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Holistic Farm Management

Holistic Farm Management

About Holistic Farm Management (HFM)

Holistic Farm Management (HFM) is an approach used during the transformation phase by Earthworm's local field coordinators in Ecuador, Peru, Mexico and Brazil to strengthen the resilience and capacity of smallholders.

Often overlooked, smallholders are important in managing and conserving natural forests and other areas identified as High Conservation Value or High Carbon Stock. The HFM not only gives smallholders and their community a chance to take ownership of pathways to change, but it also addresses an issue common among smallholders relying on one cash crop for their income: Decision-making processes are heavily based on the market. At the same time, ecological or social factors are not prioritised.

This can weaken the farmer's resilience because income is directly linked to a single cash crop for which the price is fixed on an international market. There is no diversified income source to fall back on in case of unfavourable crop prices. With Holistic Farm Management, Earthworm aims to build overall resilience by sharing and harnessing the importance of incorporating ecological and social factors, in order for the farmer to absorb shocks better and manage risk. Furthermore, the adaption of Holistic Farm Management also means that farmers have the ability to comply with and strengthen their position in global sustainable supply chains.

The foundation of the Holistic Farm Management is a mix of group workshops and individual meetings in order for the field staff to implement solutions that address ecological, economic or social shortages equally within communities. This allows farmers to own and manage their own interventions while always being able to fall back on either the community or Earthworm field coordinators if questions or problems arise.

The specifics of the Holistic Farm Management (HFM) are adjusted based on the region or the needs of communities, but the approach remains largely the same:

1. Farmer selection

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2. Workshop coordination

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3. Farmer visits

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4. Second workshop

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5. Follow-up visits

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Spatial diagnostic based in the farmer information
Spatial farm plan - final

After the specifics of the Holistic Farm Management have been set together with the farmer and if need be, Earthworm seeks out additional funding either from the local government, our members or other active NGOs in the region. Overall it takes around 1.5 months to set up HFM plans for a group of two dozen farmers, depending on local circumstances.

Most recently for example the HFM approach was implemented in the Tocache province department of San Martin where Earthworm identified a 60,000 ha area of High Conservation Value (HCV) and High Carbon Stock (HCS) land. The local farming community is a key actor for the conservation of these areas. Earthworm has started an awareness process with groups of farmers who have High Conservation Value (HCV) land on their farms to motivate them to conserve these areas. Most farmers expressed an interest in conserving the land. Still, there was a need for an incentive system that could reinforce conservation efforts and, at the same time, strengthen the resilience of farming families.

Against this background, Earthworm and 3 farmer cooperatives from the Tocache province have designed a Holistic Farm Management project to promote the raising of guinea pigs as a mechanism to motivate conservation and strengthen family resilience. The project was prioritised by Earthworm and the cooperative because guinea pigs are species with high demand in the Peruvian market; however, local farming systems are not very efficient.

This project is expected to increase and diversify farmers' incomes, decrease the need to expand their crops and decrease the risks of deforestation on their farms.

This leads to a more holistic system being utilised since the farmer's income dependence on a single crop is being reduced while at the same time diversifying land usage and actively protecting and managing HCV land. Because of this incentive system, 50 farming families have committed to the HFM plan already, and a further 60 have already heard about it and are eager to implement a similar program.