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Planting coffee to save our forests: a community-based agroforestry approach at the heart of the Amazon

The Apuí Coffee seeks to achieve organic status and expand operations in order to promote sustainable livelihoods and forest conservation.

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In 2012, Idesam began to work with local communities in the municipality of Apuí, in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. Through technical assistance, 28 producers have adopted agroforestry practices. Agroforestry is a dynamic natural resource management system that, through the integration of trees and agricultural production, diversifies and sustains production for increased social, economic and environmental benefits.

Agroforestry takes work, and local producers received expert advice and material inputs to recover a single hectare in their coffee plantations, as a pilot. They analyzed soils, learned how to apply biofertilizers and how to build home-made traps for the major pests. Their areas also received 10 thousand seedlings of native trees to improve forest cover. Since 2012, productivity in Apuí has risen from nine to twenty-two sacks of coffee beans per hectare, and has maintained forest cover in 28 hectares. The coffee plants love the shade and protection provided by native forest – not to mention the humidity and nitrogen in the soil.

The Apuí Coffee benefits not only the Planet, but also promotes prosperity in the region. It promotes economic security as it diversifies income sources for the involved families and increases income levels. Considering the income from coffee production alone, producers involved in the Apuí Coffee project saw their income rise in about 220% since the start of the project, when compared to other coffee producers in the region.  

In 2015, the communities launched the “Apuí Agroforestry Coffee”, the very first ecologically-produced coffee in the Brazilian Amazon. The new brand and product have been a success: in its first year, it sold 4.5 tons of coffee, or 18 thousand packages. Idesam’s team activated over 20 sales’ points and presented it in about 50 events and markets.

Explain your idea

The Apuí Coffee wants to expand! Our goals are to increase the area of integrated forests and coffee production, increase economic security for more families in the region and increase each family’s income by taking them one step further in the production chain. The expansion strategy is three-pronged: 1) Achieve organic status! Upping the Apuí game from agroforestry to organic production will result in higher product quality and access to additional and exclusive markets. Shifting to organic production requires a change of mentality and absorbing sustainability throughout the production site, ensuring, for example, that all waste and water is repurposed. This truly means adopting a mind frame of Planet+Prosperity, where both ends come together intrinsically. The project will make use of existing opportunities offered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply. These opportunities, however, do not cover the entire production chain and certification maintenance costs. Therefore, local producers would risk losing their organic status. The project seeks to support them in this process, until they are able to cover the costs themselves. Organic products tend to sell for +30% of equivalent non-organic products, so the expected returns are significant. Additionally, the project will support the organically-certified producers in accessing exclusive markets, such as higher-end shops and participating in public procurement processes focused on family and organic agriculture. 2) Peel our own beans! Diversifying into activities with a higher value-added content means better returns for local producers. Today, Apuí producers rely on a third-party to purchase and process the coffee beans, before it can even be roasted and packaged by another partner. These partners are local businessman, and have engaged so far in respectful local productive arrangements with the producers. Nevertheless, by allowing producers to peel their own beans, the same coffee production would yield greater returns to the families. Our estimates are that the local producers’ association would have an increase of 10% to 15% in profits if they could manage this step of the production process. Therefore, the project seeks to provide them with the required infra-structure and capacity to peel beans themselves. 3) Invite our neighbors and youth The project understands that local pilots need to gain scale in order to achieve increasing social and environmental impacts. The Apuí community is home to many other small landholders that could engage in the project and change the municipality’s landscape. This is a gradual process, and the project seeks to involve 15 new families each year, for the next two years. Special care will be given to young producers, who have demonstrated interest in staying in the region and growing organic coffee. In privileging youth, we hope to break the trend of rural exodus and build the next generation of forest guardians

Who Benefits?

The project will focus on local producers in the municipality of Apuí. This region is under great deforestation pressurefrom illegal loggers and land expansion for cattle raising. This creates an atmosphere of conflict – it is not a coincidence that, according to the Amazon Social Progress Index, the municipality has a low rating in terms of personal security, which includes youth murder and homicides. The project target families in Apuí were resettled by the agrarian reform in Brazil and have emigrated from the neighboring state of Roraima or from the much-further-south Paraná about twenty years ago. These families are motivated because they have seen first-hand that cattle raising is not economically or environmentally viable in the Amazon. Extensive cattle raising continuously demands new lands and expensive inputs, making it a poor choice for small landholders. These families were seeking a way back into agriculture for both family consumption and better economic returns.

How is your idea unique?

Our project seeks to promote sustainable and ecologically-based productive systems in a region where deforestation rates are high and going up, with increasing pressure on protected areas. The idea of integrating dense forest cover and agricultural production, and increasing productivity by doing so, is new in the region, and to involved communities. So, it is no surprise to us that the Apuí Agroforestry Coffee is the first ecologically-produced coffee in the Brazilian Amazon. Also, by providing continued technical assistance and support to local families, we empower them to explore new opportunities in sustainability. Supply chain management is a hot topic, and the project seeks to include the local producers in the arena. By diversifying and specializing their activities, they achieve a higher value-added product to sell in the market.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

Idesam - Institute for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Amazon: project lead, based in the city of Manaus, in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. Our track-record of experience with tropical rainforest projects can be found in our latest activities and financial report (attached document). Ouro Verde Association: founded in 2004, with 24 partners, this is the association that represents the local producers, promotes training and integration, and manages the coffee trade. Santa Luzia Nursery: its role in the Project is to supply seeds and produce seedlings of native forest species to support the agroforestry systems. It is a local company, which generates income within the municipality and thus empowers local actors through the socioeconomic and environmental transformation of the region. Maniva Network for Agroecology – an Amazonas-based social movement that promotes agroecology guidelines in the region. Its key role in the project is capacity building and technical support in achieving organic status. E.J. Anghinoni – local company and partner, it is in charge of roasting and packaging the Apuí coffee. Apuí City Hall – provides logistical supports for events and debates on agroforestry. --- Our team at Idesam is composed by: Marina Yasbek Reia is an Environmental Manager with a Master on Soils and Plant Nutrition from ESALQ/USP. She has expertise on social organization of productive family-based agricultural groups and her role in the project has been focused on capacity-building so that the local association can obtain organic certification. Ramom Weinz Morato is an Agronomous Engineer, specialized on ecologically-based and agroforestry productive systems, with practical experience on both Amazon and Mata Atlântica biomes. He is the Agroecology coordinator at Idesam’s Sustainable Rural Production Program. Geovani de Almeida Machado is an agricultural technician, and has been a project team member since its inception, monitoring the implementation of the agroforestry systems and providing technical assistance. He was born in the rural settlement where the project is developed and is related to some of the beneficiaries, thus providing the project with unique insight and access.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

Attachments (1)


Idesam's Institutional report - narrative and financial


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