Accelerating Brazil’s forest restoration drive with an enterprising direct seeding technique.
Restoration in Brazil is a legal imperative, numerically expressed in national and international targets; its landowners are legally committed to restoring almost 19 million hectares of native vegetation on their properties under the Forest Code. In parallel and overlapping with that target, Brazil has committed to restore 12 million hectares of forests by 2030 as part of its Nationally Determined Contributions.
Despite the legal obligation, the reality on the ground shows demand for restoration coming mostly from forest compensation in infrastructure projects – typically in the mining and energy sectors, or as part of individual property agreements with Public Prosecutors via other legal mechanisms.
Restoration also faces a series of practical barriers. Firstly, traditional methods are expensive and resource intensive. Plus, those needed to embrace restoration – for instance rural producers – lack the expertise. Without training or technical assistance, capabilities in the field are low. Even with capital and knowledge, the supply chain required to meet the needs of restoration is inadequate and hindered by poor regulation, limited access to credit, and there is no strong supply of seeds in the marketplace.
To meet the deficit and help remove some of the barriers impeding restoration, a group of community, public and private stakeholders have developed an initiative that raises awareness of more cost-effective solutions. The Seed Paths Initiative promotes a direct seeding technique, called muvuca.
Direct seeding is a set of forest restoration techniques based, as the name suggests, on directly planting seeds into the soil. Whereas traditional restoration involves planting young trees (an adaptation of commercial techniques for producing wood), direct seeding aims to mimic the natural forest regeneration process.
This approach has a number of economic, environmental and social benefits. In Portuguese, the expression muvuca symbolises a lively gathering of a mix of people. And with more than 200 native forest species, the seed mix has the potential to reproduce a thriving forest ecosystem much more diverse, much denser, and with higher biodiversity impacts than alternative techniques.
On top of that, costs are much lower, and the higher returns make the model more economically viable. And since indigenous groups and rural communities dominate native seed collection, it supports an important economic activity for socially vulnerable groups.
During the first of two phases, Partnerships for Forests supported the Agroicone team to develop a strategy roadmap for raising the profile of the technique amongst different actors in the restoration sector.
The second phase now focuses on tackling the knowledge gap within the Brazilian agribusiness sector, as well as developing capacity-building courses and a network of demonstration units to support muvuca’s uptake. The project team will produce a series of knowledge-sharing products, guidance manuals and communication materials to do this.
On proving itself to be a cost effective and efficient restoration method, direct seeding has the potential to significantly increase and accelerate reforestation efforts on properties across the country. Just as crucially, an increased demand for native seeds will play an important role in increasing the value of Brazil’s remaining standing forests.
© Fred Mauro
- ISA, Agroicone
- Commodity focus