Fundação Grupo Boticário de Proteção à Natureza

by Fundação Grupo Boticário de Proteção à Natureza

Submit your own idea/concept/solution

Agroforestry as a tool for biodiversity conservation and community development

solution Owners

Posted by Brittany on 25-12-2016 - Last updated on 25-12-2016

The Atlantic Forest located in the Southeast of Brazil is renowned for its exuberant biodiversity, so much so that it is considered a Biodiversity Hotspot by Conservation International. The Atlantic Forest reigns as significantly important biome on the planet despite the fact that over 80% of the forest has been destroyed. This forest and the majority of the species endemic to it, such as the Northern Muriqui, are endangered. For the Atlantic Forest, one of the more challenging aspects of conservation management is the isolating effects of forest fragments. Fauna can become stuck in a forest fragment completely isolated by pasture and as such, are unable to find sufficient food and/or procreate. For example, females of the critically endangered Northern Muriqui will leave their familial group before puberty to pair with another group, which is important to maintain genetic diversity. However, when a group becomes isolated, there is only emigration of females, with no replenishment. Over time, the group will go extinct. The image of a female failing to locate another group and dying alone in a forest enclosed by pasture is distressing. However, we must be empathetic to plight of the farmers who oftentimes maintain traditional, yet precarious, lifestyles. In our experience, providing tree saplings at no cost to these farmers to plant corridors is not successful. The farmer will lose his ability to produce on that land while also assuming responsibility of an extra chore, two things that can negatively impact his ability to maintain his livelihood. Our idea is meaningful because it is an economic solution to an environmental problem. We want to use agroforestry because it is a sustainable way to produce our food, it doesn't utilize artificial inputs and creates healthy soils. Not only will we introduce farmers to a more sustainable livelihood, but we will stimulate the local economy and provide habitat for the Northern Muriqui. We hope that this project can serve as an inspiring pilot that can be replicated throughout Brazil and benefit innumerous species.

1. Idea/ concept maturing;


Agroforestry is a soil-smart agricultural strategy that plants multiple species together. Agroforestry is an intelligent alternative to mainstream agricultural methods because the mixed planting optimizes the benefits from the resulting biological interactions of the various species which abnegates the need to invest in artificial, and potentially damaging, inputs such as pesticides and fertilizer. This has the additional value of lowering the maintenance costs and the products have more value because they can be certified as organic.


We have already evaluated the soil where we plan to plant the ecological corridors for the Ibitipoca Muriqui. Due to the erosion that resulted from many years of irresponsible land use (such as controlled burns and over grazing), a unique plant mixture has been selected for this region:







Profit, Biomass


Passion Fruit

Profit, appreciated by local fauna


Gliricida sepium

Pioneer, soil enrichment, biomass


Native blackberry




Profit, appreciated by local fauna



Pioneer, appreciated by local fauna



Profit, Biomass


Brazilian cherry

Profit, appreciated by local fauna



Pioneer, appreciated by local fauna



Profit, appreciated by local fauna


Acacia mangium

Pioneer, soil enrichment, biomass


Queen Palm

Profit, appreciated by local fauna  


Juçara Palm

Profit, appreciated by local fauna, critically endangered species


Royal Palm







In addition, Pidgeon pea, cowpea, sugar cane, manioc, corn, okra. and peanuts will be planted around the trees, as well as Napier grass. The pioneer trees, beans, napier grass, and specifically Acacia mangium and Cliricida sepium were selected to enrich the sandy soil. These various species have intensive rooting systems that can increase the turnover rate of nitrogen in the soil, and their production of copious amounts of biomass is used as a natural fertilizer for the plantations. 


In the following years, when the system is more shaded and robust, we would like to plant more demanding hardwood tree species that are important for the Muriqui.


These species are selected for one (or multiple) motives:

  • The production of biomass to use as a natural fertilizer for the soil that traps humidity and protects the plants' roots (such as Brazilian cherry, Eucalyptus, Ingá, and Quaresmeira)
  • Potential for the investor to profit from his production (Corn, Banana, Eucalptus, Queen Palm, Royal Palm, Juçara Palm, Avocado, Guava, Passion Fruit, Blackberry, Banana)
  • Potential to be a food source for the Muriqui and other native species (Guava, Avocado, Ingá, Quaresmeira, Queen Palm, Royal Palm, and Juçara Palm)


The inclusion of the local community is very important to this project to inspire potential multipliers. The region suffers from a lack of investment and farmers are predominantly uneducated about alternative farming techniques. Many must work every day, with no break, to care for and milk their cattle. This physically strenuous lifestyle is barely lucrative, and forms a vicious cycle of poverty and environmental degradation. We do not want to diminish the importance of rural production and traditional lifestyles, but we want to inspire farmers to invest in different methods and change the way they look at a forest. We think it is important to incorporate Eucalyptus and Coffee as they are two plants that, through monoculture plantings, actually cause environmental problems. We would like to showcase a sustainable way to produce these two common and profitable commodities.


