`Project Aims to Bring Social Change through Olive Oil in Brazil - Olive Oil Times

Project Aims to Bring Social Change through Olive Oil in Brazil

Mar. 17, 2016
Erin Ridley

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While Brazil isn’t widely known as an olive oil pro­ducer, a new ini­tia­tive might just change that — not through the scale of its olive oil pro­duc­tion, how­ever, but as a result of an inno­v­a­tive cause-dri­ven effort called Social Trees.

The goal of the ini­tia­tive is to sup­port youth edu­ca­tion in the poor com­mu­ni­ties of Brazil’s south­ern Rio Grande do Sul region. To achieve this, Social Trees will try to raise funds to plant between 7,000 and 35,000 olive trees (likely Arbequina, Arbosana, Koroneiki and/or Picual vari­etals, all which have been suc­cess­fully grown and cul­ti­vated in the region), from which extra vir­gin olive oil will be pro­duced and sold. 100 per­cent of the prof­its will then go toward local social projects, and, in the­ory, do so over the course of at least 70 years (con­sid­ered an orchard’s aver­age pro­duc­tion time).

The effort is led by Leonardo Dutra, who spe­cial­izes in agribusi­ness and has expe­ri­ence in the man­age­ment and mar­ket­ing devel­op­ment of Brazil’s agro-indus­tries. He is sup­ported by a diverse group, which includes olive oil pro­duc­ers from Brazil, Italy and Portugal, and the project is seek­ing dona­tions through the crowd­fund­ing site, Indiegogo.

The ini­tia­tive could poten­tially ben­e­fit more than just Rio Grande do Sul’s youth by also employ­ing locals to assist with pro­duc­tion, trans­porta­tion, orchard main­te­nance, and as tech­ni­cal con­sul­tants for loca­tion selec­tion, imple­men­ta­tion and main­te­nance, among other pos­si­ble jobs.

Social Trees could get a boost from Brazil’s steady increase in olive oil con­sump­tion, which is born out of an upturn in the country’s econ­omy and grow­ing inter­est in health­ier foods.

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Dutra explained, Brazil has expe­ri­enced an extra­or­di­nary social and eco­nomic devel­op­ment from 1995 to 2013. In gen­eral, the pop­u­la­tion gained pur­chas­ing power.” He added, the result of this process was the inclu­sion of new habits in the coun­try, such as the con­sump­tion of wine and (of) olive oil.”

In fact, since 1990/1991, olive oil con­sump­tion in Brazil has gone from 13.5 met­ric tons annu­ally to 66.5 tons in 2014/2015. While Dutra cau­tions that con­sump­tion may slow due to the country’s cur­rent eco­nomic cri­sis, he believes it will still con­tinue to grow. Indeed, given that some 85 per­cent of Brazil’s olive oil is imported from Europe, the coun­try is poised to con­tribute to its own inter­nal demand no mat­ter the rate at which it grows.

Dutra also thinks it’s pos­si­ble for the project’s impact to reach beyond just the local Rio Grande do Sul region, and even beyond Brazil. We believe that the ini­tia­tive has the poten­tial to add value to the oil pro­duc­tion in Brazil and world­wide.”

And ide­ally they won’t have to go at it alone. We hope that the global olive oil indus­try will help us in this endeavor,” he said, adding that he’s open to the pos­si­bil­ity that it could ben­e­fit the devel­op­ment of this indus­try as a whole.”


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