What is the name of your solution?
Fundação Solidaridad, Productive Restoration by Yerba Mate
Provide a one-line summary of your solution.
Yerba Mate agroforestry project design and low carbon management practices as a scalable technical assistance program into the landscape under climate
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
The Brazilian Atlantic Forest biome is classified as a hot spot. Currently, there are less than 12% of its original coverage (312 million acres) sprayed out and fragmented around 17 States. The real collapse of the most biodiverse tropical forest on the planet.
The yerba mate (Ilex paraguarienses), is a native tree from the southern Brasil forestries and belongs to this biome. Historically it is very popular as an energy drink and has been used by indigenous people as wild crop. It is one of the first non-timber forest products from the Brazilian socio-biodiversity. Under this scenario, even today, the yerba mate is characterized as an important ally to value our forests and culture - In many cases, the yerba mate trees present in the forest are an income alternative for many families creating in this way, the last barrier against the increase of deforestation on the region.
In this context, our proposal addresses structural paths to fight against the loss of Atlantic Forest biodiversity and their natural resources, with a sensitive eye to support the yerba mate smallholders and communities more vulnerable to the poverty cycle caused by the climate changes.
The recovery of the natural landscape, contributing to the conservation of ecosystem services, enabling the maintenance of flows of ecosystem services, focusing on decarbonizing the planet, and the water security of a region (Polo Ervateiro Nordeste Gaúcho) which has been suffering from the impacts of intense droughts, consequently entailing significantly reducing on the rural families incomes.
Taking this into account, knowing that yerba mate is currently grown on 31,000 farms in southern Brazil. In 2019 it generated R$ 870 million reais (about U$ 185 million dollars) and was responsible for 700,000 direct jobs throughout the whole supply chain. It is important to point out that the majority of the farms (70% of these 31,000) are classified as small family farming. They are our target audience, - farmers who use and depend on family labor, with up to 25 acres of land. In other words, 21,700 families could benefit from this developing project model within the territorial and socio-economic development aspects. We are currently operating from a local perspective, having as a partner, local government, sectoral actors, and an Association of small producers with around 500 members of which we are planning on reaching about 120. That means impacting the recovery of 380 hectares of Atlantic Forest landscape, looking for opportunities to scale up these numbers, year after year.
What is your solution?
The proposed solution is intended to make productive systems, socially more inclusive, and economically more profitable through better environmental performance guided by low carbon production arrangements.
For this, we have developed nature-based solutions to work on valuing the forest based on its socio-biodiversity products, as in the case of yerba mate. In this way, we combine productivity and income component to support small farming families that are more vulnerable to climate change. The concept behind our actions is Productive Restoration, which works to recompose the landscape through climatically more resilient production systems.
In order to measure the global impact resulting from these actions on the climate agenda, in partnership with Embrapa Florestas, we developed a carbon calculator, which is still looking for investments to integrate the local data from this producing origin, making the tool credible and capable to estimate how and how much these areas can benefit the planet as a carbon sink.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
The solution's target audience is small yerba mate farmers, integrated into a family production model from Polo Ervateiro Nordeste Gaúcho.
These smallholders are organized through an Association (APROMATE) that has almost 500 regional members, part of a value chain that involves more than 31.000 farmers (70% of this audience are small farmers) in southern Brasil, which makes it possible to consolidate and scale up the action in the territory.
However, many of these producers, discouraged and impoverished by the impact of the last 3 years of severe and prolonged droughts, have been abandoning the cultivation of yerba mate and converting their forest arrangements and destining these areas for transgenic soybean and corn crops, seeking to guarantee the livelihood of their families. However, what is happening is the increase in the climate crisis, due to the weakening of the natural landscape, making their production systems less resilient and more vulnerable to climate change, generating indebtedness, food insecurity, and the exodus of young people to urban centers.
From the point of view of the project, these smallholders do not have basic technical assistance to seek intelligent and low-cost solutions. In this way, and through the project, we can change this vicious cycle in the short/medium term, enabling better livelihoods for the smallholders and the maintenance of next generations on the farm, where these people can thrive in harmony with nature.
