The role of agroforestry in restoring Brazil’s Atlantic Forest: Opportunities and challenges for smallholder farmers

Shennan-Farpón, Y., et al. | People and Nature | 2022 | Peer Reviewed | Original research |


  1. Restoring the degraded Atlantic Forest is one of the biggest conservation challenges in Brazil. In a biome with high human presence, understanding the potential for restoration approaches, such as agroforestry, to provide benefits to smallholder farmers and biodiversity is essential in developing equitable restoration strategies.
  2. Smallholder or family farmers are essential to national food security, producing most fruit and vegetables consumed in Brazil. Their farms can also provide ecological stepping stones for biodiversity. To better understand their role in Atlantic Forest restoration, this study explores the use of agroforestry by smallholder farmers from the Movimento Sem Terra (MST), the Rural Landless Workers’ Movement, in Pontal do Paranapanema.
  3. We use quantitative and qualitative data to assess farmer perceptions of the measures which support agroforestry farming, barriers to implementation and its impact on indicators of wellbeing. We find agroforestry farmers report significant benefits in 8 of 18 tested indicators. Attitudes to agroforestry are varied, but common themes emerge including the high value of tree cover for shade and cooling effects, and the difficulties in selling agroforestry products. Our results show lack of policy support and initial investment needs are the biggest constraints to agroforestry, but opportunity cost is not considered a large barrier.
  4. Tailored policies and financial measures are needed to integrate thousands of smallholder farmers into the Atlantic Forest restoration agenda, helping to reach biome restoration targets while supporting rural livelihoods and national food security. Further research is required into links between additional socio-economic and biogeographical variables and agroforestry uptake in the region