The integration of another critically endangered species, the Juçara Palm, is an excellent example of changing a farmer's perspective on a forest. Juçara Palm is sought out for its high-quality heart-of-palm. However, there has been a recent movement to teach people to work with the fruits of this tree, which are similar to the already popular açai-berry. Instead of having to kill the tree to retrieve a single heart of palm, a farmer can learn to collect its fruits. Annually, each tree can produce around 5 kilograms of fruit, which can produce 2.5 liters of pulp. The current market price for this fruit is around R$25 per liter. Every year, after the local harvest of this palm fruit, we can enrich these plantations with an estimated 50,000 seeds. The Juçara palm grows very well in shaded areas.  


2. Work plan and timeline for implementations;


It is not possible to plant during the dry season, which is between March and September. During this period, project managers will be active in the community raising awareness on the various projects that are happening in this region. A parallel project will be introducing two female Muriquis to the existing population. Together with the local branch of environmental police, there will be a number of visits to rural landowners to raise awareness on environmental issues in the area that range from poaching to the importance of protecting Riparian forests. This visits come with the advantage of increasing our presence in the community and forming meaningful relationships.


In September, we would like to prepare the earth for planting and fence the area that will become a corridor. This is important because of the dominance of cattle ranching in the area. It is not uncommon for cattle to escape from their destined pasture space and invade a neighbor’s land. An invasion of cattle can jeopardize the future of the entire project. With the assistance of local labor, his fence will take a maximum of 3 days to install, using simple wooden posts and barbed wire.


The rainy season begins normally in October; we plant to plant with the arrival of the rains. We would like to hire local labor to assist with the planting as well, which should require a maximum of 5 days to finish. We plan on organizing at least one day of this planting as an open workshop for interested people to come and learn about agroforestry plantations.


In the following months, the agroforestry plot will need basic care that can be accomplished with biweekly visits to prune branches, which are left on-site to protect the soil and turn into fertilizer.


Over the next years, various commodities will be harvested from this same system. Other species can also be incorporated to this agroforestry. We prefer to not define the additional species now, because as time passes, the soil will change and hopefully more people from the community will want to participate, which can dictate which species will be more interesting to plant. In the future, depending on the success of community participation, we can strengthen our collaborative and invest in sustainable certifications and introduce our products to the international market.


0-1 year yields: Corn, Peanuts, Sweet Potato, Yam, and Beans and okra

1 year yields: Manioc, Sugar Cane, Passion Fruit, Beans

2 year yields: Banana, Sugar Cane, Passion Fruit

3 year yields: Banana, Blackberry, Passion Fruit, Heart of Palm

4-7 year yields: Guava, Banana, Passion Fruit, Eucalyptus Lumber

8 year yields: Avocado, Juçara fruit, Queen Palm Nut

20 year yields: Various lumbers



3. Costs forecast;


Needed investment






10 rolls

Barbed Wire

R$200,00 / roll


440 saplings

Avocado, Guava, Eucalyptus, Coffee

R$2,00 / saplings


80 saplings

Brazilian Cherry

R$3,00 / sapling


8 days / 5 individuals

Local Labor

R$70,00 / day


1 truck

Transportation of saplings and planting equipment









Our team already has access to many recourses that will be applied to this project which includes: tractor, soil aerator, shovels, hoes, machetes, axes, two vehicles, specially trained specialists, community workshops, product design and marketing, as well as the other seeds and saplings that will be planted.  


