Partnerships for Forests is supporting the largest seed network in Brazil to become a profitable enterprise, providing good quality seeds for Brazil’s ambitious reforestation initiatives and improving the livelihoods of seed collectors.
Deforestation and degradation are a continuing threat to Brazil’s Amazon and Cerrado biomes. Between 2000 and 2015, the Amazon Biome lost more than 20 million hectares and the Cerrado more than 23 million.
Under its Forest Code and Nationally Determined Contributions, Brazil must restore 8 to 12 million hectares of forest by 2030 to counter past deforestation. These large-scale reforestation requirements are increasing demand for native tree seeds.
The ARSX is a network of around 500 native seed collectors located in the Xingu basin headwater, which stretches across both the Brazilian Amazon forest and the Cerrado biomes.
Originating in a 2004 campaign to recover and protect river springs and stop deforestation, the network was initiated by non-governmental organisation Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) in partnership with indigenous leaders from the Xingu Park – the oldest indigenous territory in Brazil covering around 2.6 million hectares and home to 16 different tribes.
The ARSX separates requests for native forest seeds into lists and distributes them to groups of collectors, according to availability and capacity. The collected seeds are then processed and sold by ARSX.
The ARSX team trains collectors on best practice for collecting and pre-processing, safety, pre-processing techniques and species identification. Collectors can expect payment based on factors like which species the seeds are or how difficult they are to collect and process.
Alongside seed collection and sales, the ARSX promotes an innovative technique called Muvuca—where a mixture of seeds from several species is planted directly in the forest—which is significantly cheaper, more efficient and higher impact than cultivating and planting seedlings.
Partnerships for Forests started working with the Xingu Seeds Association to strengthen their business and support the transition from a grant-dependent model to a financially sustainable one. The team selected a business consultant to carry out a four-month diagnosis to understand the main features of the operation of the ARSX and then develop a business-plan. The support has also helped the network rework its governance structure to achieve a more participatory format.
Since its inception, the ARSX has collected around 200 tonnes of seeds from more than 200 native species, and has recovered around 6,000 ha of degraded forest along the Xingu and Araguaia Basin and in other regions of the Amazon and Cerrado.
ARSX has grown significantly, numbering more than 500 collectors in 2018. It is now the biggest provider of native seed in Brazil.
With a self-sustaining funding system, the network hopes to be able to expand into new regions. Specific to no particular landscape or environment, the model could easily be scaled and replicated in other regions, revive Brazil’s forests and bring restoration targets within reach.
© Tui Anandi /ISA
- Canarana, Mato Grosso
- ARSX, Agroicone
- Commodity focus
- Restoration seeds
- Hectares under sustainable land use
- 200,000 (by 2020)
- Private investment mobilised
- £160,000 (by 2020)