How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
The Solidaridad team has been working on opportunities in this area for almost two years. Our strategy is based on active methodologies involving partners and local leaders to connect our efforts and intentions through straightway communication with the managers of the Association (APROMATE), which made it possible between both parties to recognize the common agenda and values to contribute in favor of the development of yerba mate smallholders and the strengthening of the yerba mate fields, as a native landscape in the territory.
January of 2022, we also started a project called Territórios da Mata, in this origin and with the APROMATE association farmers. In order to bring this project to this audience, several studies, diagnoses, analyses of feasibility & needs, impact evaluation & transformation, besides the scale-up potential was carried out together with the local leaders, key sectoral partners, small farmers, and the APROMATE's manager.
Aiming to connect us even more with the community and the local, our two technicians who serve the farmer's audience, come from local rural communities and are children of producers/associates with APROMATE. Connecting us to the site in a responsible and legitimate way.
Given the relationships established and developed in the public sphere, we currently have good dialogue with mayors, municipal secretaries, and rural extension professionals, which made it possible for us to be well received by the rural communities that make up our target audience.
Within all this construction of dual diligence and governance, today we have a voice integrated into the local context, we represent the interests of small farmers and we know that they count on our support in terms of a better future.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?
Support local economies that protect high-carbon ecosystems from development, including peatlands, mangroves, and forests.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Machadinho, RS, Brasil
Our solution's stage of development:Growth
How many people does your solution currently serve?
Directly, about 40 families of yerba mate small farmers.
Why are you applying to Solve?
With MIT's support, we can be even more inclusive, engaging a greater number of families (currently underserved) in the project, so that they have the chance to shape their own future, expanding the impact on the territory, through a greater scale of socioeconomic transformation, in addition to of a greater impact also on the strengthening of the landscape, which consequently increases the benefits for the agendas of sociobiodiversity, conservation of natural resources and the climate on the planet.
In addition to a positive impact on the scale of work, the arrival of MIT would enable the development of a carbon calculator for yerba mate culture within this territorial zoning, making it possible to work on innovation at the service of smallholder communities, quantifying the carbon balance and enabling us to work on the commercialization of these credits as something unprecedented for the sector.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Product / Service Distribution (e.g. expanding client base)
Who is the Team Lead for your solution?
MSc. Gabriel Dedini, Program Coordinator
What makes your solution innovative?
The Solution developed by Solidaridad becomes innovative insofar as it integrates socio-environmental and technical performance indicators, on a common basis of analysis and performance evaluation, making it possible to establish a practical and applicable intelligence to improve the livelihoods of small yerba mate farmers, to the same extent that it strengthens the natural landscape of the territory.
For very small farmers with low education and financial resources, high technology is still a paradigm and needs to be worked on gradually. Understanding this and proposing solutions that establish a learning flow, we bring simple but innovative and technological solutions. Based on this, we developed a real link that connects the need with the condition of the producer in developing his business. We adapt technology to everyday life and apply knowledge empirically so that the producer recognizes the methodology as a solution that fits his context.
From the adoption of the initial purpose, we implement together with the farmer the monitoring of key indicators, our transformation vectors, when measuring them we discuss "the whys" and we bring the logic behind into a practical experience through the holistic eyes: farmer, farm, landscape, market, quality, income generation, continuous improvement, etc. Making these farmers more aware and convicted of their role in the value chain. In general, empowered.
However, we also establish our own interfaces with stakeholders, pushing the sector forward in agendas relevant to the yerba mate fields context. With the Carbon Calculator tool we can explore more the carbon database to this value chain, looking to this unique origin, something very innovative work for the sector, which can highlight the region, in addition to pointing out to the world that yerba mate culture can become a great ally for ESG (Net Zero \ in & offsetting) agendas. Highlighting the small farmer as a key part and guarantor of this transformation.
What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?
