Published 26 May 2016
Uruguay has relied on family farming for centuries, and the country’s broad low-lying plains are home to more cows than people. However, local farmers are now benefitting from the Alianzas forestry and land use initiative in partnership with Montes del Plata pulp mill, which involves integrating eucalyptus plantations into their farms. Jorge and Alejandro Tornielli are among the pioneers successfully combining traditional farming with forestry activities.
Jorge Tornielli has lived his entire life on a 1 300 hectare family farm known as El Retoño” (the sprout) in the Colonia province of Uruguay, and now manages the farming activities together with his brother Alejandro. El Retoño is the only source of income for the Tornielli family, and is based on traditional farming activities, such as cattle and sheep breeding, and wheat and soy-bean cultivation.
Forestry offers a lifeline
A few years ago, declining commodity and producer prices in Uruguay challenged the Tornielli family to look for additional sources of income from their land. When Montes del Plata, Stora Enso’s joint operation in Uruguay with Arauco, presented the brothers with a new business model to use some of their land for plantations, the brothers were at first suspicious – as was their elderly mother living on the farm.
“Colonia is a traditional farming province and we did not know of any other farmer practicing forestry on their land,” Jorge explains. “How would plantations affect our farming? What would happen to lands around the plantations? We were afraid of losing lands that we could not profitably utilise for farming.”
Jorge and Alejandro travelled around the country with support from Montes del Plata to visit forestry farms and learn about the new concept. After overcoming their doubts, Jorge and Alejandro dedicated 8% of their lands for the Alianzas forestry initiative. Since 2014, around 100 hectares of low-lying land at El Retoño not suitable for agriculture have been used to grow FSC-certified eucalyptus trees that are to be felled for Montes del Plata’s pulp operations in 2024. Montes del Plata pays an annual fee for the planted areas depending on the distance from the pulp mill – and in the case of the Tornielli family, the annual compensation is around 15 000 USD due to their farm’s relative close proximity to the mill.
Stable family income
The Tornielli brothers are positive about combining traditional farming activities with forestry, as the eucalyptus plantations also provide shade and shelter for their cattle. The new business model has also attracted interest in the neighbourhood.
“Our neighbours have not complained about trees blocking their view. Instead, they have contacted us to hear more about Alianzas and our income from the cooperation,” Jorge reveals.
Cooperation with Montes del Plata has ensured a stable and diversified income for the family.
“Forestry has given us financial stability, particularly now that other activities at the farm have become less profitable. Even our elderly mother is now convinced about the cooperation,” Jorge smiles.