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 an important actor for management and conservation of natural forests and other areas identified as High Conservation Value or High Carbon Stock. The HFM not only gives smallholders and their community the 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, while ecological or social factors are not prioritized. 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 and there is no diversified income source to fall back on in case of unfavorable crop prices. With HFM, Earthworm aims to build overall resilience by sharing and harnessing the importance of incorporating ecological and social factors, in order for the farmer to better absorb shocks and manage risk. Furthermore, the adaption of HFM also means that farmers have the ability to comply with and strengthen their position in global sustainable supply chains.
The foundation of the HFM 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 provides farmers with the ability 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 HFM are adjusted based on the region or the needs of communities, but the approach remains largely the same:
After the specifics of the HFM 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 EF 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 HCV land on their farms to motivate them to conserve these areas. Most farmers expressed an interest in conserving the land, but there was a need for an incentive system that can reinforce conservation efforts and at the same time strengthen the resilience of farming families.
Against this background, Earthworm together with 3 farmer cooperatives from the Tocache province have designed a HFM project to promote the raising of guinea pigs as a mechanism to motivate conservation and strengthen family resilience. The project was prioritized 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, as well as decrease the need to expand their crops and therefore decrease the risks of deforestation on their farms. This leads to a more holistic system being utilized 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.