Instituto Terroá: Innovative Social Technology to Assess Product Chain Maturity Launched in Brazil

Instituto Terroá: Innovative Social Technology to Assess Product Chain Maturity Launched in Brazil

Successful application of a maturity scale for socio-biodiversity product chains brought important results to açaí producers in the Amazon region

On 22 April Terroá and Imaflora conducted the application of an innovative maturity scale for socio-biodiversity product chains in the Bailique Archipelago, located in the northern region of Brazil. More than 30 participants from local agro-extractive cooperatives and producers associations carried out a thorough evaluation of the açaí production chain, assessing how well different activities have been performed and how sustainably required outcomes have been produced – from operations, logistics and sales to forest conservation and innovation standards.

How does the maturity scale work?

Terroá’s project director Luís Fernando Iozzi designed the maturity scale to assist community-based enterprises in assessing their business maturity and identifying priorities for the future. The scale serves as an assessment tool that evaluates different activities in a dynamic, hands-on approach, whereby those applying it to their enterprise are constantly stimulated to collectively debate the results and decide on improvement measures.

The scale comprises different areas of activities within a given production chain, each of these areas having a subset of more than 70 items with three stages of maturity, namely “initial”, “structured” and “sustainable”. The tool might then be used to assess not only each individual area of activity, but also the stage of maturity of the entire enterprise.

“Moving up on the maturity scale means that an organization gradually improves its management standards and has better opportunities to establish ethical commercial relations. Also, it has a positive impact on the income level of the communities involved and increases their ability to preserve the environment, protect their territory from external pressure, and add value to socio-biodiversity products they market”, says Luís Fernando.

Results

The assessment revealed that the açaí production chain in the region meets 68% of the maturity requirements and is therefore at the “sustainable” stage on the scale. Maturity levels were particularly high as concerns “social organization” and “forest stewardship” standards. At least in part, the excellent performance results from the adoption of a community protocol by agro-extractive producers in Bailique in 2013, which has encouraged collective decision-making and improved the use of natural resources since then.

In addition, the fact that there are 94 açaí producers in the region working according to FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) standards guarantees that the value chain is managed responsibly and adheres to the organization’s rules. “For us, it is clear that the adoption of a community protocol and the FSC certification have been extremely important tools for producers in Bailique”, says Terroá’s institutional director Daniel Belíssimo.

Although shortcomings do exist, in areas such as “logistics and transport”, “industrialization” and “sales”, the Bailique Agro-extractive Producers Cooperative (AmazonBai) has already implemented a series of initiatives to overcome obstacles in these areas. Earlier this year, AmazonBai launched a crowdfunding campaign to build a craft factory and a commercial warehouse, which enables traditional, riverain communities extracting açaí to sell their products directly to the market, thus cutting out the middleman.

Next steps

After a successful application of the maturity scale for socio-biodiversity in Bailique, Terroá and Imaflora will continue to assist agro-extractive producers in the Amazon region in developing sustainable value chains. The organizations also plan to reassess the tool and work on adapting and replicating it in other value chains.

Based on the experience with the maturity scale, AmazonBai has come up with an action plan designed to improve its processes. “The greatest benefit [of applying the maturity scale]”, says Geová Alves, community leader and member of AmazonBai, “was not only that we were able to look at the big picture in a way that even I hadn’t imagined before, but also that we realized that all that we have worked has not been in vain. We realized that we have come a long way and it gives us hope to carry on”


Article by Instituto Terroá
Photo credits: Instituto Terroá