Water, an en­vi­ron­men­tal prod­uct of agri­cul­ture in Brazil

Iran Daily - - Cultural Heritage & Environment -

For the first time in her life, re­tired phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher El­iz­a­beth Ribeiro planted a tree, thorny pa­paya, na­tive to Brazil’s cen­tral sa­vanna.

The op­por­tu­nity arose on Nov. 28, when the Pipiri­pau Water Pro­ducer Project, which is be­ing car­ried out 50km from Brasilia, pro­moted the plant­ing of 430 seedlings do­nated by par­tic­i­pants in the eighth World Water Fo­rum, held in the Brazil­ian cap­i­tal in March, Ip­snews re­ported.

“I learned about the project dur­ing the fo­rum and I fell in love,” ex­plained Ribeiro, who do­nated the equiv­a­lent of $13 for the purchase of seedlings and the in­vi­ta­tion to plant. Vanira Tavares, a vet­eran English trans­la­tor and also a brand-new tree planter, did the same thing.

Re­for­esta­tion, es­pe­cially along river­banks, is just one of the many ac­tions that make up the Water Pro­ducer Pro­gram (PPA) de­signed in 2001 by the Na­tional Water Agency (ANA), the na­tional reg­u­la­tor of water re­sources.

Soil con­ser­va­tion mea­sures, which re­tain water, pre­vent­ing ero­sion and sed­i­men­ta­tion of rivers, also con­trib­ute to the quan­tity and qual­ity of water avail­able at each site.

It is eas­ier to drive along the roads of the Pipiri­pau basin than in other ru­ral ar­eas. In­stead of pot­holes and pud­dles there are gut­ters that cap­ture the runoff rain­wa­ter, which is stored in sub­sur­face gal­leries, re­ferred to as ‘bar­rag­in­has’ (small dams) along the road­sides.

As a re­sult, heavy rains no longer flood the land, wash­ing away nu­tri­ents and cov­er­ing the soil with waste prod­ucts. And the re­tained water feeds springs and crops longer.

Water must also be har­vested: This is the con­cept dis­sem­i­nated and put into prac­tice by the PPA, which has im­ple­mented 60 projects across Brazil, with the aim of restor­ing sub-basins that sup­ply large springs or rivers on which mil­lions of peo­ple de­pend.

Farm­ers who join the PPA projects re­ceive pay­ment for en­vi­ron­men­tal ser­vices, es­ti­mated ac­cord­ing to dif­fer­ent cri­te­ria, such as the pos­si­ble water con­tri­bu­tion or the value of the crop that is not planted be­cause the land is al­lo­cated for re­for­esta­tion.

These pay­ments are key to en­cour­ag­ing farm­ers to par­tic­i­pate, but the amounts vary widely in con­tracts be­tween the payer – usu­ally the mu­nic­i­pal­ity – and the own­ers of the land.

“Where there is a short­age of a given prod­uct, the price goes up,” Ewan­dro Mor­eira, ANA’S as­sis­tant co­or­di­na­tor for these projects, told IPS.

The Pipiri­pau, where one of the first PPA projects was car­ried out, crosses the north­east of the Fed­eral District and sup­plies a large part of the pop­u­la­tion of Planaltina and So­brad­inho, satel­lite cities of Brasilia that to­tal about 260,000 in­hab­i­tants, ac­cord­ing to the district plan­ning agency.

This project was born in 2011 be­cause of “the dis­pute over the river’s water be­tween pub­lic sup­ply and ir­ri­gation, ac­cen­tu­ated dur­ing times of scarcity be­tween Au­gust and Oc­to­ber,” said Rafael Mello, su­per­in­ten­dent of water re­sources for the Fed­eral District’s Water, En­ergy and Ba­sic San­i­ta­tion Reg­u­la­tory Agency (Adasa).

Adasa co­or­di­nates the man­age­ment of the project in which 17 dif­fer­ent en­ti­ties are in­volved, rang­ing from gov­ern­ment water, agri­cul­ture and en­vi­ron­men­tal agen­cies to non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, in ad­di­tion to the state-owned Banco do Brasil bank and the gov­ern­ment agency in charge of roads.

All these ‘part­ners” come to­gether in the Project Man­age­ment Unit, in or­der to co­or­di­nate the mul­ti­sec­toral col­lec­tive de­ci­sion-mak­ing process, which boosts ef­fi­ciency.

“Some­times re­for­est­ing river­banks does not solve the prob­lem,” if, for ex­am­ple, agro­chem­i­cals and sed­i­ment con­tinue to run off into the rivers, water re­source spe­cial­ist Rossini Matos Sena, who rep­re­sents ANA in the man­age­ment of Pipiri­pau, told IPS.

“Pro­duc­tion and water re­sources have to be har­mo­nized,” Mor­eira said. This re­quires tech­niques such as di­rect seed­ing in undis­turbed soil, where the straw is left to cover the soil, con­tour farm­ing, which in­volves till­ing sloped land along lines of con­sis­tent el­e­va­tion to con­serve rain­wa­ter and re­duce soil losses, or ter­rac­ing (deeper fur­rows that re­tain water be­tween the rows of crops).

Pipiri­pau ben­e­fits from the knowl­edge of Ger­aldo Magela Gon­tijo, who has 32 years of ex­pe­ri­ence as an agri­cul­tural tech­ni­cian and lo­cal man­ager of the Tech­ni­cal As­sis­tance and Ru­ral Ex­ten­sion Agency of the Fed­eral District.

“Be­fore, 100 per­cent of the ir­ri­gation here was done through fur­rows in the ground. The water we have to­day would not even cover 10 per­cent of the needs, be­cause that method of ir­ri­gation wastes a lot of water and now it rains less: The rate dropped from 1,600 mil­lime­ters a year to 1,100,” Gon­tijo told IPS.

Drip ir­ri­gation, used ‘in 99 per­cent of veg­etable pro­duc­tion’, now wide­spread, al­lowed adap­ta­tion, ac­cord­ing to the tech­ni­cian, who also be­came a farmer and pro­duces toma­toes, grapes, pas­sion fruit, pep­pers and even pita­jaya, a lit­tle-known fruit from a cac­tus, com­mon in the An­dean coun­tries and Cen­tral Amer­ica.

He also re­for­ested the banks of the stream that runs across his 2.3 hectares of land. In three years a dense for­est emerged with trees about five me­ters high, which en­cour­aged his neigh­bors to do the same.

MARIO OSAVA/IPS

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