establish a process and infrastructure to re-direct intensification to a more environmentally sensitive trajectory, aiming to reduce farm inputs and protect biodiversity in highly productive landscapes.

Planned Impact

The main beneficiaries of SUFICA are as follows:

FRUIT FARMERS IN THE SÃO FRANCISCO VALLEY, including small farmers, are the most important beneficiaries. They will have the opportunity to have biodiversity and ecosystem services measured on their farms and to be involved in developing globally-recognised software that allows them to demonstrate the positive actions they are taking on biodiversity. Farmers in the area, including young and future farmers still in education, will learn more about ecosystem services and biodiversity, including how and why to manage it well in their own region. Ultimately, the São Francisco Valley fruit farmers will benefit from enhanced sustainability, long term resilience and improved relationships with international suppliers.
FRUIT FARMERS IN OTHER SEMI-ARID REGIONS, INCLUDING THE MIDDLE EAST. The work of SUFICA will be widely communicated, benefiting farmers in similar regions elsewhere in the world. The software developed under objective 5 is free for farmers to use, and applicable to farmers in similar regions elsewhere. Two workshops are included to transfer knowledge to fruit farmers in similar landscapes in Chile.
CONSERVATION NGOs, both in Brazil and internationally, will benefit from experimental results that test whether ecological intensification can protect wildlife. Ecological intensification is promoted as a solution for nature conservation generally, including by large international NGOs such as The Nature Conservancy, since agricultural lands provide important habitats. Local NGOs in the caatinga will be able to join the SUFICA Community and attend workshops and events. They will benefit from a better understanding of the wildlife in farmed areas (objective 3) and how it is affected by threats (objective 4). They will also benefit from the valuation of pollination services, which is likely to demonstrate in monetary terms the importance of protecting natural habitats.
FRUIT SUPPLIERS, including, but not exclusively the two project partners, will benefit from the knowledge exchange in SUFICA, and the exploration of possible actions to enhance sustainability, in response to demands from their buyers.
FRUIT RETAILERS. UK supermarkets are keen to demonstrate sustainability across their fresh produce supply chains. For example, Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose have all recently been developing pollinator policies, and both Waitrose and Sainsbury's have biodiversity policies for farms. Such policies are harder to implement in developing countries, where biodiversity is not so widely considered by the farming community. This project takes steps towards enabling farmers in a region that directly supplies UK and US supermarkets (including Walmart, for example) to improve their management of biodiversity, and to communicate their efforts back up the supply chain. The SUFICA approach, including the experimental infrastructure and transdisciplinary research, could be replicated in other regions.
CONSUMERS PURCHASING FRUIT (ESPECIALLY UK). The benefits to consumers are through increased sustainability and better soil, water and biodiversity management practices on farms in Brazil and Chile where the fruit they buy is grown. There is also potential for improved fruit quality, for instance due to better pollination leading to higher sugar contents or lower acidity.
BRAZILIAN GOVERNMENT. The project helps the Brazilian Government to achieve specific development objectives to increase exports and sustainably intensify agriculture to reduce poverty in one of its key regions of rural poverty.
DEVELOPMENT, ENVIRONMENT AND AGRICULTURE POLICYMAKERS. The project tests whether the benefits of agricultural growth, environmental protection and sustainable development can be combined, and tests a specific industry-research partnership approach to delivering this. The outcomes will be of strong interest to policymakers in developing countries where agricultural intensification is planned.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description DICKS_U19DTP: Integrated pest management in fruit farms of semi-arid Brazil: the role of semi-natural habitat (Norwich Research Park DTP)
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2019 
End 09/2023
 
Description International: Integrating globally-recognised sustainability metrics for tropical perennial crops in a one-stop shop Cool Farm Tool
Amount £125,288 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/S013962/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 03/2021
 
Description Cool Farm Alliance 
Organisation Cool Farm Alliance
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are developing the Cool Farm Biodiversity tool, a improvement and assessment tool for farm management, linked to the Conservation evidence database.
Collaborator Contribution The Cool Farm Alliance co-owns and manages the Cool Farm Biodiveristy Tool software that we have developed. It promotes use of the software internationally, through its membership and beyond, and provides technical support and development through partnership with Anthesis Group (a software development company)
Impact Cool Farm Biodiversity tool online software. New Zealand Sustainability Dashboard/
Start Year 2014
 
