Gisele and Tereza in the country of green tones.

Once upon a time there were two girls, who lived in a distant country, called Green. It had this name because it was all green, when seen from the top, from an airplane for example. But, getting closer, the single green turned into many different tones, even in other colors.

The shades of green were so many that they confused the eyes of Gisele and Tereza. Looking at the same place, they always saw different tones. This happened to almost everyone. One day, the government of that very different country decided to organize this issue, of the different perceptions about colors. He divided people into two large groups: yellow-green and red.

At first, it looked like it would work, but…. no! The people of that country, now divided into two groups, never understood each other, they were no longer a single people. Besides, from stealing so much, that government ended up falling. They then elected a new one, who on the first day already decreed:
-We are a yellow-green country!
-Great, people thought, after all, our country is really green, it was never red.

However, in spite of everyone seeing green, they returned to experience their different perceptions about the same reality. Gisele, traveling by plane, saw a dark green in much of the country. Tereza, also by plane, saw a pale green, more faded. It was like that whenever they flew together.
Down there, on the ground, lived an agronomist, Antonio.

He traveled for forty years, almost always by car, from farm to farm, giving technical assistance in crops, consultancies and lectures on agroecology, for rural producers. He also planted a small piece of land.

Once, Antonio was giving a talk to major coffee producers, when one of them raised his arm to ask a question. This producer was none other than the father of the two girls, Gisele and Tereza (I forgot to say that they were sisters). He asked:

-Professor Antonio, do you think that producers should receive money because they have to maintain environmental conservation areas on their properties?

-“Of course,” replied Antonio. In my opinion, if a producer has 2500 ac, and needs to preserve 20% of that, he should receive from the government the corresponding 20% of the result (profit) he obtained in the part of the land he used. After all, when he bought the property, he paid for 100% of it.

-My daughters think the same, professor!

The lecture continued until it was interrupted again by that producer:

-Professor! Do you think we need to deforest to produce more?

-Of course not! Our farming areas correspond to only 7.8% of Brazil. And we are already big exporters of food. With a few simple measures, it is possible to triple the capacity of our pastures, which in turn, represent more than three times the area occupied with crops. So, it makes no sense to deforest more, to produce food. In the tropics, we need the forest to balance the climate. If we deforest more, we put agriculture itself at risk, do you understand?

-Yes, my daughter Gisele always says that. Will our country be able to end world hunger, professor?

-Hunger is a political and social problem, not an agronomic one. Usually, behind hunger there is a corrupt or incompetent government. What do you really put on your plate? Rice, beans, vegetables, chicken, potatoes, etc.
All of this together doesn’t yield even one fifth of the 7.8% of crops that we have in the country.
For some time now we have produced much more than we need to feed everyone. But, from crops to homes, we lose or waste almost half of what we produce.
We also chose to direct, almost 80% of the soy and corn produced, to feed the animals, and then we eat their meat.

Gisele, who accompanied her father, even there nodded in agreement with everything. But when the professor talked about eating the meat of the animals, she made a very ugly face and stuck out his tongue. The interrogation continued …

-Professor, my daughter Tereza says that other food producing countries want us to preserve the forests, so as not to compete with them, in international trade. It is true?

-I don’t agree with your daughter. If any country thinks the same, they don’t know us. We can easily double our production if we implement smart and well-articulated actions.
For example, to actually encourage, not only in appearance, the integration of agriculture-livestock and agriculture-livestock-forest. We can also get better prices for our food, if we know how to better publicize our environmental preservation policies to the market.
Ending deforestation once and for all would bring us a great bonus when it comes to selling our production, if we know how to capitalize on this achievement.

-From what I see, then, professor, justifying clandestine deforestation, claiming that we have already preserved most of our territory, or that we have preserved more than the countries that accuse us, it will not improve at all, our results in trade, right?

-You are absolutely right, said Antonio. It is the old habit that we have to defend ourselves, attacking whoever attacked us. In fact, any one of these countries realizes that we are, with this counterattack, just trying to hide our incompetence in ending clandestine deforestation.
We only benefit the offenders, who should have been in jail. Instead of justifying our deforestation with numbers, we should end it, to sit at the international negotiating table, speaking thickly!

-One last question, professor! What do you think of these new projects that intend to facilitate environmental licenses and also the registration of agrochemicals?

-Regarding environmental licenses, we who work in agribusiness know how irritating it is to obtain them. Confusing norms, even more tax, ridiculous bureaucracies. It is true that environmental laws must protect us and our environment.
But they don’t have to disrupt the producers’ lives so much. They are most interested in environmental protection. If a bad producer is acting differently, let him be punished.
At this point in the explanation, Tereza smiled, agreeing with the professor.
As for facilitating the registration of agrochemicals, it’s another shot in the foot. The pressures for that to happen, come from all sides, but in fact they have only one origin: the agrochemical industry. And why would it be a shot in the foot of agribusiness?
Because the vast majority of countries that import our products are increasingly restrictive, regarding the use of these substances. Facilitating the release of these products, in a short time we will start to see our ships return, with their cargoes rejected by the presence of traces of agrochemicals in the food.
I would add that, today, it is already known that reducing the use of aggressive substances in the soil is essential to restore balance and biological fertility, the basis for harvesting more and more, with less.

At that time, Teresa’s eyes widened and she lets slipped her surprise with the professor’s arguments.

-In addition, continued Antonio, no producer in that country, none at all, is harvesting less due to the lack of registration of any product. They want to buy less products, lower their costs, optimize their processes.
Agriculture, from now on, is more concerned with improving its systems: harvesting more, using less inputs.
More technology doesn’t mean using more purchased inputs. It means building smarter, more efficient systems that make better use of natural cycles and the flows of matter and energy in agro-ecosystems.
For this new agriculture to be possible, we need well-structured, remineralized soils, rich in humus and decontaminated. In this way, we will be able to replace most of the purchased inputs with the free work of living organisms in the soil.

The professor ended the lecture, saying:

-Environmental preservation and agricultural production are two sides of the same coin. We need both! But the division of opinions became widespread in our country.
The diversity of opinions is wonderful. But duality (to be only for or against) is almost as dumb as unanimity. Producers who destroy river sources are not good producers; they aren’t making money from it, they are simply incompetent.
Nowadays, the most successful rural producers in business are precisely those who are most careful with natural resources. They learn to use natural forces, without destroying them. They want to leave the best for their children and grandchildren. They know that the way is there.

Then, under the applause of the producers present, the professor ended his lecture, inside that old farm shed. Outside, the rain was very heavy. Upon leaving, Tereza teased her sister Gisele (I forgot to say they were twins):

-If they had already deforested everything, we wouldn’t get our shoes dirty in that clay!

Antonio N. S. Teixeira
Executive Director – IBA

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