MONTH INTERVIEW – Nicole Gobeth: “We have to look at the rural zone of São Paulo and think about policies that protect and economically and socially protect an environment that is part of the city”

It is important that such region gets consolidated, whether through agriculture, rural tourism, or environmental preservation, with the rural producer acting in all such fronts of activities

Manager of Ligue os Pontos project, of the City Hall of São Paulo, the forest engineer, Nicole Gobeth talks about the importance in valuing the activities in the city’s rural zone, such as the agriculture, the rural tourism, and preservation. The project, which has as purpose to promote the sustainable development of the rural territory  of the city, and improve its relationships with the urban environment, is promoting a change of the look to agriculture, in order to bring light to a territory that did not have any public data before. With experience of twenty years in social-environmental programs in the field of sustainable development, inclusion of gender, and program and project management, Nicole has worked with productive systems and value chains in the continuous search for their transformation.

She reveals novelties such as the first public notice of a project of payments for environmental services, and the release of Sampa Mais Rural platform, a tool of connection between agriculture and the city, with data of farmers, production, who commercializes, restaurants interested in buying local organic products, and fairs. As she defines “a connection that approaches who is of the urban environment with the rural zone, a platform from the city to the city”

Instituto Escolhas – What are the advantages and the disadvantages of producing food in the city of São Paulo?

Nicole Gobeth – Several advantages. In  the environmental matter, there is the distance factor, lower carbon footprint in the transportation logistics. But, in the case of “Ligue os Pontos”, there is also a very strong social character that is to consolidate the rural zone of São Paulo, which after some time of loss of characteristics became considered a rural zone again in the Strategic Master Plan of 2014. The program comes to keep such farmers as farmers and strength the agricultural production in the region, which is also an area producer of water, one of the most important of São Paulo. The incorporation of such a look to the rural environment in the Master Plan was a victory to the city of São Paulo. The characteristics existing there need to be treated differently from urban characteristics, everything that is though to such territory has to be customized. It is a huge territory, but with a low population density if compared to the urban territory of São Paulo. The [sub] city hall of Parelheiros has the lowest IDH of São Paulo. So, it has an entire characteristic that needs to be closely looked at to understand its complexity, to outline actions, policies, activities, projects, partnerships customized to such reality, in order to strength and consolidate what takes place there.

 Escolhas: Why does Ligue os Pontos program exist?

Nicole: The main driver was the resumption of the Rural Zone within the Strategic Master Plan. The rural zone being re-established, being recognized as rural zone, as development strategy. There is a history of uncontrolled growth of a very large real estate pressure that has taken place for years in such water supply area of the city – which supplies five million people (30% of SP’s population). It it required to look at such sensitive territory, with a water characteristic very present, which as a basin, Capivari-Monos, not contaminated yet – single basin of the city that is not contaminated – and think about policies that protect and at the same time economically and socially enable and environment that is part of the city.

When the registry of the farmers of the Southern rural area was made at the start of the project, with 428 rural producers, it was possible to identify that 80% thereof have up to two hectares, a small production. Out of such 428, we act with continuous technical assistance with 160 producers, and we are in a phase to pass those that do the traditional agriculture for the agroecological transition. We are in an intense work of the agriculture conversion. Our goal is to reach 50% of the agricultures served in agroecological transition or with organic certification. Who has the organic or agroecological seal has more access to the market.

Escolhas: What were the main results of Ligue os Pontos until now?

Nicole: The program is designed in three action fronts. The first phase is the agriculture strengthening, the second is the value chain of the agriculture and food as a whole, and a front of data and evidences. To each of such fronts, the project has clear goals and indicators. But the project is much beyond the gals because the process that is taking place there is very important, of culture change, of change of look to the agriculture, from conventional to organic, of agroecological transition and how to bring the entrepreneurship to such region. The project brought light into a territory that did not have any public data before. Very little was known about the territory, there were no official updated data, a detailed mapping, and it was not known who were the agricultural producers or the entrepreneurs, or which the business of the territory were and what has taking place there. So, first the project came to raise such data, which are original. We made a work of georeferencing of such producers, and a map of use of the soil of such territory identifying regions fit for agriculture and that need to be preserved.

Now in the week of August 15, Sampa Mais Rural platform will be released, which is a connection tool between the agriculture and the city, with data of farmers enabling farmers and production of whom commercializes, enabling restaurants interested in buying local organic products. So, it is a huge database, with information of all organic fairs of São Paulo – there are 800 happening in the city and that are registered in our platform –, in addition to tourism initiatives, rural tourism, and public policies. Which they are, where they are, and where they are happening. The platform is open to the public. Such connections approach those who are from the urban environment with the rural zone that is so close, but at the same time so far. It is a platform from the city to the city.

Escolhas – What are the main challenges the farmers beneficiary of the program face?

Nicole: Several changes. A very present point is the planning of the production, inserting the modus operandi of planning to deliver, making the business management. And the logistics to be able to flow that is very complicated, although being close. For example, the organization of the logistics per type of production: greens, vegetables and fruits for being extremely perishable and diverse. There is no great volume of production: a farmer has a little of a product in a day, and other has a little of another product in other day. Establish such contact between producer and buyer, sometimes, becomes a huge challenge. The producer is very dedicated to the production, on the land, on the daily work, in the countryside. However, with the producers that are certified as organic, for example, a certain organization is required because to participate in the certification and in the agroecological transition, some documents, some prior requirements are required.


