Jose Augusto de Oliveira
Supporting Local Farmers to Develop New Markets
Jose Augusto de Oliveira runs his hand over a crack in the wall and sees progress.
The thin fissure on the outside of his house is where his original house ended and his new extension started.
"We invested in the house," he said, running his palm over the powder blue walls and explaining how his life has changed since turning to organic. "We had three rooms and we added one. We also added a service area at the back."
De Oliveira, a humble man with an easy smile, was born and raised here more than 50 years ago, and his son Michael is following in his father's footsteps. The two men have nine hectares of land they work together, as well as producing some milk and cheese from a handful of cows they keep in a nearby shed.
The money from organic enabled them to buy a tiny, second-hand Fiat for getting about the red, dirt roads and also to make improvements to their drying area, a vital issue for many farmers. Dirt areas hold humidity and make it harder for coffee to dry. De Oliveira laid concrete over a 600m2 area in front of his home.
The space was vital because the family has vastly increased the number of coffee plants it has under cultivation. Today, they have 14,000 plants, up from 500. They increased the number not by buying more land but by spacing the bushes more tightly.
De Oliveira said he struggled to understand the rules on organic production but that once he had, he realised they paid off.
"We need to be more careful about what we put on the plants," he said. "It was a bit of a pain at first but you get used to it. But there's no doubt that it's worth it in the end.
We had talks and meetings at the [UNIPASV] cooperative. As soon as there is a change we are advised. We are always swapping ideas."
One recent problem has been the strength of the Brazilian currency. The real hit a nine-year high against the dollar in 2008, making it harder for Brazilians to compete in export markets.
"The cooperative is trying to get a better price but as the currency has increased in value there's not a lot we can do. It's very difficult for us," he said. "We are focusing on improving quality because we know it will add value."