From electrician to farmer: growing pitaya is changing lives in Mato Grosso do Sul


If there is one food that currently is in fashion, it is pitaya. The fruit has become frequent in recipes and diets of those who seek healthier food all over the world. It is also called “dragon fruit” for its shiny and rugged outer part. In turn, its skin is quite smooth and dotted with seeds like a kiwi fruit. Its flesh varies from white to vibrant pink, depending on the variety.

In Brazil, the fruit is increasingly present on people’s tables and has inspired farmers in Mato Grosso do Sul, one of the Brazilian Midwestern states. In the first four months of this year alone, the farmers assisted by the local National Rural Learning Service (SENAR/MS) increased their production by 27.17%, compared to the entire year 2021. More than 4.7 tons of the fruit were traded between January and April 2022. In the previous year, the production was 3.7 tons.

Four years ago, Clair José de Sousa, then an electrician, decided to face the challenge of growing fruit. The chosen one was pitaya, which was not very well known in the city of Alcinópolis, specifically in the Santa Fé settlement, where he lives. The production was unsuccessful until he received the Technical and Managerial Assistance (ATeG) in Fruticulture from SENAR/MS.

“For me, it changed everything. I didn’t know pitaya when I started. I wouldn’t have developed if I hadn’t had the help from SENAR/MS. I didn’t know how to plant, the type of fertilization, about drip irrigation,” recalls the producer.

In two years of ATeG, management became uncomplicated. Today, Clair is proud of his crop. “Working here is everything for me. I take over, prune the plants, and see what needs to be done. I stay here all day working with the pitayas. At first, it was hard, but today I sell everything I produce. There is always a market! People have already come from São Paulo to buy it here,” the producer joyfully says.

For the coordinator of Technical and Managerial Assistance in Horticulture at SENAR/MS, Dorly Pavei, the focus on training allowed farmers to believe in growing the fruit, which has expanded production. “The main factor was the dissemination of the activity with lots of information. With this, the rural producers saw an opportunity to diversify their goods and invest in the fruit as an income option,” he explains.

The SENAR field technicians make monthly visits to the property, but the monitoring is continuous. “If there is any doubt, I call the technician and he guides me—this is how we improve. That’s why, for me, SENAR/MS has been very important,” concludes Clair.