Sustainable cattle ranching in Brazil's Amazon
Mato Grosso, Brazil
About the project:
The Novo Campo sustainable cattle ranching program, started by Brazilian NGO Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) in 2012, is a pioneering project in the Alta Floresta ranching hub of Brazil’s Mato Grosso state. Novo Campo aims to prove that sustainable small-to-medium-sized ranches that implement a package of better animal nutrition, husbandry, and health policies are profitable and can help restore degraded land.
Novo Campo was started in response to the expansion of unsustainable cattle ranching, a process that plays a significant role in the destruction and degradation of the Brazilian Amazon. Today, due in part to lack of focused investment in maintaining ecosystem functionality, pastureland and soils have been degraded, threatening agriculture throughout the region. On top of that, productivity is low and output is falling short of market expectations. Large swathes of the Amazon are caught in a low investment and poor performance trap.
The result has been extensive forest clearance and, with it, the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems that underpin rural economies, as well as significant greenhouse gas emissions. The Brazilian cattle sector is now facing pressure from two conflicting forces. On the one hand, the industry is expanding to meet the increasing demand for beef, largely fueled by growing meat consumption in Asia and elsewhere. On the other hand, pressure from powerful clients and civil society organizations is pushing the cattle industry to remove deforestation from its supply chain, and to improve both product quality and sustainability
In this complicated sector, the Novo Campo project offers a compelling alternative vision that promotes sustainable cattle ranching. To boost the program, ICV has launched PECSA, Pecuária Sustentável da Amazônia (Amazon Sustainable Cattle Ranching), as the technical assistance, management and investment aggregation firm in charge of Novo Campo. Eventually, PECSA will operate more than 100,000 hectares of pastureland and 340,000 head of environmentally compliant, high-quality beef cattle.
To accomplish its ambitious goal, PECSA allied with Althelia funds, an impact investor and financial partner of Initiative 20x20 that argues that financial performance can be aligned with environmental stewardship and social development. Althelia has provided PECSA with €11.5 million of financing to start operations on 20 farms, restore 10,000 hectares of pastureland, and sustainably manage 34,000 head of cattle by 2017. The partnership has already paid off. After going through a rigorous certification process in 2017, PECSA was recognized as the first cattle ranching B Corp in Latin America.
Althelia’s investment has enabled ranchers to revitalize pastureland and restore riparian forests, to implement rotational grazing systems, to improve health and animal welfare, to provide technical assistance, and to enable market access. PECSA and individual cattle ranchers share the profits of their partnership, ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Novo Campo project.
The end goal of Novo Campo is to produce fully traceable, forest-friendly beef — and significant progress has already been made. The results of the pilot project speak for themselves: For participating ranchers, their methane emissions are down and their stocking per hectare, productivity, meat quality, and gross profit are all up. It's a system that emits less and produces more, without any deforestation.
The Novo Campo project also contributes to the State of Mato Grosso's sustainability goals and its REDD+ program. Novo Campo's framework can be expanded to livestock outfits across Mato Grosso, where ranchers own over 30 million head of cattle, and over 10,000 hectares of degraded pastureland in critical riparian areas will benefit from reforestation. As it expands, the program will be a fundamental step towards the realization of fully traceable zero-deforestation beef. The outcome? Improved pastureland, productivity, animal welfare and product quality. Another bonus? The end of deforestation and restoration of degraded land in one of the world's most important ecosystems.