Anxiety was obvious in José Soares’ eyes, and he could barely hold back his excitement. A member of the Bahia Southern Lowlands Heart of Palm Producers’ Cooperative (Coopalm), an institution supported by the Odebrecht Foundation, the farmer knew July 21 would be unlike any other day. He would return home, to the Sossego Forest settlement, in Igrapiúna, with his truck.
“I am very happy to be here to welcome him. This achievement was only possible with the support of Coopalm technicians, who designed the project to deliver to Banco do Brasil,” said the farmer, who is better known as Seu Zeca da Paixão.
José Soares’ dream turned true through the Federal Government’s More Food - Primary Production Program, a National Program for the Strengthening of Family Agriculture (Pronaf) credit line that enables small farmers to finance equipment and vehicles.
“The results are visible when we are able to deliver a truck to a farmer who generates demand from his own activity. We make a point of announcing this so it can be used as an example and show that family farming is feasible and strong. These are the hands that feed Brazil,” says Armando Soares, Manager of Sustainable Development and Family Agriculture for the Banco do Brasil in Bahia, an Odebrecht Foundation partner.
In 2009, the bank signed a cooperation agreement with the coops linked to the Bahia’s Baixo Sul Environmental Protection Area Mosaic Integrated and Sustainable Development Program (PDIS) to facilitate the financing of productive activities, with the hiring of rural credit transactions through Pronaf. The Banco do Brasil Foundation also supports the PDIS, and the acquisition of agricultural machinery and technological, business and cooperative training of small farmers have been enabled.
Key to the Future
The vehicle’s keys were delivered in Salvador during the launch of the Bahia Agriculture and Livestock Plan for the 2011/2012 harvest. Zeca da Paixão took the stage and received them from Ives Fülber, Banco do Brasil’s Director of Agribusiness, and from Afonso Florence, the Minister of Agrarian Development.
“This struggle is not mine alone, but everyone’s. This truck will help transport stems of palm grown at the settlement and will contribute to our development,” said the farmer. Zeca has an income of more than R$1,500 per month earned from planting palm alone.
The Coopalm member, Edson Pascoal, the Superintendent of Banco do Brasil in Bahia, and Afonso Florence signed the first contract Pronaf More Food agreement and guaranteed the financing for an F 4000 truck. Installments will not incur interest, since as of November 2009 the Bahia State Government took on the charges aiming to drive credit and food production in the state. “Family farming has played a historic role and is driving a democratic revolution,” said the minister.
The event was also attended by former President of Brazil, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, and Minas Gerais Governor, Jaques Wagner. Lula stressed the importance of encouraging family farming to generate more food and income. “We need to keep farmers in the field,” he said.
Zeca took advantage of the opportunity to present Jaques Wagner with a pot of hearts of palm planted by the 512 members of Coopalm. While receiving it, the governor asked: “Is this heart of palm really good?”. The farmer did not hesitate: “It is the best!”.