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Meet Sandra Braga

Reseed certified farmer profile

Braga Family Farm

The Braga family first settled on their land in 1775. Sandra Braga, who currently runs the farm, is a direct descendant of one of the three original enslaved women who established the Mesquita community. Over many generations, illegal land grabs (700 acres were stolen 23 years ago in 2000) have reduced the family’s land area to about 30 hectares.

Sandra implements farming techniques that have been handed down through many generations and is a symbol of resistance, restoration and growth. Sandra continues the family tradition of producing and selling marmalade, which is some of the best you’ll ever taste and highly sought after by people around the world! 

Sandra currently grows over 40 different crops, including coffee, tangerines, sugar cane, corn, papayas, melons and quince.

Her farm became ReSeed Certified in 2022 and the data she shares from her farm is now producing carbon credits.

1
tons of cO2 stored on the farm
1 %
Increase in household income*

* Direct income to farmer for carbon credits sold to date to customers at $20 per ton. Farmers receive direct payment for 50% of price of  a carbon credit as it is earned.

Climate Impact of the Braga Family Farm

Farm size: 30 hectares

Forest Cover:

    • 2021: 14 hectares

    • 2022: 15.6 hectares

CO2 Equivalent from Vegetation: 1,997 tons (2022)

CO2 Equivalent from Soil: 3,996 tons (2022)

Owner: Braga Family

Family Owned Since: 1775

Livelihood Vulnerability Index: 0.55 (highly vulnerable)

The two highlighted farms are operated by Quilombola families, whereas the stripped area in between is land that was stolen.
map data

In Brazil alone, there are over 4 million smallholder farms just like the Braga Family Farm. Globally there are over 500 million smallholder farms.

Both of the photos below were taken on the same spot, one facing towards the Braga Family Farm, and the other facing towards their neighbor, an industrial soy farm operation. The Braga Family Farm has lush and diverse vegetation (with a lot of carbon stored), whereas the industrial soy farm does not (with very little to no carbon stored). As we lose smallholder farms like the Braga’s, we lose biodiversity, food security and we cause a large number of emissions to go into the atmosphere. Drag the slider in the middle of the photos to see the difference!

lush farmland Industrial soy farm, with almost no biodiversity or soil health.

Sandra Braga's Famous Marmalade

Sandra’s family’s marmalade is famous nationally and has appeared in shows like Brazil’s Big Brother and numerous other events: Known as the Marmalade of Santa Luzia its history is closely interconnected to the history of the Mesquita Community. Its recipe dates back to the 1700’s and the original three women founders who inherited the area after working on it as enslaved peoples. The secrets of its success go from the growing of its ingredients to its mode of preparation.  The first part of the secret is the exact type of soil/earth within which the sugar cane is planted  and second the type of soil in which the marmelo (quince) plant is grown as well as the exact treatment that needs to be given to achieve excellence which is nothing short of science taught through traditional practices only known to those who live and work in Mesquita.

The Mesquita Community

3000
population
745
Families
4200 ha
farmland

Mesquita is a Quilombola community located about 50 km from Brasília. Located in a rural area around the Federal District, the Quilombolas struggle for their rural production roots. There are many challenges in these productions, because the urban environment is collaborating every day to change the way small farmers plant.

The origins of Quilombo Mesquita date back to the gold cycle, in the 18th century. The rush for the metal led to the creation of several villages in the interior of Goiás – among them Santa Luzia, founded in 1746, today known as Luziânia. Enslaved blacks made up the majority of the population in the region. The story goes that, with the decline of mining, the Portuguese captain Paulo Mesquita decided to abandon Santa Luzia and left a farm to three freed slaves. (one of these was the foremother of Sandra Braga)  Over time, others joined the community led by the women – many of them slaves in search of refuge and who – to get there – traveled along the cattle roads that linked Goiás to Salvador and Rio de Janeiro.

