|Amazonia: Resiliency and Dynamism of the Land and Its People (UNU, 1995, 253 pages)|
|6. Agro-forestry and perennial cropping systems|
Many farmers have prospered in the Brazilian Amazon by integrating agro-forestry with livestock and aquaculture. Only a few examples are given here to illustrate the increasing importance of cattle-raising for small farmers. Smallholders employ cattle manure to fertilize their cash crops as well as their vegetable gardens for home consumption and market. For example, a Paraense farmer along a sideroad at km 105 of the Marabá-Altamira stretch of the Transamazon Highway collects cow manure to enrich potting soil for cupuaçu seedlings. This farmer, also the leader of the rural workers' syndicate for the municipality of Itupiranga, raises cattle on 25 ha of pasture; the remaining 125 ha on his lot are in crops, forest, and second growth.
At Granja Yoshirokato near Santa Isabel in the Bragantina zone, chicken manure fertilizes ponds that contain tilapia, which in turn are fed to highly prized pirarucu (fig. 6.2). When the pirarucu reach 2-4 kg, the owner sells them to other farmers and ranchers to stock ponds. Dead chickens are also fed to the carnivorous pirarucu. The medium-sized farm, which operates without fiscal incentives, also produces citrus, guava, and other fruits for the growing Belém market. Black pepper farmers in the Brazilian Amazon take advantage of chicken manure when it is available to cut down on the cost of inorganic fertilizers.
Cattle-raising is also sometimes integrated with agro-forestry and perennial monocropping systems, particularly as a source of manure. On the Rio Branco ranch near Ariquemes, Rondônia, for example, cattle manure is applied to 45 ha of citrus orchards, mainly the Pêra variety of orange. Sweet orange is planted at various locations on the 7,000 ha property, half of which remains in forest. Even at the rate of 30 kg of dung per seedling, however, cattle manure is only a supplement to the commercial fertilizers needed to establish an orange grove. Orange seedlings are also given 500 g of lime and 400 g of superphosphate, together with some micro-nutrients such as zinc and sulphur, to help get them started. By diversifying their farm operations, ranchers and growers reduce fertilizer costs and are better insulated from the wild price swings typical of many commodities.
At least one Japanese-Brazilian farmer in the vicinity of Tomé-Açu is contemplating diversifying into cattle production, in part to generate manure for his perennial crops. A shift by the Japanese-Brazilian community to cattleraising is significant, since it underscores the strong market forces favouring cattle production in Amazonia.
A farmer from Rio Grande do Sul with a 100 ha lot at km 74 of the Altamira-Itaituba stretch of the Transamazon derives a variety of benefits from his small herd of cattle. Livestock manure is used for fertilizer and to generate gas for cooking, lighting, and refrigeration. The mixed farm is planted to cacao and an assortment of other crops, and has 30 head of cattle. Dung from the cattle is fed into a rudimentary biogas digestor and the resulting methane is piped into the home to fuel a stove, two lights, and a couple of refrigerators. When the biogas digestor is cleaned out, the residue is placed on a vegetable plot.
Complementarities also exist between farmers devoted exclusively to agro-forestry and nearby cattle ranches. For example, several oilpalm factories have sprung up in the Bragantina zone to serve large and small growers. After the oil has been extracted, the pressed kernels are sold to ranchers for cattle feed. Similarly, small factories established to express castor oil sell the pressed seeds to ranchers for feed. Castor bean is a cash crop for small farmers in parts of Pará, and exemplifies the strengthening integration of livestock and crop production in Amazonia.