Use of renewable resources in Brazil


The 21 century brought to us new challenges in our path to development, the United Nations Millennium Development Goal No.7 reaffirmed the commitment of all countries  to “Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs; reverse loss of environmental resources”.  A successful example would be Brazil, which is one of the main producers and users of ethanol bio-fuel in the world.

With already a long history, the Brazilian bio-fuel industry takes the advantages of the immense agricultural potential of Brazil and make use of the latest technologies to produce the one of the most efficient bio-fuel in the world as its classified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (accessed 24.10.2010). Having in mind both the environment and the people, they managed to build a system which can provide simultaneously clean energy and food for its large population.

Ethanol production in Brazil – lessons learnt

Brazilian sugar cane is the most energy efficient crop for biofuels today, due to a highly efficient production process, suitable growing conditions, manual labourand active government policy and subsidies since the 1970’s.Out grower schemes have succeeded in ensuring that 30–35%of sugarcane in Brazil is produced by small scale farmers. The ethanol production has created around 1 million employment opportunities, but depends on the degree of mechanization. It has reduced dependency on oil imports and exposure to volatile international prices.The large scale monoculture production system has exacerbated land owner concentration. This has caused displacement and increased competition for land,increasing the risk for conflict and preventing pro-poor landreform.The working conditions are often critical with low salaries and little or no access to health care. The plantations are often burned prior to harvesting which resultsin health risks for plantation. (From Swedish International Biodiversity programme link accessed 24.10.2010)

The challenges of the biofuel lie not only in the sustainable exploitation of the land but also in having the capacity to produce enough crops for the population.

In May this year, The Economist published an article (accessed 25.10.2010) that discussed the agricultural miracle in Brazil and described the great progress the Brazilian agricultural production has had in recent decades. Faced with concerns about global food supply in the future, the publication found that the experience of Brazil shows the way for other developing countries.

The Brazilian model is considered an example and hope for the world. Example for other countries with agricultural potential to produce to meet domestic consumption needs and generate export volumes able to supply world needs for proteins, which increase significantly in coming decades. There are many indicators that reflect the Brazilian agribusiness boom in the last decade, for example, Brazil tripled its foreign sales, export from U.S. $ 20.6 billion in 2000 to 64,700,000,000 in 2009. In the last year the Brazilian agricultural exports accounted for 42.5% of total exports, while the trade balance was U.S. $ 54.9 billion. (source OECD statistics accessed 25.10.2010).

The model adopted by Brazil, which is the cause of this growth was based on agricultural policy reform over recent decades. Its main objective was to minimize government intervention in the agricultural sector was through the strengthening of market mechanisms, expanding the participation of the private sector through the rural credit and the agricultural price support, the increased investment in technology through Embrapa, the modernization of rural insurance system and differential credit for small farmers. (see link accessed 25.10.2010) Public policies have supported not only the corporate farming, but also small-scale agriculture or family. The creation of a separate institution for this segment of production, the Ministry of Rural Development and implementation of the National Program to Strengthen Family Agriculture contributed to the inclusion of small farmers in agro-industrial chains and strengthening their competitiveness.

There is no question that  there are still open questions about the other problems such as infrastructure and state investment in the agriculture, but we can conclude that the Brazilian model is a successful story of developing alternatives to conventional energy.

Further references:


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