15th - 2005 Brazil Pre Congress Tour.
Iguaçu, Campo Grande, Southern Pantanal, Bodoquena, Miranda, Boneto, Maracaju.
A group of 52 people from 11 countries met at Sao Paulo Congonhas Airport on the afternoon of Sunday 7th August at the start of a week long journey that took them to the world famous Iguaçu water falls and Itaipu hydroelectric dam on the Brazil / Argentina / Paraguay borders, and to the marshland areas of the Southern Pantanal and farming regions of Mato Grosso do Sul.
As with all IFMA Congress pre and post tours this was to be a week of visiting a mixture of tourist, farm tourism and farming enterprises. They flew first to Iguaçu for 2 nights, and then via Sao Paulo to Campo Grande, where they drove on to see several farms with interesting tourism enterprises - seeing how farming and tourism interlinked in the southern marshlands of the Pantanal, before returning with visits to the large commercial farms around Maracaju on the way back to the capital city of Mato Grosso do Sul - Campo Grande. An arduous journey of early mornings and long drives on dusty roads, but a thoroughly worth while one.
Feedlot cattle at dusk at Bodequena, Nelore purebred at Rio Securi
Maracaju - low grade extensive v. high quality crop feed cattle, aimed at improving quality and reducing the time to market.
Unsurprisingly beef was a major enterprise wherever the tour went – extensive lower quality cattle in the open marshlands together with high quality beef in feedlots in the Pantanal – and the different grass/crop feeding regimes for the beef around Maracaju. More surprising was rice production in the Pantanal so far from anywhere, and the level of sophistication of the on farm trials work to obtain the best results on all the estates that were visited.
Rice and Eco-tourism
Inspecting rice growing and the large irrigation channels that are used to move water around the farm, on and then off fields and from the river via pumping stations. Irrigation channels with caiman in them?!
Our discussions with the Mayor of Maracaju, the farmers and the local development officers demonstrated the serious approach that is being taken over developing their diverse and large scale farming enterprises. The presence of Cargill and other world traders with their immense granaries confirmed the importance and scale of agricultural trade in Mato Grosso do Sul. Our farming hosts were also very aware of, and sensitive to world prices, and it became clear that making good profits was not easy in the present trading climate. The group also learnt, contrary to popular belief elsewhere, that the environment does not go 'unprotected', and the farmers were keen to discuss what they were doing for the environment on their farms, and to explain the regulations under which they had to operate.
Crop technical talk at Maracaju, and open discussion with the Mayor
Rice farming talk, note Jaguar skin on wall. Yellow trumpet trees in the farm yard at Maracaju.
Few people speak English outside of the cities, so the group were very grateful to the tour guides who worked diligently to translate the technical elements of the farming that was on view. Tourism (Eco Tourism) is in its infancy in the Pantanal, and the distances between the farms where most of the tourism can be found are large and often along dusty bumpy roads, but the facilities were good and improving, and many more tourists will follow as there is much to see and enjoy.
IFMA thanks the organisers and guides, and particularly Edson Rochelle from Monte Alegre, the tour operator / co-ordinator, for 'keeping the show on the road' for such a large group. No mean feat particularly when negotiating the way through Congonhas SP airport on three occasions!
Photos by Tony King and Laura Biddick