Escolhas: How is the program helping such farmers to obtain the documents and access public policies that require such documentation? And what other public policies are promoting the local agriculture?

Nicole: The project has an interoffice commission and activities in partnership with the Economical Development and Labor, Green and Environment, Tourism Offices, and Sub-City Halls. It has been discussed so that such offices put in the budget to the next year such activities as recurrent to internalize the toping within the City Hall. Ligue os Pontos, with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies, ends on March 2021, but the activities need to continue because the discontinuity to those who are assisted by the project is very prejudicial. The project supports the producers in the documentation for access to markets. Many of them d not have the producer’s bill of sale. Our action plan is the regularization of some producers because without it they will not be able to get access to the market, nor access to public purchases.

In such drawing of public policies, in partnership with other offices, there are very important activities that will be consolidated now.  The first PSA, the first official notice of a project of payments for environmental services will be released in partnership with the Green and Environment office. The project came as a catalyst of PSA to the City Hall of São Paulo, and one of the fronts of PSA is the promotion of the transition to agroecology. We released the Municipal Plan of Environmental Service Provision Areas, in late 2019, which was the pre-requirement to release SP’s PSA. We are working in the decree to the mayor [Bruno Covas] and in the first official notice to the city. And the project will be a pilot, we made a clipping to the Southern rural zone of the city, bringing in the official notice a score that allows that the conventional producers desiring to make the transition to the agroecology may score in the official notice to also be participants in PSA. It is one of the achievements of Ligue os Pontos.

Escolhas – Does the local, urban, and periurban agriculture have to be a topic of the cities only, or there are state and federal actions that may contribute?

Nicole-  Yes, for sure. Recently, an informal survey has been made, which points out that the Agriculture and Supply State office does not consider São Paulo as being a city that has agriculture, we are trying to change such look a little, so that the office thinks of São Paulo as a city to take care of. In federal scope, Embrapa has several things towards the family agriculture. Other players are entering the territory today. We already have Senar as a partner, offering courses and qualifications, we have Sebrae too. Each of them adds something, each with its look. One with a more enterprising look, another about management of property and management even of producers and entrepreneurs, since the territory is not an arable region only. The rural producer may also be a producer receiving other activities, such as the touristic ones. We have the pilot program made with the Education office for the pedagogical-based tourism, of taking students to a field activity day in a rural property. The producer opens the property, presents an agroecological or organic agriculture, the children get involved, make the plantation and harvest, prepare their own food. It stimulates both ends. The question of the healthy nutrition for such children, because they access products they have never accessed before, harvest broccoli, kale, and make green juice or lunch with the products harvested by themselves. Such activity also provides the rural producer with a gain beyond the agriculture. In a survey made at the start of the project, it was clear that the gain of the rural producer in the territory, by the agriculture, is less than one thousand reais a month. If we are able to escalate in activities of such type, the chance of consolidation of the producer in the rural zone, of belonging of such families to that place, of identifying it as a possibility of life and income in such territory will be very beneficial.

Escolhas – In an article at the City Hall’s website, which title is “As mulheres que plantam saúde e futuro” (The women who plant health and future), you warned about the need of valuing the self-steem of the woman farmer. What is the profile of the woman who works in the rural zone of São Paulo? And what may be done to value the role of the woman farmer?

Nicole – It is very clear when we are going to ask the question of the registry, only 30% declare themselves as owner. There is diversity, some are traditional farmers that have been in the activity for a long time, and there are the women that look for being farmers, who are people graduated in other areas, in engineering, psychology, and looked for a different life style. There is such mixture of profiles, and all of them are very important to the local development. There is a very high percentage that does not identify themselves as owner, they are always with a supporting, helping role, etc. We have a female technician going to field now, bring a little of such look to the women, providing the technical assistance to women, strengthening the dialog, especially with more traditional female farmers, making the language suitable to the understanding. In the project of expediting business, with Ade Sampa, 5 participants were women as business leaders, and one of the bidders said she had a lot of resistance by her husband in proposing such change of concept in her business. And today, after the expediting, and having gone through such way, she says to be more strengthened, she says “I am able to impose myself and make decisions, because he saw it was an impulse to our business, and I am much more respected, my opinion got a space I didn’t have before”. Historically, they are excluded, and continue being so. Parelheiros [Southern zone of the city of São Paulo] has the higher index of domestic violence in the city of São Paulo, so it is a complex territory to work.

Escolhas: Escolhas is developing a study about the role of urban agriculture in the transformation of the nutrition system of the metropolis of São Paulo. How do you see the potential of the agriculture produced in the city? To what extent is such agriculture able to contribute to food security?

Nicole: It is fantastic to food security. There already are researches, such as the one of Faculdade de Saúde Pública that has a project exactly in such line of food security of the farmers. In fact, it is a broader research they made with the farmers to know if they properly, healthily eat, and had a very positive result that yes, the farmers eat well, consume part of what they produce, and have a balanced nutrition. Because we know that there are the green deserts in the city, the food deserts. On the other side, for the local production, there is no goal that has capacity to feed São Paulo’s population, I believe the inverse is true: São Paulo does have to eat from such local production. With the map of use of the soil, it got clear that the arable areas – although 30% of São Paulo being rural zone, they are not 30% able for agriculture. We want that such rural zone gets consolidated as rural activity, whether agriculture, rural tourism, preservation and conservation, or other uses that already exist, but that it is consolidated as a rural zone. So, it does contribute to the dietary question of the city, it brings a differentiated look to the production and cultivation of the food.