Learning International Best Practices on Conservation Agriculture from Brazil
The Chinese Province of Guangdong wanted to increase its knowledge of conservation agriculture practices that would help achieve sustainable crop production and reduce surface water pollution. During its exchange with Brazil, the Province learned about good conservation agriculture practices and the policies and technical support needed to promote the practice. This enabled Guandong to refine design and implementation plans for its conservation agriculture activities.
The Government of Guangdong Province, China, sought to reduce surface water pollution caused by agricultural practices characterized by excessive uses of agrochemicals. In 2011 an Energy Savings and Pollution Reduction Plan, with concrete pollution reduction targets, was developed. Since conservation agriculture is known as an effective and innovative approach to improving soil fertility, reducing surface runoff, and avoiding leaching of pollutants into waterways, the Province wanted to implement conservation agriculture in pilot projects as part of its water pollution reduction efforts.
However, the Province lacked knowledge of conservation agriculture practices and capacity to design practical conservation agriculture interventions. This resulted in reluctance from the Government to invest in capacity building of its officials and extension service technicians to implement conservation agriculture. There was virtually no “in-house” expertise, and the lack of requisite knowledge made it difficult for officials responsible for the agricultural system to identify experts in conservation agriculture to whom they could turn.
Officials from the Guangdong Province requested World Bank assistance in organizing an exchange with Brazil, which is among the leaders in conservation agriculture, having included conservation agriculture in its official policies. Brazil has exported its conservation agriculture knowledge and equipment to many countries in the global South as well as to major international agricultural organizations.
Exchange participants from China comprised representatives of the national and the Guangdong Province governments who are responsible for designing conservation agriculture activities, piloting the activities in selected cropping systems, and monitoring and evaluating impacts of the activities in the Province. From Brazil, the primary knowledge providers were from the Agricultural Research Institute of Parana State (IAPAR).
From November 24 to December 3, 2013, a study tour to Brazil was organized for 8 officials from the national and Guangdong provincial governments. They visited 11 Brazilian cities, which included three conservation agriculture farms, three farmer’s cooperatives, two extension service centers, one conservation agriculture machinery sales center, and one conservation agriculture machinery workshop. Throughout the visit in Brazil, the participants were exposed to a full spectrum of conservation agriculture development and practices. They observed local crop rotation and cover crop management practices in the field. They also exchanged ideas with farmers and cooperatives in the development of crop value chains, mechanization, and soil and water management. The activities during the study tour exposed the participants to how hydropower projects have addressed agricultural pollution issues in strategic and integrated ways.
Following the study tour to Brazil, the Chinese officials organized and delivered a provincial-level workshop to disseminate the knowledge they had gleaned during the study tour. The workshop had over 50 agricultural officials and technical experts from the Province in attendance.
The exchange raised awareness of how conservation agriculture challenges can be addressed:
- Enhanced conservation agriculture knowledge and skills helped fill a capacity gap for the participants and translated directly into their ability to refine the design and implementation of conservation agriculture pilot projects and farm cooperatives in their Province. One participant of the December 2013 workshop stated, "Conservation agriculture is a new agricultural production modality. It has significant impacts on improving soil fertility and soil structure, reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, minimizing ground water and soil pollution, promoting circular utilization of agricultural resources, protecting agricultural environment, and achieving sustainable agricultural production."
- Enhanced networks for participants in China offer direct links to Brazilian experts and policy-makers who can continue to share good practice approaches and assist with addressing challenges. Participants, having visited the farm of Mr. Herbert Bartz, who is known as the founding father of a non-tillage technique in Latin America, now have a direct link to this pioneering conservation agriculture farmer. Another participant commented: "This study visit not only helped us gain technically but also helped us build a knowledge exchange channel with our Brazilian counterparts."
- As this exchange shows, the Bank’s support is critical in countries where there is limited knowledge of a topic, as authorities may be reluctant to fully support such exchanges if they do not have internal expertise or the ability to identify good counterpart organizations and countries that have the knowledge they are lacking.
- As was shown in this exchange as participants led a post-visit workshop leading to the design and implementation of new CA activities in the country, the knowledge gained during an exchange should be shared with other stakeholders in the knowledge recipient countries to maximize the multiplier effect.
- Ensure that lessons learned from these exchanges are shared with other client countries and Bank staff working on similar themes to minimize duplication efforts.
- Ensure that lessons learned are shared among policy-makers, technicians, and industry professionals upon completion of the exchange, so that local capacity is built.
The Bank team recruited top Brazilian conservation agriculture experts to develop the study visit agenda and accompany the Chinese participants throughout their program. The Bank team also managed the logistics of the program and even the outreach to the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on visa requests for some of the Chinese participants. A South-South Facility grant of US$47,552 funded the initiative.
Leading Brazil’s efforts as knowledge provider were representatives of the Agricultural Research Institute of Parana State (IAPAR), a pioneering organization for research, development, and promotion of conservation agriculture; and joined by conservation agriculture farmers, cooperatives, and machinery manufacturers. Among the knowledge-providing individuals were Mr. Herbert Bartz, known as the founding father of non-tillage technique in Latin America; and Mr. Roberto Schultz, a non-tillage farmer.
Since the exchange, Brazilian experts have reached out to the Guangdong Government to explore potential cooperative opportunities for the future. The exchange participants have also shared the newly acquired knowledge with others in provincial and national governments. Also looking toward the future, the Province officials will continue to utilize the exchange-gleaned knowledge and follow-up engagements with the Brazilian experts to design and implement conservation agriculture activities under other WBG-supported activities such as the IBRD/GEF Guangdong Agricultural Pollution Control Project.
Exchange participants from China included:
- ZhengHui Chen, Deputy Director General, Guangdong Agriculture Department
- Jun Xiao, Deputy Director, Foreign Investment Division, National Development and Reform Commission
- KunMing Chu, Senior of the Second Integrated Office of Guangdong Government
- Pei JieLin, Director, Finance Division, Guangdong Agriculture Department
- XueYing Hu, Professor and the vice Director in Guangdong Agricultural Technology Promotion Station
- ShaoHai Yang, Professor and Director in Guangdong Agricultural Resources and Environment Sciences Institute
- Dantong Yang, Associate Professor in Engineering Collage South China Agricultural University
- YiPing Zheng, Interpreter
“We have not only learned in the technical field but have also built the communication channels between two countries’ agricultural practitioners. It certainly will make a positive contribution to both countries’ agro-industries.” – Participant.