Behavioral Sciences applied to a sustainable soy chain
If no action is taken, is expected to lose 31-34% of Cerrado´s remaining native vegetation by 2050 due to agricultural expansion associated with limited land protection, which could lead to the extinction of around 480 species of endemic plants (Strassburg et al. 2017). This would result in intense socio-environmental damage to Brazil, altering the functioning of ecosystems and their ability to provide services to communities, and harmful repercussions for agribusiness. However, this need not be the future of the biome: research has already shown that it is possible to substantially increase soybean production without deforestation in Brazil in general (Strassburg et al., 2014) and in the Cerrado in particular (Strassburg et al., 2017).
The decision of producers to adopt this commitment, however, depends on external (institutional arrangements, regulation, financial incentives), internal (motivations, capacity) and social (norms) factors. Therefore, in order to design effective policies that encourage changes in land use patterns, it is necessary to understand the forces that shape farmers’ behaviors and their reactions to different strategies. Carefully designed behavioral interventions can reshape individuals or groups, encouraging them to behave in ways that are beneficial to people and the environment.
Bearing these issues in mind, in 2022 the IIS started the development of the project “Incentives and interventions for behavior-based policies for a soy production chain free of deforestation and conversion in the Cerrado”. Focusing on the Cerrado biome and expected to last until 2025, the project will use behavioral sciences to map criteria that influence soy producers in decision making regarding land use and to design mechanisms based on their behavior that encourage the conservation and restoration of vegetation and adoption of sustainable agricultural practices. 4 phases are planned:
- 1. Assess Cerrado´s soy producer behavior to identify the main causes that influence land use change and to develop a hypothesis about the causes and motivations of these behaviors.
- 2. Design incentives and interventions to eliminate deforestation from the Cerrado soy supply chain by incorporating behavioral science principles to address human behavioral anomalies.
- 3. Test potential solutions, measuring farmers’ preferences and willingness to accept incentives for conservation and restoration of native vegetation and the extent to which this can be enhanced by interventions and behavioral effects when applying a choice experiment with farmers.
- 4. Inform private, public and multilateral policies on how to implement, scale up and monitor behavior-based interventions and incentives for conservation, restoration or agricultural expansion of neutral soy. Analyze the costs and benefits of the proposed solutions and define the operationalization of the incentive to develop a step-by-step plan for its implementation, expansion and monitoring.
This project was one of seven selected in the second call for funding from the Land Innovation Fund (LIF) for South America, an innovation promotion fund created to seek solutions to deforestation. LIF supports initiatives that promote a sustainable soy supply chain free of deforestation and conversion of native vegetation that generate positive economic and socio-environmental impact in three priority biomes in South America: Cerrado, Gran Chaco and Amazon.