Preserving and Replenishing Brazil’s New Breadbasket

By Rodrigo Medeiros, Vice President, Conservation International Brazil, and Rodrigo Santos, President, Monsanto Brazil
Dec 10, 2014 2:00 PM ET

By turning itself from a food importer into one of the world’s leading food exporters, Brazil has made itself into one of the great agricultural success stories of the last 40 years. But if you think that’s because Brazil has plowed up the Amazon rainforest, you need to read on.

Brazil’s agricultural bounty is not flowing so much from its rainforest as from its central high plains, itsCerrado, which is located generally south of the more well-known Amazon region.  A vast mosaic of grassland and forest, the Cerrado was long thought to be unsuitable for farming because its soils are generally poor. But a few decades ago, Brazilian agronomists discovered that the land could be made suitable for farming with the addition of inputs like lime and fertilizer and by applying biotechnology.

Now the Cerrado is seen by some as a model for what could also happen in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere to help feed the world’s burgeoning population.

But if the Cerrado is to be a true model, it needs to be farmed sustainably. Its astonishing biodiversity – it’s one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots – cannot be sacrificed.  And farmers there need to learn how to work with and preserve the natural ecosystems so that the Cerrado can continue to help feed the world. Among other things, that means the Cerrado’s forests, which are so important to maintaining the health of its rivers and topsoils, must be preserved and replenished.

That’s why Conservation International and Monsanto are working together in the Cerrado.  We’re trying to prevent illegal deforestation.  We’re working to prevent the local extinction of species.  And we’re encouraging compliance with legislation relating to the agricultural and livestock supply chain. View the video here to learn more about our collaboration in the Cerrado.

Billy Brennan