The State of Ceara in Northeast Brazil, has the second strongest economy in Brazil due mainly to the economic development initiatives of the1990's. One of these initiatives was the State of Ceara's Flower Farming Development Program.Over half of the population of Ceara lives in rural areas, so programs in the agricultural sector have immense importance to the state's economic and social development.
This program was designed to: generate jobs and income, enlarge the area dedicated to growing flowers and ornamental plants, increase exports, and generate resources for small companies and local governments. While there were no regulatory restrictions on those wishing to cultivate ornamental plants and flowers, the program sought to involve farms of all sizes by encouraging different policies for small, medium and large-scale producers.
The Flower Management project is staffed by a 10-person team that is linked to the State Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. This team facilitates partnerships among public and private organizations involved in the flower production chain. The Team has developed programs to support the various needs of producers and other institutions. Program priorities for the small producers include technical support and administration skills, while large-scale producers receive assistance in learning how to establish an adequate infrastructure to serve a broader market.
To cite an example of projects undertaken by the program, a group of 23 small-scale farmers from the Crato Region combined resources to buy 60 hectares of land for planting flowers and ornamental plants. Despite a few start-up problems, within 15 months they have made this land productive and constructed a cold storage chamber and a packing shed with State funds. Currently, this group is generating the minimum wage for each of its members and is currently paying off production costs and land payments.
Results for the overall program between 1994 and 2004 include: the cultivated area dedicated to flowers and ornamental plants has risen by 742%, going from 19 to 160 hectares, export revenues increased from 320 thousand Brazilian real in 2001 to 5.5 million real in 2004, 18% of perishable goods exported through the Foraleza airport are from flower farms. The initiative's investments in new technologies to improve local agriculture have raised the region's productivty above that of neighboring flower-producing countries, including Ecuador and Colombia.
The Flower Growing Program has generated over 1,200 direct jobs. In addition, half of those involved in flower growing are women, giving local women more control over their lives and domestic budgets. As a direct result of the success of this program, small-scale producers have improved their self-esteem as well as their economic condition.
Finally, this Program also promotes policies that are environmentally conscious such as encouraging ornamental plant cultivation because it is less damaging to the native ecosystem than that of traditional cash crops such as sugar cane and developing new species of plants to maintain biodiversity as well as supporting investment in registered native species.
Investing in the flower trade encourages sustainable agriculture that benefits the local environment.
A key element to the success of the Program has been teaching farmers new techniques in flower production as well as improving managerial and networking skills that encourage local companies to break into the national and international markets.