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Better interest rates for RSB-certified sustainable smallholder farmers in Brazil

Smallholder farmers certified to RSB in Guariba, Brazil can now access new, lower interest credit to support their businesses thanks to a new initiative from RSB certified operator Socicana — a sugarcane farmers’ association in Guariba.

Socicana has partnered with the financial cooperative Sicoob Coopecredi to create a fund named ‘Crédito Rural Verde’ that offers independent farmers the opportunity to borrow at lower-than-average interest rates. The interest can be as low as 4%, rather than the standard market rate of around 5%, recognising the lower risk associated with farmers who are already implementing good social and environmental practices.

These new, low interest loans are available to farmers that are demonstrating compliance with sustainable agriculture practices via RSB certification. Farmers certified to Bonsucro and Top Cana are also eligible.

Since the launch of the fund in January 2021, four RSB-certified farmers have been eligible to apply for credit to finance their operations, including sugarcane production and maintenance of fields and tools. The fund currently has a total of BRL 4.6 million (approximately 818, 000 USD) available for distribution.

By encouraging the uptake of globally recognised sustainability certification, the programme is incentivising farmers to implement good practice in their operations and to access the credit to help them grow sustainably.

Rafael Kalaki, Superintendent of Socicana, said, “This initiative is pioneering, as it democratises sustainable financing, since it supports small to large producers. At the same time, it creates incentives for other farmers to seek better practices for production, as this represents a lower cost of raising money.”

RSB’s work in Brazil, where it has been working closely with Socicana since 2016, is supported in large part by The Boeing Company as part of the Fuelling the Sustainable Bioeconomy project. This project supports the development of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) sector, works with industry and stakeholders to identify the most sustainable feedstocks and technology pathways for SAF production, and aims to integrate smallholder farmers into the growth of the bioeconomy to ensure real social benefit.

“Over the years, Boeing has actively contributed to the work of RSB in the development of independent, robust standards for the certification of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). The recognition of RSB certified sugarcane smallholders producers by ‘Crédito Rural Verde’ program in Brazil is an important milestone. We applaud RSB and Socicana for motivating Brazilian farmers to continuously invest in good farming practices and ensuring positive economic, social, and environmental outcomes to aviation and to the planet,” explains Onofre Andrade, Boeing Research and Technology Sustainability Lead.

Commenting on the launch of the credit programme, RSB’s Executive Director, Rolf Hogan said, “This fantastic initiative not only rewards the smallholders who are demonstrating truly sustainable agricultural practices, but incentivises more to get involved by ensuring there is a tangible and immediate benefit in the form of credit to help them maintain and grow their sugarcane operations. Supporting smallholder farmers to unlock the very real benefits of the bioeconomy via sustainability certification is extremely important to RSB and this new approach is an exciting step forward to help more small-scale producers reap the rewards of better practices.”

One of the first recipients of a low-cost loan via the programme was José Luis Bracciali, an RSB-certified producer. He said, “While certification can be hard work, it is worth the effort as you improve the management of your operation, organise your property and comply with environmental, social and labour requirements. Accessing ‘Crédito Rural Verde’ is a benefit and an opportunity, and I will be using the loan to support my planting efforts.”

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