Upon telling his story, farmer André da Conceição, age 31, shares a dream: “I began to build a new house for my family,” he said. This achievement has been possible because the resident of the community of Ingazeira, in Ituberá, joined the Seed Collectors’ Network, an action headed by the Land Conservation Organization (OCT) – an institution that is part of the Bahia Southern Lowlands Environmental Protection Area Mosaic Program for Development and Growth Integrated with Sustainability (PDCIS), supported by the Odebrecht Foundation together with public and private partners.
The network is part of t the project “Producing Seeds, Changing Lives,” which operates specifically in the Pratigi Environmental Protection Area. Approved through the Oi Projects for the Environment – 2011 bidding process, the initiative receives an investment from the Oi Futuro Institute in the amount of R$ 250,000, with a matching contribution from OCT, in the amount of R$ 47,000, and seeks to meet three goals: promote an opportunity to earn income, perpetuate native Atlantic Forest species and conserve the Environment.“I created a daily collection routine and earned up to R$ 2,000 selling the seeds,” said Conceição. Before joining the initiative, the farmer lived with his wife and three children in a taipa house (made from clay and gravel). Anyone who observes the new home can understand the family’s joy. “I was quite surprised with the result,” he said. “I never imagined that harvesting and selling seeds could guarantee income.”
Orientation and training
The OCT team receives the production and passes it on to the Atlantic Forest seedling greenhouses installed in Southern Bahia. “We also plan to install a cold chamber to store a larger quantity of seeds and increase sales,” said Volney Fernandes, Leader of the Environmental Services Strategic Cooperative, one of OCT’s lines of operations. Among the theoretical and practical instructions, 12 training sessions were held to orient the producers. Topics such as the harvesting of seeds, production of seedlings, legislation and business certification and management were addressed during the event. During the collection phase, the producer selects the seeds arranged on the ground, whereas during the harvest phase, the farmer uses safety equipment to climb the trees and harvest the seeds at the heights of the canopies.
According to Volney Fernandes, the last method is the most recommended. “It allows you to select the high quality seeds, he said. Fábio Lopes, Project Coordinator, added: “After this phase, we are facilitating meetings with professionals to allow for an exchange of knowledge,” said Lopes.
Currently, 54 farmers from 14 communities in the Bahia municipalities of Ituberá, Igrapiúna, Piraí do Norte and Ibirapitanga are participating in the project. Ademir Matos, age 56, is part of the group. He is one of the board members of the Collectors’ Network and helped created a statute that defines the basic work rules. In this way, he is able to assist and encourage friends and neighbors to participate in the action, in addition to demonstrating in practice that collecting seeds produces results. “I received more than R$1,000 and used it to invest in my plantations,” said Josinei Hipólito, from Ituberá.