Seven years ago, the Brazilian government passed pioneering legislation known as the National Policy for Agroecology and Organic Production, or PNAPO. The first of its kind, this new legislation sought to contribute to the sustainable development and well-being of the Brazilian population through the responsible use of natural resources and consumption of healthy foods.

By design, PNAPO integrates and articulates policies, programs, and actions promoting agroecological production and transition. In 2018, it received the Silver Award in the Future Policy Award Agroecology.

The policy links food production, nutrition, health, and education, which has led to visible large-scale improvements for smallholder farmers and vulnerable populations in Brazil.

Civic Engagement Changes Public Policy

How did PNAPO come into being? PNAPO developed as a result of strong bottom-up community engagement. Its enactment was achieved largely through a participatory approach, which enabled civil society to take a leading role in advancing the policy’s agenda and ensuring demands were effectively incorporated into the final draft. CNAPO, a PNAPO committee, is comprised equally of civil society representatives and government officials and ensures continued multi-sector participation in PNAPO’s monitoring and implementation.

The Brazilian agroecological movement encompasses actors from many societal spheres, from rural youth and women to landless workers and traditional communities. Significant advancements within the movement can be attributed to a swell of support among and from social movements, non-governmental organizations, higher education, and research institutions as well as technical support and rural extension communities.

Underlying Principles

PNAPO was built around seven guidelines:

  1. The promotion of food sovereignty, food safety and nutrition and the human right to food through the offer of organic and agroecological products;
  2. The sustainable use of natural resources, respecting labor regulations and improving workers’ wellbeing;
  3. The conservation of natural ecosystems and the recovery of modified ecosystems through systems based on natural resources and methods and techniques that reduce waste generation and minimize dependence on external outputs;
  4. The promotion of just and sustainable food production, distribution and consumption systems, supporting family farmers;
  5. The promotion of socio- and agrobiodiversity, encouraging local initiatives of use and conservation of genetic resources, and
  6. The participation of rural youth in organic and agroecological production;
  7. The reduction of gender inequalities.

Public Policy Changes Lives

Since its inception, PNAPO has helped local farmers tremendously and is transforming the way they do business.

How does it work? One of PNAPO’s main instruments for implementation is the National Plan for Agroecology and Organic Production, or PLANAPO. PLANAPO is effectively a multi-year set of cycles that establish concrete PNAPO initiatives. Its first cycle of activities ran from 2013-2015 and set out 125 initiatives to advance agroecology in Brazil.

PLANAPO led to impressive quantitative results in terms of advancing the agroecological agenda in Brazil. The numerous important outcomes of PLANAPO 2013-2015 and PNAPO included:

  • Assisted 5,300 municipalities to spend 30 percent or more of their school meal programme budget on purchases of organic and agroecological products from family farmers (some municipalities even reach 100 percent);
  • Supported 393 rural family farming organizations;
  • Launched several public calls that enabled agroecological organizations to expand their staff on an unprecedented scale benefitting about 132,744 farming families;
  • Trained 7,722 technicians and 52,779 farmers;
  • Promoted 24 networks for agroecology;
  • Trained 960 professionals and political leaders on financing women in organic and agroecological agriculture, which benefitted 5,200 rural women in 20 different Brazilian States;
  • Supported 556 women’s networks, benefitting 5,566 rural women;
  • Adapted 600 native seeds banks to semiarid conditions, and
  • Trained more than 12,000 farmers families.

Currently, Brazil is facing a rather intricate political and economic situation. PNAPO’s second cycle, PLANAPO 2016-2019, is still ongoing, but due to political turmoil in the country and a severe economic crisis (2014-2016), it faces drastic budget cuts that hamper its implementation. Nonetheless, much was achieved and PNAPO’s bodies have continued working and secured some funding.

Read more about this award-winning policy
Find out what other policies were recognized by the Future Policy Award here

In the previous blog posts, you’ll find personal stories from farmers and updates from organic projects working on the ground to build change. Check them out!