Description SUFICA project collaboration - AM Fresh Group 
Organisation AM Fresh Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are co-designing a new module for the Cool Farm Biodiversity tool with AM Fresh and Cool Farm Alliance (a core SUFICA project partner). As experts, we bring the method, a pilot list of actions and target taxa as a starting point for discussion, and we provide evidence assessments for selected actions and species groups.
Collaborator Contribution AM Fresh hosted a one day workshop in their offices in Valencia. This and two other half day meetings have been attended by two or three AM Fresh staff, including a senior manager. A technical data expert from AM Fresh and spent at least one day of work time examining and improving the spreadsheet version of the software we are co-designing.
Impact A staging version of the Cool Farm Biodiversity Mediterranean and semi-arid module has been tested by AM Fresh growers, and is currently moving to testing phase 2.
Start Year 2019
 
Description SUFICA project core collaboration - Labrunier 
Organisation Agropecuaria Labrunier Ltda
Country Brazil 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution SUFICA project researchers are conducting detailed biodiversity and ecosystem service assessments on the four main Labrunier farms.
Collaborator Contribution Agropecuaria Labrunier Ltda and Xavier Baudequin (independent consultant, previously Labrunier staff member) are supporting the project logistically, arranging for workers to access the farms and considering experimental management changes. Xavier Baudequin, several Labrunier Farm staff and a number of other partner farms attended a producers workshop on February 5th 2019.
Impact No outcomes yet. The SUFICA project has so far identified locations for field surveys and the first field surveys, to collect baseline data, are in progress.
Start Year 2018
 
Description SUFICA project core collaboration - Primafruit 
Organisation Primafruit
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The SUFICA research team the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Federal University of Sergipe (Brazil), Bahia State University (Brazil), Federal Uni of Sao Francisco Valley (Brazil) and Embrapa Brazilian Agricultural Res Corp (Brazil) are working directly with Primafruit, conducting detailed biodiversity and ecosystem service surveys on supplier farms, and designing an experimental manipulation to monitor feasibilty and short term benefits.
Collaborator Contribution Mr Gonzalo Neira from Primafruit Ltd was highly instrumental in setting up the entire research project. He has provided access and contact details for growers and partner researchers in Brazil.
Impact A shortlist of actions to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services has been developed, in partnership. One of the farms is particularly keen to implement one of these actions very soon (bird perches for predatory birds).
Start Year 2018
 
Description SUFICA project new collaboration - SENAR Centro de Excelência em Fruticultura 
Organisation Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock of Brazil
Department National Rural Learning Service
Country Brazil 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Research team of the SUFICA project are working in partnership with the Centro de Excelência em Fruticultura (Centre for Excellence in Fruiticulture) to engage growers and communicate findings to the network of fruticulturists in the Bahia region of Brazil.
Collaborator Contribution The Centro de Excelência em Fruticultura of SENAR (The National Rural Apprenticeship Service) hosted the first SUFICA producer's workshop, 5th February 2019. This included a venue, an introductory speaker, lunch and refreshments for 20 people.
Impact Successful completion of the first SUFICA producers' workshop.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Biodiversidade de insetos com ênfase nos polinizadores da Caatinga caatinga 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact A short course (8 hours) for undergraduate students from agrarian sciences at the Federal University of Sergipe, Brazil. Aim: To present biodiversity of bees in caatinga and discuss their ecological function in natural and agroecosystem, as ecosystem services providers; and the importance of managing farms as habitats for pollinators.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description SUFICA Workshop 4, Valencia, Spain 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A workshop of producers, researchers, and conservation/sustainability NGOs, convened to develop the actions and target species groups for the Cool Farm Biodiveristy tool Mediterranean and Semi-Arid module.This took place in Valencia Spain, and was hosted by AMT Fresh, at their main packing plant. The outcome is a pilot verison of the new software, which has been tested by growers supplying AMT Fresh and Tesco (testing phase 1) and will be tested by orange growers in Chile and growers in melon growers India in testing phase 2 in 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://sufica.org/news/cool-farm-biodiversity-tool/
 
