As a professor, State Secretary, Minister of Agriculture, member of the National Congress and rural leader, Alysson Paolinelli has led the sustainable tropical agricultural revolution since the 1970’s. This was one of the most impacting economic and social facts of Brazil’s recent history and started a new chapter in the history of man’s food production.
The Great Leap
In the 1970’s, Brazil imported basic staples and the agricultural revolution ensured food self-sufficiency and reduced the weight of food in family expenses, freeing income for other wellness consumption. And Brazil went even further: it has become the world’s fourth largest producer and exporter of basic staples.
Primacy of science
To drive this agricultural revolution, Paolinelli prioritized science. He structured a unique tropical farming and cattle raising research system whose main highlight was Embrapa, the tropical world’s largest farming and cattle raising technology company, which today has 2,400 researchers and 42 decentralized research units, of which 26 were created when he was the Minister of Agriculture.
Roots to grow
As a Minister, he created institutions, policies and organizations that made possible the modernization of traditional agriculture. One of the major ones was the Programa de Desenvolvimento dos Cerrados (Program for the Development of the Cerrado (Polocentro)), which formulated agricultural policies for the region. These and other initiatives were essential to institutionalize the governance structure that drives the expansion of the tropical agricultural revolution to this day.
Currently, the 1,102 municipalities located in the Cerrado biome produce 46% of Brazil’s soybean crop, 49% of the maze crop, 93% of the cotton crop and 25% of the coffee crop. In livestock, it accounts for 32% of cattle, 22% of chicken and 22% of pork, according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).
With Paolinelli’s agricultural revolution, Brazilian grain production jumped from 39.4 million metric tons to 252 million metric tons between 1975 and 2020. In the mid 1980’s, Brazil reached food self-sufficiency and, today, it contributes with 17% of the global food trade.
Thanks to the visions of Paolinelli, the Brazilian Cerrado responded with abundance; 54% of its native vegetation is preserved and it served as a kind protection belt for the Amazon because it slowed down the appetite of the Brazilian agricultural frontier with specific tropical technology and high productivity.
The sustainable tropical agricultural revolution internalized development, creating jobs, raising income levels and improving the Municipal Human Development Index (IDHM) in the regions of farming and cattle raising basis, which increased 73% between 1990 and 2010.
Paolinelli participated in the creation of the Proálcool (Pro-Ethanol) program (1975), the world’s first large-scale renewable fuel production program using sugarcane biomass. Today, the program neutralizes emissions by around 200 million metric tons of CO2/year, helping in the climate issues.
Protection of the Amazon
Currently, Paolinelli is one of the rare tropical leaders with concrete actions of bioeconomy models for the Amazon by means of two initiatives that he founded (2012) and chairs: Fórum do Futuro (Future Forum) and Projeto Biomas Tropicais (Tropical Biomes Project), which offer a new path for the development of the region.
The focus of these initiatives is to integrate the knowledge of academic and research institutions to create alternatives for extraction in the Amazon and focus on bioeconomy. There have already been new developments, such as the promotion of Robusta coffee, fish farming with the Arapaima species, crop-forest integration and social interest housing made with waste from crop cultivation.
All conceived for the Amazon biome and integrating science, planning and management from the outset. Embrapa, the Federal Universities of Rondônia and Lavras, Sebrae and Esalq/USP are engaged. Alysson Paolinelli is the leader with his Fórum do Futuro (Future Forum).