A new app developed by a team from the University of Exeter, UK, will help small-scale farmers in the Amazon to live and earn a living in the deforested parts of the forest.
The app —called AmazonPasto— includes information about what species can grow in the area to support tree-based agriculture and local grazing. Local farmers can also share their tips and experiences, allowing others to learn from them. The project, run locally by NGO Instituto Ouro Verde (IOV, Institute of the Green Gold), has already helped plant thousands of trees.
“The app is a really exciting development that can potentially make a huge difference to the ultimate reach of the project,” said Professor Toby Pennington, based at the Department of Geography at the University of Exeter. “The one piece of technology that is really widespread, even in rural parts of the Amazon, is the smart phone. By offering this information and – crucially – allowing farmers and researchers to add their own, these agricultural systems will constantly improve.”
Through a cycle of improvement and growth, the project aims to improve both the lives of Brazilians with a low income as well as the Amazon environment. For example, some of the local farmers were actually homeless before the project started, but their new silvopastoral systems (which includes animals grazing amongst the trees) are now producing enough crops and milk to support their families. Produce is sold to the Brazilian government to be used in local institutions, including schools.
Over 20,000 trees have already been planted in 60 hectares of silvopastoral systems, and the project aims to increase the area by 150 hectares every year. The project uses Inga trees, which lock nitrogen into the soil and keep it fertile for a long time.
“For IOV’s team, this app is a great step forward in promoting sustainable and resilient agriculture systems in the Amazon,” said Dr Alexandre Olival from IOV. “Because of the app and our already successful systems, many small farmers are looking for information or even planting new trees in their pastures. It could be a real advance for the entire region.”
Given the promising results from the first project, the app will be extended for use in other areas, after IOV’s secured further funding to continue the project. The aim is to add plants found in the pampas grasslands in southern Brazil, the Atlantic rainforest and the tropical dry forests.
The University of Exeter has also launched a “Green Futures” website to promote action to protect the environment and fight climate change. You can find out more at https://greenfutures.exeter.ac.uk.