Description SUFICA Workshop 5, Brazil 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The fifth SUFICA workshop took the form of a dialogue between the SUFICA researchers and the 10 participating farmers. Each farmer was visiting. We reported back the results of workshop 3, presented the evidence behind the selected experimental practices and discussed possible protocols.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://sufica.org/events/individual-farm-visits/
 
Description SUFICA first producer's workshop, Brazil 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact At this workshop, grape and mango producers and professional fruticulturists gathered to learn more about the SUFICA approach. There were 22 attendees, of which 20 were Brazilian nationals. Five were SUFICA project researchers, 11 were farm managers or other farm staff involved in production and management, 4 were educators or agronomy consultants working in the fruticulture industry (15 practitioners from Brazil, in total).

The aim was to decide what actions to experimentally test during the project. The workshop was hosted by the Centro de Excelência em Fruticultura - SENAR. The outcomes were a set of completed questionnaires, notes from discussions between farmers, a shortlist of actions for the SUFICA experiment. All attendees provided their informed consent to be involved in the project. Following this, we have established a network of communication among all the engaged farmers, through the private encrypted social media service WhatsApp, which is very widely used in Brazil.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://sufica.org/events/sufica-first-producers-workshop/
 
Description SUFICA international workshop 2, Chile 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact On Monday October 1st, a launch event for the SUFICA project took place at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, in Santiago. The event was opened by the College of Agriculture and Forestry Dean. The SUFICA project leaders presented the concept of ecological intensification (Dr Lynn Dicks) and an overview of the project (Dr Eduardo Arellano). Vinina Ferreira introduced us to the Caatinga. Other SUFICA researchers presented their previous work on bees (Dr Patricia Luiza de Oliveira Rebouças) and coffee pollination in the caatinga (Dr Fabiana Oliveira da Silva) and birds in Californian vineyards (Dr Andres Muñoz-Sáez).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description SUFICA launch event, Brazil 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact A one day event held at the University of the Sao Francisco Valley in Petrolina, Brazil, to launch the SUFICA project. 213 people attended, all from Brazil. The audience included many undergraduate agriculture and biology students from the two universities in Petrolina and Juazeiro, but also local agriculturists, the manager of Labrunier Farms and researchers interested in sustainability of fruit production. During the discussion following the presented lectures, a producer expressed himself and gave a testimony about the honour of contributing to SUFICA and the importance of discussing sustainability. The collaboration with SENAR (and its Centre for Excellence in Fruticulture, located in Jauzeiro, Brazil) was established at this event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description SUFICA website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact SUFICA website, with ability to switch between Spanish, Portuguese and English langauge. Provides information about the project. Regularly updated with news and events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
URL http://www.sufica.org
 
Description SUFICA workshop 6, Brazil 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact This workshop took the form of a series of dialogue meetings with the 10 participating SUFICA farms. We visited each farm with a clear protocol document, and maps showing where the treatments should be located. Cover crop mixes and bird perch designs were agreed. We also had an external evaluation meeting. We presented progress in the project to Professor Blande Viana from the Federal University of Bania, member of the SUFICA Advisory Committee, and she joined some of the farm visits.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description School outreach (Brazil): diversity of bees and pollination 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This 4 hour event was to promote engagement and knowledge on ethical behaviour for biodiversity and ecosystem services conservation. The action included training on build nests for social and solitary native bees, and talking about the importance of plants for pollinators in urban areas and practices for conserving ecosystem services. A poster on SUFICA project's research was presented.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Semana Territorial de Bioeconomia do Alto Sertão sergipano. Bioeconomia: alternativa para o desenvolvimento sustentável do Alto Sertão Sergipano. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Objective: to present the ongoing research projects (including SUFICA) and citizen science projects of the research group of (Fabiana O. Silva) based on Sergipe; and exhibition of educational materials on pollinators and bee diversity.
Target: academic and non-academic community.
Place: square at the Municipality of Nossa Senhora da Glória, SE.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description XXVI Brazilian Fruit Congress, in Juazeiro - Bahia and Petrolina - Pernambuc 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The SUFICA project was presented during the Congress (3rd October 2019), by Patricia Rebouças, at a side-event hosted by SENAR.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://sufica.org/events/xxvi-congresso-brasileiro-de-fruticultura/