For over 20 years, 40-year-old Rosana Aparecida Gabardo Pallu was a stand-out baker in Mandirituba, Metropolitan Region of Curitiba, in southern Brazil. Despite having made a name for herself by making cakes for weddings and birthday parties, she lived on the edge of stress. Tired of city life, Rosana opted for a radical change: two years ago, she left the kitchen for strawberry greenhouses.
The business was so successful that it has already doubled its cultivation, from 10 thousand to 20 thousand trees. Her husband, José Marcos, who used to be a metalworker, quit his job and started working exclusively in the production of strawberries. Now, the couple has a better quality of life and, in addition, earns a higher income.
“Despite being in a small town, I was always stressed with routine. I have always wanted to live in the countryside and always took courses at SENAR-PR and Emater [present day IDR]. One day, I took a vegetable garden course, and I fell in love with strawberries. We bought the land little by little, and it took a while for us to have our own business, but we are very happy now. My income has improved. Quality of life counts a lot, too. Here we have well water, the house has no neighbors and is surrounded by woods. It’s nature and fresh air,” says the fruit grower.
Stories like Rosana’s are increasingly more common and prove that the Brazilian agricultural sector has consolidated itself as an economically attractive alternative for those who want quality of life and to have their own business, as long as the structure is well planned. The agricultural sector and the development of cities inland have ensured conditions so that people do not need to rely on large urban areas: the alternatives are there, in the rural sector.
On the one hand, technological developments and advances in infrastructure works have changed the face of the field. Roads, electricity supply, and internet access contribute to connecting rural areas to cities. In addition, professionalization and technological improvements have optimized production processes. Added to this is the strength of the agricultural sector, which has been ensuring growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a positive result in the country’s trade balance. In other words, there are plenty of reasons that accredit the countryside as an alternative for life.
“The sector has greatly evolved and, nowadays, concepts such as precision agriculture and digital agriculture are reality. In addition to contributing to the country’s economy, people in the countryside enjoy a quality of life and excellent income prospects. Young people no longer need to go to big cities to make a living. They can be very successful in the field, and the FAEP/SENAR-PR System is a support point for them to achieve that,” emphasizes the president of the organization, Ágide Meneguette.
“In addition to being the most resilient economic sector, agriculture has grown in recent years. Technological and infrastructure improvements have increasingly brought the countryside closer to the city, causing a change in profile. People in the countryside now have access to goods and culture in a way they did not have decades ago. In many cases, migration to large centers is no longer attractive. Everything one needs can be found in the countryside. This causes the opposite movement: it encourages people who used to live in cities to return to the countryside,” reinforces Luiz Eliezer Ferreira, a technician at the FAEP/SENAR-PR System’s Economic Technical Department (DTE).
Economist Felippe Serigati, from Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV), highlights an aspect that helps to understand why the countryside has been an increasingly viable alternative: income. While the average income of Brazilians has been increasing, on average, 0.9% per year, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the average remuneration of the producer has advanced to 1.5% per year, according to the Center for Applied Economic Research (CEPEA).
Wealth generation has also increased by more in the countryside. Over the last decade, GDP increased by 10.5% per year in the state of Paraná countryside, while the increase was 7.7% in the Metropolitan Region of Curitiba, the state capital.
In addition, Serigati points out that agricultural products, as they are essential goods, are less susceptible to great demand fluctuations. In periods of crisis, this factor gives more security to those who invest in the area.
“Agricultural average income increased at a more intense pace than in the rest of Brazilian economy. In the countryside, the economy is more dynamic and expanding, attracting more people. This increases the demand for labor and tends to push up remuneration,” explains Serigati. “Agricultural products have a lower elasticity. Even when there is a great crisis, people are unlikely to have lunch every other day. On the other hand, if your income has doubled, you may have more sophisticated lunches, but you won’t have lunch twice a day. So, the demand is preserved,” he explains.
It is not enough, however, to simply return to the countryside. A business model must be rigorously structured. To be good entrepreneurs, producers must know the activity in which they want to be engaged. In addition to mastering production steps through the whole process, they also need to study the market. Therefore, specialization is essential.
“Agriculture does not accept adventurers. The sector requires extreme professionalization. It is important to study the activity, think about logistics, suppliers, and the market. That is the first step, and SENAR-PR can be decisive in the process,” points out Luiz Eliezer Ferreira, from the FAEP/SENAR-PR System.