After the 1988 Constitution determined the demarcation of Quilombos, many communities mobilized to obtain the land titles. In Quilombo Mesquita, the first step occurred in 2006, when Fundação Cultural Palmares (subordinated to the Ministry of Culture) recognized it as a remaining quilombo community. Five years later, INCRA published the Technical Report of Identification and Demarcation of the community, defining its extension at 4.3 thousand hectares – the equivalent of 4 thousand soccer fields.

On the environmental issue, the Mesquita quilombo stands out in a few points. Environmental preservation has always been a role played by the residents, because their way of living has always been in communion with nature. In every backyard of the quilombo, there was always the presence of nature and small edible greens that were watered with the springs that rose

from the ground. Another important point to highlight in the issues that help in climate preservation, are the water channels that distribute water throughout the quilombo. Another important point to highlight in the issues that help in climate preservation, are the water channels that distribute water throughout the quilombo. This water is collected from springs located in some parts of the quilombo.

The canals were built by the first residents, more than 200 years ago, respecting nature and sharing this water resource with the other people that make up the territory, as well as with the animals that also use this water. With this technology, the climate is improved, because as water travels naturally, humidity ends up reaching all locations. Another point that the water gullies favor in family agriculture is that they serve as means of irrigation for vegetables, besides supplying the kitchens of some residents.

As mentioned, the quilombo has more than 270 years of cultural existence, and with the urbanization of the surroundings, several of the Quilombolas’ habits inside the territory have changed. About 40 years ago, our way of life was totally different, jobs were basically rural, but today this reality is totally changed, due to several factors. In the past, older people had other ways of cultivating their rural products. According to reports, land management for planting was done only with hoes to loosen the soil, without the need for organic fertilizers, because the soil fertility was very rich in nutrients.

Another point remembered was that the rains occurred over a long period, helping to conserve soil moisture. The quality of the seeds was also an important factor, as their quality was better than today’s, because the products yielded in greater quantity and quality. To combat pests, the Quilombolas used leaf tea, such as those made from tobacco and castor beans. Vinegar with coconut soap and cow urine were also used; they were thrown on the crops and scared the insects away. And besides these products being used for the family’s sustenance, they served as food for wild animals, because as there was a large amount of riparian forest around the plantations, the animals also enjoyed it.

Urbanization has a very negative influence, because there are many gated communities and country clubs that do not respect the environmental issue within the community. Deforestation is increasing and water pollution is getting worse every day, which ends up harming in part the management and agricultural production while conditioning climate change.

Another point that deserves attention is the presence of monoculture within the quilombo. Large soybean fields are planted irregularly, with authorization from local government agencies that should defend environmental preservation. All these farms are led by large landowners who are within Mesquita. The large amount of pesticides used in the farm directly harms the lives of the local people.

Reforestation measures with fruitful plants from the Cerrado and others for environmental recovery are carried out within the quilombo. There is work being done so that people can plant and harvest these fruits to be sold in fairs and government programs – these actions aim to generate income and promote environmental conservation. This work requires perseverance, but as the current government constitutes the municipality, this work becomes more complicated, because they do not support us and preach against environmental preservation, unfortunately. Even with all this change in climate and space, many people within the quilombo continue producing their vegetables and planting crops while adapting to the new means of production.

Over time, changes in the management ways had to be made, but the essential point is that the organic product was maintained. Today, there is a need for the use of organic fertilizers on the land, which are made from chicken, cattle, and pig manure. To combat pests, the farmers still use leaf teas, and other organic products that are purchased by them. All these ways help the Quilombolas to be highlighted in the organic fairs in the regions, having preference from buyers who know the natural and safe origin of the products.

Smallholder Farmers in Brazil

Smallholder farmers are the backbone of Brazil’s food system, with four million of them accounting for 77% of the nation’s consumed food production. Collectively, they manage an impressive 80 million hectares of land, performing an essential role in mitigating climate change by storing and protecting between four and eight billion tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. However, the rural census indicates a concerning trend – between 2007 and 2017, Brazil lost 9% of its smallholder farmers. This decline threatens not only the nation’s food security, but also its capacity for carbon storage, emphasizing the crucial importance of supporting and sustaining this vital sector.