The Solidaridad Foundation has already been working in 2021 in this origin (Machadinho-RS \ Polo Ervateiro Nordeste Gaúcho) with the aim of expanding its territory of operation over the next few years. We work on the strategical territorial planning in order to gradually evolve the scale of the project, however, in a responsible way and under minimum quality criteria. We estimate that in 2022 we will achieve a territorial impact of 380 hectares of recovered areas under the Productive Restoration model. By 2023 we would like to be incorporating another 310 hectares, reaching 690 hectares, and moving forward to 2024 with the aim of reaching 1,000 hectares (2.400 acres) under intervention (recovery, monitoring, and technical assistance), directly attending about 300 families of small yerba mate farmers, 1 association of farmers and 1 local industry.
In our work, we monitor a series of key performance indicators, in addition to technically supporting farmers in a safe and sustainable path to operationalizing the activities, through our technical team. Also aiming to assure our key partners: Embrapa Florestas (Federal Forestry Research Agency), Emater\ASCAR-RS (State Agency for Technical Assistance and Rural Extension), governments, and local leaders, that the impacts resulting from the project make it possible to meet the goals of restoration of the landscape (2,400 acres - in 4 years), conservation of water resources (696 acres recovered to protect springs and springs - in 4 years), generation of value and income for families (increased income to improve the means of farmers' lives) and supplying the local yerba mate industry (which currently imports yerba mate from other producing origins in southern Brazil). Guided by the purpose of responsibility and transparency, Solidaridad generates semi-annual technical reports pointing out the evolution of the project to the partners, in addition to maintaining a constant flow of communication, established through the maintenance of a governance structure, represented by leaders (APROMATE, Emater, Indústria, and Solidaridad) that meet monthly.
How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?
To count our deliveries correlated to the territory: the number of hectares restored is our main goal. To explore this theme, we categorize the areas under the project in 3 sessions: (1) Degraded areas recovered, (2) areas of environmental liabilities, being: permanent preservation areas and legal reserve recovered, in addition (3) to the number of springs and watercourses recovered and protected, respectively through the project activities. To understand the scale of impact, under the socio-economic aspect of the project, the number of yerba mate smallholders is our key indicator, followed by the numbers of yerba mate tons prospected to support the local industry supply.
However, in order to analyze the quality of the activities, we have a dynamic and consistent PMEL structure organized through a department of the Solidaridad Foundation, which, through the daily monitoring activities carried out by the technical team, monitors how and in what way the (territorial, technical and socio-environmental) indicators are being performed into the farms and landscape. For this management, we use digital tools and the GIS procedures to standardize data collection structures by the technicians.
What is your theory of change?
The constant advance of deforestation on native yerba mate forests areas and yerba mate fields conducted under agroforestry designs happens due to the conversion pressure areas, driven by the conventional agriculture, that uses a simplistic concept about it, that from a productivist and simplistic concept about it. That is, every mechanized area becomes a target for land-use change, compressing the forests to sloping areas, bringing the monoculture of transgenic grains to the best arable areas, all around.
From this logic, the agendas of biodiversity, climate, natural resources, socio-economic development for families of small farmers, food security, and others are decimated by monocultures and pesticides, decharacterizing the landscape, often beyond ecosystem resilience: interfering with the maintenance of ecosystem service flows.
Through the project, we promote the valorization of the standing forest, even for small farmers, we demonstrate the importance of its role in the landscape, and the impact of its suppression. Together with the farmers, we build initiatives to obtain income through the yerba mate wild collection, and we reproduce in the areas of yerba mate cultivation, agroforestry arrangements with a regenerative basis, integrated to a profitable, more inclusive, and low carbon agriculture. Mitigating the risks of suppressing what is still left of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest and contributing to the maintenance of native forests (biodiversity and natural resources) and natural yerba mate fields, and to the recovery of the landscape through productive restoration.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
We work on different fronts related to the application of science and technology. These are (1) Nature-based solutions, (2) data intelligence, and (3) digital tools (Carbon Calculator).
(1) Over the last 3 years we have carried out a re-reading of the sector, working on a socio-cultural rescue as an opportunity for the development of the yerba mate value chain in the face of climate crises, structural informality, low-performance indicators technicians, the risks of shortages in the industry and the very future of this chain, given the suppression of its cultivation and collection areas. Along with research and rural extension, from a pro-sector perspective, we develop indicators of permanence, methodologies, designs for forest integration models aiming at sustainable low carbon arrangements, economically viable for the most vulnerable agricultural communities, and, in this way, more inclusive. However, they are constantly being improved, updated, and developed through lessons learned new partners, and new investments.