4. Financial return anticipations;


0-1 year yields: Corn, Peanuts, Sweet Potato, Yam, and Beans and Okra

1 year yields: Manioc, Sugar Cane, Passion Fruit, Beans

2 year yields: Banana, Sugar Cane, Passion Fruit

3 year yields: Banana, Blackberry, Passion Fruit, Heart of Palm

4-7 year yields: Guava, Banana, Passion Fruit, Eucalyptus Lumber

8 year yields: Avocado, Juçara fruit, Queen Palm Nut

20+ year yields: Various lumbers



2016 Values


R$2,00 /kilogram


R$6,35 / kilogram


R$7,50 / kilogram


R$3,50 / kilogram

Sugar Cane

R$80,00 / Ton


R$400,00 / Ton


R$2,60 / kilogram

Passion Fruit

R$2,50 / kilogram


R$6,50 / kilogram


R$1,80 / kilogram

Sweet Potato

R$1,25 / kilogram


R$7,00 / kilogram


R$4,99 / kilogram

Heart of Palm

R$20,00 / kilogram

Juçara Fruit

R$25,00 / liter

Brazilian Cherry lumber

R$475,00 / m³

Eucalyptus lumber

R$100,00 / m³




5. Potential associated risks.


There are several main risks associated with this venture. The principle risk is related to the production or yield that can be affected by uncontrollable events such as excessive or insufficient rainfall, extreme temperatures, hail, insects, and diseases. Another risk comes from the market fluctuations. However, an agroforestry plantation reduces these risks because they will produce a wide variety of commodities. We also made a special effort to further reduce these risks by selecting rustic and resistant species that can withstand insects and diseases, as well as drought.


1. Need: What problem does your product solve / market need does it fill?

According to the World Bank, 70% of the world's poor is localized in rural communities. Brazil is a large rural population that produces agricultural commodities, and within the next 5 years Brazil is expected to become the 'bread basket' of the planet. However, this creates many conflicting interests. Rural landowners have many economic incentives to increase their agricultural production that are more powerful than the incentives of obeying Brazilian environmental laws. The past year, despite a commitment to stopping deforestation, the state of Minas Gerais was declared the champion of deforestation as 7,702 hectares of Atlantic forest were cut down. The below map provides insight to this deforestation, as a large part of the Atlantic Forest territory is being used for agriculture.



Sparovek, G., Berndes, G., Klug, I.L.F. & Barretto, A.G.O.P. (2010) Brazilian agriculture and environmental legislation: status and future challenges. Environmental Science and Technology, 44, 6046–6053.



The Atlantic Forest, the biome that this project will affect, was the first forest destroyed by colonists, the 8-12% remaining areas of forest are separated in 'islands' that create challenges for terrestrial and arboreal species. The critically endangered Northern Muriqui (Brachytelles hypoxanthus) is a large arboreal primate endemic to the Atlantic Forest; the females abandon their natal group when they are ready to reproduce but can find themselves alone in isolated forest fragments. Ecological corridors can provide necessary connectivity between fragments to benefit the Northern Muriqui, as well as all other species in the Atlantic Forest.


Today, there exists a number of projects that provide saplings to farmers and encourage them to plant corridors in their land. Even when the saplings are provided free of cost, there are many farmers who do not plant. Also, if they do plant, very few will dedicate themselves to care for the young saplings until it is a robust tree. Currently, farmers have no incentive to plant and care for these saplings: they already have difficult lives with little financial return without asking them to take on another labor with no financial return, and can even be perceived as a financial loss because once they plant a tree they will lose 'productive' land.


Ecological corridors planted with agroforestry strategies addresses and realigns these conflicting interests by allowing farmers to continue their agricultural development while assisting in the recuperation of Atlantic Forest fauna and flora. The products produced in these systems will fulfill the market's demand for agricultural products, a very important economic sector in Brazil. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, in 2012 agricultural production accounted for 28% of Brazil's total exports.


2. Market: How big is the market for your product?

There is a large regional market for agricultural goods. The Ibitipoca region has a long established tourism economy. The State Park of Ibitipoca was considered the third best state park in Latin America by Tripadvisor. The village that is located at the entrance of the State Park has 72 listed rental houses and around 40 hotels; the local minister of tourism evaluated the lodging capacity of Conceição do Ibitipoca in 2015 and calculated that the community can house at least 3,000 people. There are around 23 different restaurants. The tourists who visit this region are drawn to the pristine environments that provide opportunities to hike, swim in natural pools, and interact with nature. This profile of a consumer is also interested in natural foods. Many restaurants already feature and highlight native species on their menus, such as the Queen Palm Nut.


