An association of sugarcane producers from the city of Bariri, in Brazil’s São Paulo state have become the first association of farms in the world to be recognised for the sustainability of their agricultural operations using the Bonsucro Production Standard. The association, Assobari (Associação dos Fornecedores de Cana da Região de Bariri), obtained the recognition for 64 of the farms within its membership. The recognised farms cover nearly 2000 hectares in total, producing 173,000 tonnes of cane annually.
The recognition was awarded after audits carried out by the certification body Control Union, and is the culmination of significant time and effort to bring the farms’ operations into line with the various social, economic and environmental sustainability requirements of the Bonsucro Production Standard.
The process to getting all of the farms to adapt their agricultural practices to meet the 300 different items of the Assobari protocol was a challenging one, says Mr Acácio Masson Filho, Assobari’s President. However, he believes that meeting the Standard has already brought benefits to the farms. “It has brought about a reduction in operating costs, increased productivity per hectare, and higher quality cane”, says Mr Masson Filho.
Assobari will now look to obtain Bonsucro recognition for the rest of its cane producers, as something that Mr Masson believes is increasingly important – “Our view is that certification and recognition is fundamental, and that in the near future, markets will require it, forming complete chain of custody assurance from producer to mill to final consumer”
This is a landmark development for Bonsucro. Bonsucro certification was originally designed to jointly recognise the mill and the farms that supply that mill. Many mill groups in Brazil chose only to include the land under their direct control for their area of certification. In 2014 farmers from Brazil, Australia, South Africa and Colombia evaluated how Bonsucro could better support and empower the independent farmer community to achieve sustainability performance and gain recognition for their commitment and practices.
Last year, under the supervision of a farmer working group, Bonsucro developed a revised protocol for recognising groups of farms that achieve the agricultural components of the Bonsucro Standard, independent of the mill. In March 2016, Bonsucro’s Board of Directors approved the publication of the Farmer Recognition Protocol.
Welcoming the development, Bonsucro CEO Simon Usher says that it was an example of how Bonsucro is responding to the industry’s needs – “Bonsucro has listened to the farming community and worked to ensure that farms can also be recognised for their sustainability achievements. We’re very pleased with the determination, innovation and leadership that Assobari has shown, and hope that other farms around the world will follow their lead”
Assobari were also assisted in the process by fellow Bonsucro members WWF. In 2009, Assobari and its partners began developing the “Agro Environmental Quality Protocol”. With the support from WWF and Água Brasil Program, a partnership between Banco do Brazil, WWF-Brasil, Banco do Brasil Foundation and the National Water Agency (ANA), they were able to boost the adjustment of agricultural activity on their farms with labor and environmental legislation. The Protocol was developed to align local sustainability best practice with the Bonsucro global standard and provided the tool to bringing farmers to compliance.
With the implementation of the Protocol, the producer group was part of a pilot project to meet Bonsucro’s Production Standard. “For farmers, one of the greatest challenges is in property management. And through this project we have observed that the Bonsucro Standard can work as an effective management tool for the producers”, says the head of the Agriculture and Environment Programme at WWF-Brazil, Edegar Rosa.
For the head of the Água Brasil Program, Cristiano Cegana, the Assobari case is an excellent example that it is possible to reconcile production with environment conservation. “The interest of the sugarcane producers in Bonsucro certification highlights the search that the sector makes for a greater economic gain linked to the reduction of environmental and social impacts of production,” he said.
Source – Bonsucro