(2) We go through activities in different producing origins, developing a database that allows the construction of a sectorial intelligence customized for the place, however, with an integration with the whole, through this intelligence we support and cooperate sectorally to work the changes behaviors that drive the industry forward.
(3) The Solidaridad Foundation has a core of digital solutions that supports us with the development of tools that aim to promote innovation and technology-based on data science. Currently, with the support of this nucleus and Embrapa Florestas, we are working on the construction of a specific carbon calculator for the yerba mate chain, the first pilot study carried out for this tool should be launched in July, however, we seek to democratize its use for all producing origins, for this, new partners, technical support and investments are fundamental in this process.
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?
A new application of an existing technology
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
What type of organization is your solution team?
How many people work on your solution team?
We have a team of 11 professionals, organized as follows: Technical team (3 people) GIS team (2 people) PMEL team (2 people) Coordination Team (2 people) Communication team (2 people) In addition to our staff, we also count on local technical support promoted through our cooperation network and technical partnerships established with leaders and key sectoral actors that support the development of mobilization, engagement and technical assistance activities for the farmer.
How long have you been working on your solution?
The Solidaridad Foundation over the last 12 years of operations in Brazil has been developing agendas to strengthen the agroforestry supply chains inside their territories, working with agricultural communities and look to rural landscape, to promote a better livelihoods for small farmers through the low carbon agriculture as transformation tool to improve the sustentability inside the whole supply chain Supported by this history and with the support of partners from the Solidaridad Network (with 50 years of operation in about 42 countries around the planet), since 2019, the Erva Mate program of the Solidaridad Foundation has been developed in Brazil, in this year our first project worked on top this agenda went ahead, change many regional yerba mate scenario.
What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?
Our team works the inclusion as a key and strategic pillar within the institution, our projects have targeted the small farmers, an audience that is often faceless, farmers who are technically unassisted by public rural extension and do not have access to private consultants. Analyzing more closely this farmer profile, we approach and work on other themes as we include the family in our scope. Through this dynamic, we can include other work perspectives as activities, such as the training of young leaders, digital inclusion for the senior public, technology for young people, women's groups working on gender issues in agricultural activity, among others. That is to say, our relationships are intense, we do not explore in a shallow way a connection with the farmer, but with everything and everyone around him.
We also reinforced our commitment to the place, hiring local technicians, sons, and daughters of farmers, to compose our team, building a link and promoting a feeling of legitimacy for the project, we avoided bringing in outside labor to form teams of field, in addition to supporting and investing in the qualification of these professionals, farmers, and local leaders, aiming to internalize knowledge into the territory and decentralizing the information domain.
What is your business model?
The Fundação Solidaridad is part of a Solidaridad Network, and we walk on the same path to creating fair and sustainable supply chains. Inspired by 50 years of solidarity with under-resourced producer communities, we enable farmers, miners, and workers to earn a decent income, shape their own future, and produce in balance with nature. Making sustainability everyone's first choice - As a global organization with boots and minds on the ground, we work throughout supply chains to make genuine sustainability the norm. We optimize the situation both on-farm and along the chain by introducing ‘planet-proof’ use of natural resources, increased sustainable production with a strong focus on circularity, and an improved economic outlook. We aim to expand the influence of producers and producing countries on inclusive sustainability policies working about a norm that’s informed and co-designed by and for the producers themselves, not dictated by the global industries. We will also encourage corporates to pay a decent price and look to increase their sourcing from sustainable supply chains - We create stronger linkages between producers and markets. We connect producers at the beginning of the supply chain to other actors in the sector, to knowledge, services, and capital. Digital solutions and technology play an important role to change the realities inside the origins.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?Organizations (B2B)
What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?
We currently have a project financed by the private sector and which has the support of the sector and local governments, involving a Producers Association with around 500 small farmers in progress in the region. The investment perspective in this work is 4 years (2021 to 2024), that is, the Solidaridad Foundation has financial health that can support it to absorb new investments to be incorporated in this context for the next 3 years (2022 to 2024).