Centro Ecológico works with rural development based on an ecological approach, which creates a positive impact on people and the environment. The organization wants to strengthen organic farming and encourage and spread organic forestry, which promotes biodiversity. Through this work, Centro Ecológico has reduced the climate impact and strengthened the food culture with nutritious, organic food, adapted to the regional culture. By combining the farmers’ practical experiences and long-standing knowledge of their own soil with scientific knowledge of the organization’s agronomists, a locally adapted organic farming has been developed. This has increased the confidence of the farmers and strengthened the cooperation between the various family farms in the area. By starting ecological markets in several cities, bridges have also been built between rural and urban. Centro Ecológico currently works in 18 municipalities in Rio Grande do Sul with about 500 farmer families and about 90 percent are organized in 33 different farmer groups. The area they cultivate organically together is 6000 hectares.
Centro Ecológico is also working on spreading forestry and 60 families have a total of 180 hectares of forestry. The agricultural products are sold in fifteen street markets, three consumer cooperatives and five stores run by agricultural groups. Farmers produce, trade and sell their own seeds. Several farmers have over 20 varieties of seed.
The ecological perspective spreads the organization further, for example in close collaboration with several schools where environmental education is arranged for teachers. Through its way of working, Centro Ecológico has developed a large network that not only operates at the local level but also affects development elsewhere in Brazil and the world. By being active in various networks and by being a member of the editorial staff of international journals, the organisation’s representatives can influence the development of a number of issues related to organic farming. This applies to everything from women’s rights networks to participatory certification*. The organisation’s experts also hold board positions in international organizations such as the ETC Group and Maela, and also carry out assignments for FAO as advisers on organic farming in different countries.
*participatory certification: This type of certification is based on trust through participation, a participation of many who are interested in the process, both farmers and consumers. There are several different systems, but most are based on the participants visiting each other. During the visits there is control but an important part is counseling between the farmers.