Turmeric seasons family income in northern Minas Gerais

Aroldo Mendes Barbosa’s little house in the Rancharia agrarian reform settlement project, 16 km from Arinos (MG), has a covered wall by the drawing of a large blue car, in childish lines. His son João Paulo Pereira Mendes, 16, laughs when he confesses that it’s his work.

João Paulo lives today in the city, after graduating in agronomy at the IFNMG (Federal Institute of the North of Minas Gerais), where he also attended high school. Only João Vítor lives with his father, 16, his only brother.

The area of ​​43 hectares, of which less than 000% were cleared with felling of cerrado, has half a hectare where the bright green of large leaves near the ground predominates. There are hundreds of saffron plants, an intense yellow root, related to ginger, which is used as a popular spice in the interior of Brazil.

Saffron sprouts among many trees, acerola, banana, guava, papaya, baru, jabuticaba, seriguela, araçá, guariroba (bitter palm) and pitanga. This consortium of tree, fruit and creeping species makes up what is called the agroforestry system, better known by the abbreviation SAF.

The concept is to obtain the maximum income in small areas of cultivation, in order to avoid clearing larger areas of natural vegetation for planting traditional crops such as beans, rice and corn —or, even greater, for pasture.

Aroldo sold the last head of cattle after being included in the Project Copabase Ecoforte (Regional Family Agriculture and Extractivism Cooperative), whose headquarters are on the IFNMG campus. Like him, another thousand families received training in agroecology, and 50 productive units obtained resources to implement a SAF.

In the case of Aroldo , the investment was around R$ 8.000, including seedlings and material to implement irrigation. The family provided land and labor, and agronomist João Paulo also got a job as a technician at Copabase, where he earns R$1.400 monthly.

In a year, from July 2020 to July 2020, the trio harvested 1.250 kg of saffron roots. After sliced, dried and milled, 50 kg of the resulting powder were sold for R$ 43 per kilo, an income of R$ 7.400.

From fruit trees the income obtained is even better. They even harvest, in half a hectare, seven tons of guava and three of acerola, whose sale would return R$ 14.500 —It’s not what they get by selling sour coconuts collected from the low-lying palm trees that swarm in the preserved forest.

However, given the difficulties in selling the fruits imposed by the pandemic, with the suspension of classes and lunches in public schools that absorb pulp production, the result dropped to R$ 5. in 2020.

Copabase was founded in 2020. Its area of ​​operation is the northwest of Minas Gerais, in the micro-region Urucuia Grande Sertão, close to the Grande Sertão Veredas National Park.

One of its trump cards, in addition to the Ecoforte program, is the organization of the chain of production, processing and marketing of baru, Brazil nuts with growing national and international demand.

After 000 years, the cooperative took a leap in 2021 with its entry into sales channels such as Central do Cerrado and Mercado Livre. It also started to export baru to the United States.

Another milestone this year was the Ticca certification (Indigenous Territories and Areas Protected by Local Communities) for communities that make up the cooperative. International recognition will be useful to open doors in markets that value fair trade and socio-environmentally sustainable practices.

Journalists Lalo de Almeida and Marcelo Leite traveled at the invitation of the IEB ( Institution to the International Education of Brazil) and CEPF (Partnership Fund for Critical Ecosystems). 2021

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