3. Revenue: How will your company make money now and in the future?


The benefits of the diversity of commodities from an agroforestry plot is the continuous production of commodities. Before the end of the first year, we will be able to harvest the first goods, such as corn, peanuts, and sweet potato. By the 8th year we will be able to harvest more valuable commodities like the Juçara fruit. If current values of Juçara pulp remain constant, in 8 years we should be able to harvest 450 liters of pulp that can be sold at R$25/liter, for a total of R$10.000,00. As the leftover seeds from the harvest will be replanted, we hope to increase the amount of Juçara palms in this plantation.


Another way to aggregate value to these commodities is to process the products, such as making flour from the corn, or jellies from the fruit. This can increase the value of a commodity 6 fold, and a way to benefit woman from the community.  


4. Defensibility: What are the barriers to entry for your competitors and new market entrants?

We do not think it is sustainable to simply purchase the land of farmers and revert it back to forest, we want to inspire new models of environmental preservation that realign farmer's interest with the natural ecosystem. A unique aspect of our project is the ambition to convince people in the region to join the market. We can decrease our running costs to increase profit, if we increase the quantity of our stock. Many agricultural producers increase their profits by forming collaborative. Reserva do Ibitipoca has been developing a sustainable agricultural collaborative since 2013 with the first agroforestry plantations on our property. We are now in the process of developing a brand. There is also the potential to label our products as sustainably produced and organic to increase their values. This is why community integration is a vital aspect of this project.  


5. Team: How is your management team uniquely positioned to execute on this idea?

Our management team is composed of experienced specialists in the fields of agroforestry and. Diogo Jorge is a permaculturist who has been planting agroforestry systems since 2008. Since 2013, Diogo has been planting on the Ibitipoca Mountains and has learned which plants adapt well to the regional soil and climate. He has built up a large bank of seeds, especially of Juçara Palm, as he already harvests and produces Juçara pulp.


Brittany Berger is the Project Coordinator and has four years of experience working in the region and building relationships with the community. Through these pre-established community bonds, she has been educating the community on agroforestry principles through series of events from visits, lectures, etc. The predominantly agricultural community has shown interest in learning new techniques that promise better livelihoods. Brittany will serve as project coordinator and community liaison.


6. Exit: How does the investor achieve liquidity?

In the worst case scenario, if the investor is unable to bring his products to the market, it can be consumed by the household. Historically, the community is composed of subsistence farmers who supplemented their income with dairy farming, which pays an average of R$2,800.00 per household (this capital also needs to pay for the running costs such as veterinary bills). Culturally, the ability to produce your own food has always been valued and the production of food strengthens the social capital and economic solidarity of the community, as farmers trade within themselves. At the very least, the investment can increase food security in the region.


Impact: How does your business benefit mankind?


Unfortunately, the modern world never had the chance to explore the Atlantic Forest the way we can explore the Amazon. The Atlantic Forest is a biodiversity hotspot and one of the most threatened biomes in the world. This was the first Brazilian forest to be destroyed by colonists. Due to global warming, this biome is being further threatened by drier and warmer climates that threatens its forests with drought and fire. The Atlantic Forest has been identified as an important biome to protect to counterattack Global Climate Change. Researchers from the University of Minnesota found that secondary-growth forests in Latin America absorb 11 times more carbon than old-growth forests.


It is easy to plant a seed, but it is hard to nurture and protect a sapling. Agroforestry changes this dynamic by creating economic incentives to nurture and care for a forest. Reserva do Ibitipoca wants to show the world how to make ecological corridors lucrative with agroforestry. In the Brazilian context, the remaining Atlantic Forest is severely fragmented and increasing the connectivity of these various fragments can save many species from extinction, like the Northern Muriqui. Globally, agroforestry is spreading and we hope our project can be an inspiration for a wide variety of biomes and countries.


With your assistance to this project can make a real and immediate impact on the world. Our project needs a small investment to become a reality. The ecological corridor will directly benefit one of the most endangered primate's in the world. It is important to plant this corridor in 2017, together with the translocation of two female Muriquis, to expand the habitat for a soon-to-be growing Muriqui population.


This project will also help the critically endangered Juçara Palm by creating an economic mechanism to protect and plant this species. This project will serve as a showcase to the region that it is much more valuable to harvest the fruits of the tree instead of cutting it down to take the palmito.


Another immediate benefit will be showcasing sustainable alternatives to produce two profitable and common commodities, coffee and eucalyptus. Ironically, the two females that will come to Ibitipoca are in forest fragments dominated by coffee and eucalyptus plantations. These commodities are important to the Brazilian economy and this model will be important to show farmers that there are alternative planting styles that can be very successful.