CA on Inclusive Digital Agriculture, Collective Actions, GFAR blog

Brazilian family farmer bets on ICTs and Youtube channels to spread knowledge 


Meet Wagner Canal, a family farmer from São Domingos do Norte in the Southeast region of Brazil.  He strongly believes that family farming must keep up with the global technological advancements and continuously reinvent itself to stay relevant.  

Wagner Canal in his farm

To this end, the family farmer has invested in internet coverage for more than 80% of his homestead and in cell phones for all his family members with a variety of apps installed to help observe the health of the plants, make forecasts and calculations, gain access to financial services among many other activities. 

Using Youtube to share information and knowledge 

A natural communicator, Wagner uses his charismatic personality and the knowledge he has acquired in his studies and experiences in the field to share knowledge with other family farmers. He started by holding conversations with neighbors and then to reach a wider audience decided to start a YouTube channel. 

His first channel “Wagner Canal’s Channel” was started in 2020 and now has more than 25,000 subscribers and dozens of videos. On this channel he shares his experiences in the production of a wide variety of Desert Roses and other ornamental plants. The videos are a real success with thousands of views and numerous comments mostly from other family producers who interact with Wagner praising his work and asking questions about the information and knowledge he shares. Wagner always seeks to respond to his audiences queries wherever they are in the world. 

“I believe that we cannot keep information to ourselves. When you pass on information, you also end up learning more about it and promoting collective knowledge. I like to receive feedback from people who watch me, to hear about their experiences on their various farms, that way we create an information network that strengthens all of us, and this is very important to us”, comments Wagner. 

The success of his first channel increased his desire to share more knowledge on other production fronts and Wagner started a new channel: “Hydroponics with Wagner Canal”. On this channel he posts videos on various hydroponic production techniques that he tests in his greenhouse. This channel has more than 3,000 subscribers and dozens of positive feedback from the audience. 

Both channels can be accessed here: 

Wagner Canal do Canal

Hydroponics with Wagner Canal  

Traceability for consumers 

Other than the desert roses, ornamental plants and hydroponic vegetables and greens, Wagner bets on diversification and the organic aspect on his family’s farm production to strengthen their financial status.  

Wagner uses another digital resource on packaging, especially for cachaça and honey: a QR code, which is printed on the labels of these products bottles, and when accessed, takes them to the property’s website or Wagner’s Youtube channels. In this way, the consumer can better understand the origin of the products they have purchased and the work that Wagner’s family develops on the property. To further boost sales, he makes use of social networks, such as Instagram and Facebook, to promote his products and interact with his customers. 

Property website:  

Successful reforestation project 

In addition to all this work with the modernization of production and marketing with the aid of ICTs, the Canal family property is known in the Espírito Santo region for another very special reason: after inheriting the family property In 1996, Wagner began an intense endeavour; recovering the native forest through a reforestation exercise by reintroducing the species of the Atlantic Forest, a biome characteristic of this region of Brazil. Approximately 75,000 trees of 200 species have been planted in the degraded area. This has promoted the recovery of water sources, which today supply the irrigation of the farm’s productions.  

A TV station in the region made a video report about this reforestation project, which can be watched here: 

Perspectives for the future 

Proud of the work he has developed so far, Wagner has great ambitions for the next steps of his project. “Whether physically or through Youtube, I believe my farm will be seen by the world. I really believe in thatWe are practicing organic agriculture, agroecology and agricultural diversity and would wish to increase our audiences to learn more about hydroponics, desert rose, coffee, and all the other activities we have on the farm. And these audiences can then dialogue with us and each other and exchange knowledge”, concludes Wagner. 

More about COPROFAM’s selection process for successful experiences in ICTs 

Walter Canal’s story is part of a selection of practices that was carried out in a joint effort between GFAR, FAO and COPROFAM to identify uses and applications of ICTs in Family Farming. 

The selection process lasted several months and went through different phases. Initially, a survey was carried out on the use of ICTs, via a web form, which collected more than 400 responses across the region. Then, with the corresponding analysis of the results and through the network of COPROFAM correspondents, 13 cases of successful practices were identified. In the second phase, from these 13 cases, 5 practices were selected, in which videos of each of these stories of family production are being produced, revealing their links with technology, the uses they incorporated, such as the sale and purchase of inputs, training , collection and payment, among others. These records also seek to show those interested in the topic about the positive impact that the application and use of technology brought to each enterprise. 

Why is it common sense to diversify our investment portfolio, but not the world’s food portfolio?” asks Dr. Arif Husain, Chief Economist at the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), and recipient of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize (quote from Twitter, 23rd March 2022). As we diversify our investments, and our energy sources, it is time to think seriously about diversifying our food system. In fact, doing so can also help with the first two, as our mainstream foods are also largely dependent on fossil fuels and fertilizer sources (Woods et al., 2010), and the alternatives are starved of investment.

Of the 7000 edible plant species, today just four (maize, wheat, soybean and rice) provide more than half of our calories. To add more complexity, the world’s exports and reserves of agricultural commodities are highly concentrated geographically, leaving the world vulnerable to price shocks, supply chain disturbances and climate change. According to the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE), 86% of all wheat exports come from just seven countries, while three countries hold 68% of global wheat reserves. The war in Ukraine has caused terrible losses in lives and illustrated the danger this concentration poses. The UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is warning that the conflict will escalate global hunger and poverty, as Russia and Ukraine together export about 30% of the world’s wheat and 53% of the world’s sunflower (UNCTAD, 2022). We will likely witness a significant shortfall in the portion of the world’s availability of demand for wheat, maize and barley will not be available toon the global markets. Food riots may also occur, as they did during the financial crisis of 2008.

Recently, there have been calls to expand “wheat production in high-productivity areas (North America and Europe) and in regions with suitable conditions (Sudan and Nigeria are promising), and to increase productivity in places where it is low (such as Ethiopia and Turkey)”. The recent example of India which announced days ago a ban on wheat sales “to manage the overall food security of the country”, shows the vulnerability of such a strategy.

It would be a mistake to think that investment on a single mainstream commodity will be enough to ensure food security. This strategy addresses the immediate symptoms of an acute crisis while leaving untouched the deeper malady. Continuing to rely on current global food chains delivering a narrow range of mainstream crops, susceptible to sudden supply chain shocks and long-term climate change, means that food security in Africa will remain vulnerable. The crisis should encourage us to rethink food systems, especially in areas where rapid population growth and changing diets based on processed products from mainstream staples have increased dependence on the international markets for food needs, and work to make them more resilient. Fundamentally, that means more diverse food systems.

The current crisis could in fact help to turn a long-lasting but neglected structural problem into an opportunity. Instead of a “more of the same” model based on a small number of globally traded mainstream crops, the worls needs to invest more in homegrown solutions. This requires, in ways that are complementary to the production of wheat, maize and rice, transformational investments in indigenous forgotten cereals, roots, tubers, grain legumes, oil crops, fruits and vegetables that are adapted to local palates and agroecologies, and cultivated according to traditional management practices , which are also often more “climate smart”.

This blog is part of the GFAR Partners in Action series, celebrating the achievements of our diverse network of partners who are working together to shape a new, sustainable future for agriculture and food. Each month we will be showcasing stories related to a key theme in agri-food research and innovation. The theme for May is ‘Small – scale family farming in an era of change’.

Join the conversation in the comments below or share this article on social media using #GFARinAction.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s