Guest Post: The Need For Holistic Management In Br…

I spent most of my childhood living in Brazil. So Brazil has a special place in my heart. I wanted to know who was practicing or teaching Holistic Management in Brazil. I found out that there is only one Holistic Manager in Brazil, Alberto Miguel. This was a shock to me, considering Brazil has more cattle and produces more beef than any other country on Earth.

Alberto MiguelAlberto Miguel has been working to spread Holistic Managment in Brazil for over 8 years now. He has had many successes and has peaked the interest of thousands of Brazilians. This year he will be teaching his first Holistic Management course at the University of Sao Paulo, in Brazil. He runs a very popular Facebook group and website about Holistic Management for Brazilians.

But, despite Alberto’s tireless work, Holistic Management has still not been implemented by any Brazilian land owners. They want proof that Holistic Management will work for them before they will implement it. I have asked Alberto to write about why Brazil needs Holistic Management. And what we, the Holistic Management community, can do to help him.

Holistic Management – A Tool That Brazil Cannot Afford To Ignore

(or How Bad Will It Be For The World If Brazilians Ignore Holistic Management)

I could talk to you about the fact that Brazil has one of the largest cattle herds in the world (200 million head and counting). I could tell you that Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world and produces food to be exported and feed the world. I could show you that, like in other countries around the world, farmers and ranchers are struggling to make enough money to meet their needs. But I know that most of you already know these things.

And why you should care? Well, the Brazil cattle industry (which is huge) is slowly shifting from the prairies to the forest, which will affect the world. Also the prairies (cerrados) in Brazil are farmed to produce grains to feed the world (most of their animals kept in CAFO’s, actually). However the cerrados are extremely fragile and they are brittle (it rains for 7 months and it is dry for 5), which means that they are prone to desertification.

The response from the Brazilian government is to create National Parks in the cerrados. I visited one and, believe me, you can see signs of desertification all over the park. Even though I talked with the authorities to show them that their management was causing degradation on the land, I couldn’t convince them. Just to give you an idea: Emas National Park has 130,000 hectares, with only deer to eat it all. So fire comes every year to burn the excess of dead vegetative material that has no animal to eat it. Oh, I forgot the ants and the termites…

Desertification in Central Brazil and the end of the cerrados means that the biggest aquifer in the world (Guarani aquifer) is at risk. And it is already been polluted by the enormous amount of chemicals being used by farmers to cultivated their lands “conventionally”. One billion litres of this products are used annually to harvest its production around Brazil. That figure doesn’t even include the fertilizers…

Adding to that, the deforestation of virgin Amazon Rainforest caused by this shift (from the cerrados to the forest) means that biodiversity is being lost very quickly. Now, the rains that normally come to Southeast Brazil via “aerial rivers”, simply fall on the Amazon instead (causing severe flooding in the north, but severe drought in the south). Sao Paulo (home to 20 million people) saw its water reservoirs dried almost to nothing, and just last year there was fear that it would dry out completely.

The same is happening in Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Espirito Santo, Goias and Tocantins. These are all Brazilian states that are seeing the worst drought in decades. In Northeastern Brazil cattle died by the millions last year. And the Sao Francisco River (the second largest river in Brazil, just smaller than the Amazon River, which has millions and millions of persons dependent on its waters) had the volume of water dropped from the usual 2,800 m3 per second to 1,100 m3 per second, considered the worst drought in the last one hundred years.

One can only imagine what these catastrophes mean not only to Brazil, but to the world. All of us that know about Holistic Management also know that it is possible revert the course of this awful picture by simply changing the way we make decisions.

It is clear that herbivores must go back to the cerrados and that the forest should be kept as it is, for the sake of humanity. But some convincing has to be done before we will see that happening.

Every time I speak to the public, and especially to producers, the first question I get is: “Is there a place here in Brazil where we can see the results you are talking about?” The answer is, unfortunately, “Not yet.” I have come to the conclusion that the lack of a place to use as a demonstration site is my logjam. And to clean it up I will need help.

There are so many places in Brazil; so many different environments (just like Canada, for example, which is semiarid in the prairies but humid on the coast), so many types of soil, and so much cultural diversity. It would be impossible to cover it all if I wanted to have a site on my own. Instead, my goal is to find one producer in each area of Brazil, and develop the site using Holistic Management.

To accomplish that I need to be in touch with the communities. To do that I need to travel, which is currently limited because of my budget. Some conferences pay me for speaking, but in others (especially speaking to students) I don’t get a penny but the expenses.

I am reaching out to you and asking for your support. I want to keep doing what I am doing and hopefully see the improvement of the land (especially where Holistic Management is most needed, in brittle environments) and I feel that the process can be sped up with your help.

Thank you,

Alberto Miguel

*If you would like to support Alberto’s work, if you would like to help establish Holistic Management in Brazil, please email Alberto. His email address is albertomiguel@shaw.ca

Holistic Management in Brazil

My Thoughts About The Importance Of Promoting Holistic Management In Brazil

Here are some additional reasons we, the Holistic Management community, should increase our efforts to spread Holistic Management in Brasil:

  1. Brasil is the most influential country in South America. Similar to South Africa, or the United States, what happens in Brazil is very likely to spread to the other countries in its continent. Brazil has the largest population, and the largest economy in South America. If ranchers and farmers in Brazil start to use, and promote, Holistic Management it will not be long before the rest of South America catches on. Yes, Holistic Management is happening in Chile and Argentina…. but these countries have very different climates than the other countries in South America. Brazil is the most effective place to apply our efforts if we want to influence the most people in the least amount of time.

  2. Implementing Holistic Management on Brazilian ranches will be relatively easy. Brazilians have relatively easy access to things like electric fences, water pipes, water pumps, electricity, the internet, etc. Brazilian ranchers already have a well established cattle market to sell to and to buy from.

  3. Holistic Ranchers in Brazil will be highly profitable. Brazilian range lands are highly productive already.  The limiting factor over most of Brazil is poor soil quality and soil depth. Planned Grazing is proven to build soil quickly. With good topsoil, it is hard to even imagine the carrying capacity of Brazilian pastures. This huge increase in production only requires a small investment in fencing, water, and management. Therefore, profit!

  4. Saving the Amazon Rainforest will benefit all of us. If Brazil’s degraded range lands can be restored with the tool of Holistic Management then ranchers will not be forced to continually cut down the Amazon in order to sustain their herds. No other ecosystem on Earth contains as much diversity as the Amazon Rainforest (one out of ever ten species on Earth lives in the Amazon). The Amazon Rainforest also creates 20% of the worlds oxygen and holds 20% of the world’s fresh water. 25% of all modern pharmaceutical drugs are derived from rainforest plants, even though less than 1% of Amazon plant species have been studied. The Amazon also plays a large role in the global Carbon cycle.

How To Help Spread Holistic Management In Brazil

Alberto Miguel knows more about Brazil than any other Holistic Manager. I think it would be prudent to take his advice. Here are the primary areas he has identified that you can help with:

  1. Money for Alberto to travel to distant ranching communities in Brazil in order to establish demonstration sites.
  2. Money to actually buy land and create a site from scratch, if he cannot find anyone willing to lease land or lend cattle.
  3. Money to create a Portuguese translation of “Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making”

**Note: Brazil’s currency is currently very low value, so even a small donation will go a long way in Brazil.  

If you feel that investing in Brazilian Holistic Management is a good idea please contact either Alberto or myself via email. 

Alberto Miguel: albertomiguel@shaw.ca

Sheldon Frith: sheldonfrith@hotmail.com

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