Collaboration stimulates Brazilian farmer self-reliance

Rabobank Foundation and Confederation Sicredi intend to work together in Brazil on a number of projects within Rabobank's Kickstart Earth program. They signed a Letter of Intent this month.

Earth is one of the four Kickstart Food programme themes, through which Rabobank wants to speed up the transition to sustainable food production. In this context, Rabobank Foundation aims to connect parties that can strengthen one another's qualities. A Letter of Intent signed by Pierre van Hedel, Director of Rabobank Foundation, and Joao Francisco Tavares, CEO of the Confederation Sicredi, earlier this month, is a prime example.

Improving small farmers’ position

The relationship between Rabobank and the Brazilian cooperative system Sicredi is not new: Rabobank has a minority stake of 23% in Banco Sicredi. In this system, 116 affiliated cooperatives are organized into five chapters. Pierre van Hedel, Director of Rabobank Foundation, saw opportunities for collaboration between Sicredi and Rabobank Foundation. "We mainly focus on small farmers, Sicredi serves the middle segment. Still I asked whether they wanted to work with us on improving the position of small farmers and to help them produce more and more sustainably. Contact was quickly made with Danny van Det, who is on the board of Banco Sicredi on behalf of Rabo Development. He encouraged Sicredi to participate in the Kickstart Earth program."

Technical assistance for dairy cooperatives

Rabobank Foundation and the Brazilian cooperative system, represented by the Centro Norte chapter, will begin supporting three dairy cooperatives. They will also provide technical assistance, so that farmers can increase their milk production per cow. Van Hedel: "We want to teach farmers to work in a more circular manner. The manure, which often remains unused, can for example be used to make the land more fertile or serve as a raw material for gas production." Presently a lot of milk is thrown away as there is not an effective cooling system. Rabobank Foundation therefore wants to provide a loan for a cooling tank that the cooperative’s farmers can jointly use. Enabling the farmers to be self-reliant discourages them from cultivating soy. Soy yields a good return in the short term, but land needs to be burnt for production. "Large-scale burning is a major problem in Brazil," says Pierre van Hedel.

“We would like to teach farmers to work in a circular manner”

- Pierre van Hedel, Director of Rabobank Foundation

Proven method

Rabobank Foundation supports small farmers in developing countries with money, knowledge and access to networks, just as Rabobank does at home and abroad for its banking clients. In Africa, a lot of success has been achieved with this tried and tested method. "In Kenya, we have provided vegetable growers with better seeds and together with the FAO (the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) we have taught them to cultivate their land in a more efficient and sustainable manner. In addition, we supported the setting up of a cooperative and we have established a relationship with the supermarkets in Nairobi. Small Kenyan farmers are now able to jointly deliver guaranteed deliveries to the supermarkets.

Follow-up steps

In Brazil, three dairy cooperatives have now been selected and are eligible for support. Further steps will be worked out in January. Pierre van Hedel: "What we are now doing in Brazil, Rabobank used to do in the Netherlands. I therefore call Rabobank Foundation: 'Rabobank on repeat'."