University of Brasília and MST advance in a partnership to create the Brazil-China family agriculture research center

Cooperations with China include experiences in Brazilian rural communities and technical support to biofactories

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | Pequim (China) |
Demonstration Center for the Treatment and Use of Urban and Rural Organic Waste in Linhu, Suzhou City, China. - Mauro Ramos

With the articulation of the International Association for People’s Cooperation and Baobab, the China Agricultural University (CAU) is developing partnerships with the University of Brasília (UnB, in Portuguese) and the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST, in Portuguese) in the areas of bioinputs and agricultural machinery for family agriculture.

At the beginning of November, UNB Dean Márcia Abrahão traveled to China with an MST delegation to continue building the Brazil-China Center for Research, Development and Promotion of Technology for Family Agriculture.

The binational center has three axes: besides academic activities, the exchange of students will include life experiences in Brazilian rural communities such as quilombola territories and MST settlements, testing agricultural machinery for peasants, and research on bioinputs for agriculture.

Abrahão, who is also the president of the National Association of Directors of Federal Higher Education Institutions (Andifes, in Portuguese), says that one of the research projects already being developed in a partnership between the institutions focuses on fertilizer production using rock dust and kitchen waste.

The director of the UAC Institute of Organic Recycling, Li Ji, says that, besides research cooperation and sharing of technologies, it is necessary to support the development of the bioinput industry in Brazil.

“It is crucial to help the development of Brazilian technical and managerial personnel, as, ultimately, the equipment will need to be on a specific site and serve local production,” says Li Ji.

Bioinput on the rise

In Brazil and China, biological inputs have grown in relevance in recent years.  

In 2015, the Chinese government launched a plan to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers until 2020. The use of these products fell from 60 million tons in 2015 to 50 million tons in 2022, representing a 15% decrease. 

At the end of last year, the Chinese government launched two new plans to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides until 2025. Among the measures to be adopted, to increase by more than five percentage points the proportion of area where organic fertilizers should be used.

In Brazil, there is a bill (PL 3668/2021) that regulates the bioinput chain. In September this year, the Senate Environment Commission approved a project aimed at boosting the decrease in the use of pesticides in the country. Since the project is a substitute, it will be voted on again by the commission and, if approved, goes to the Chamber of Deputies. 

Among people’s movements, one of the pioneering experiences was developed by Cooperbio and the Small Farmers Movement (MPA, in Portuguese) based in Seberi, Rio Grande do Sul state, but connected to farmers in more than 60 cities in the region.

In 2020, MST launched its first bioinput factory in the Land Cooperative, located in the Pirituba settlement, in Itaberá (São Paulo state). This year, the Ana Primavesi Input Production Unit was launched during the 20th Agroecological Rice Harvest Festival in Viamão, Rio Grande do Sul state. The name pays tribute to the pioneer of agroecology.

The national coordinator of MST’s Bioinput Collective, Andreia Matheus, who was part of the delegation that travelled to China, said the movement has been developing biofactories and bioinput production units in an integrated approach, involving biodefenders, biofertilizers and the so-called biocomplete compounds.

One of the projects MST intends to strengthen with the new partnership is the bioinput factory in the city of São Leopoldo, Rio Grande do Sul state, which “has an effective waste management process," says Andreia Matheus. The factory will use part of organic solid waste to make organic fertilizers based on Chinese technology. 

At the UAC Organic Recycling Research Institute, located in Suzhou, the first Demonstration Center for the Treatment and Utilization of Urban and Rural Organic Waste was launched neighboring Taihu Lake, the third largest in China.

The plant processes over 14,000 organic waste per year, and can produce 4,500 tons of organic fertilizers and 146 tons of oil for different uses, such as cosmetics or even fuel. 

The main products at the Center are organic fertilizers, which are used in agroecology.

Li Ji says that the project helps guide residents to separate their waste, therefore creating a circular economy, which is “important to preserve national resources, protect the environment, promote sustainable and ecological agriculture, preserve the soil and defend public health."

To the national coordination of MST Bioinput Collective, China became a reference regarding bioinput production “because it is part of a State and government strategy.”

“This strategy involves solving the environmental problems the country has together with other sectors of society, such as food and energy production,” she concludes. 

Edited by: Leandro Melito