A socio-ecological analysis of diversified agricultural landscapes in Santa Catarina, Brazil

Collaborators: Vivian Valencia, University of Michigan; Andrew Jones, University of Michigan; Hannah Wittman, University of British Columbia; Joshua Farley, University of Vermont; Abdon Schmitt Filho, Federal University of Santa Catarina; Paulo Sinisgalli, University of São Paulo

Although Brazil has a rapidly industrializing agricultural sector, it is also renowned for innovative policy programs linking support for more sustainable rural production with community food security and food access goals. However, the policies designed to support the family-farming sector have received limited research attention and investment compared to support for large-scale commodity production. In this interdisciplinary collaboration, we extended previous research on family farms in the Brazilian Cerrado (Brazil’s soybean capital) to the Atlantic Forest biome in the state of Santa Catarina (Brazil’s agroecology capital). We investigated socioecological mechanisms in agricultural landscapes that can lead to joint improvements in rural livelihoods and ecosystem function in two biodiversity hotspots in Brazil. We also explored the role of agrobiodiversity in providing positive nutritional and dietary outcomes, using dietary diversity as a proxy, for family farmers with a wide range of management systems. Understanding how different management systems drive social and ecological outcomes can inform policy development and more strategic targeting of public investments. We found that Brazil’s National School Feeding Program (PNAE), part of the Zero Hunger policy platform, played a key role in driving transitions on family farms from low diversity, high input production to diversified, ecological management, and significantly increased the total cropped area in diversified cropping systems.