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Ouro Verde Bahia program: rubber farming for the future

Natural rubber is essential for the tire industry because of its irreplaceable technical characteristics. Which means that there will be no “sustainable” tires without sustainable rubber farming. This is why we have been running the Ouro Verde Bahia (Ouro Verde means Green Gold) program at our Bahia site in Brazil since 2003. It conciliates business development, respect for the environment and the development of local communities.

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The Bahia plantation is the only one that Michelin manages directly. Its history is a mirror image of sustainable development within the group.

In 1982, we purchased 9,000 hectares in Bahia state for a plantation to support our local industrial production units. In 1990, the plantation became a pilot for a research program in partnership with CIRAD , growing rubber varieties that would resist the Microcyclus ulei fungus (leaf blight). Leaf blight is a serious threat to rubber plantations all over the world. In 2003, the plantation was redivided: a plot of 1,000 hectares was kept for experiments, and 5,000 hectares were sold to 250 farming families. In 2007, a 3,000-hectare ecological reserve was created, a sanctuary for preserving the Brazilian Atlantic forest.

The Green Gold Bahia program is very important to us because it completely expresses Michelin’s sustainable growth strategy. We are convinced that preserving the environment can only strengthen social and economic development. I'm very proud of the results obtained here over the last 10 years!

Claire Dorland Clauzel, membre du comité exécutif du groupe Michelin

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1Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement / French Agricultural Research Center for International Development.

Research at Bahia

Research is at the heart of the Ouro Verde Bahia project. By increasing our knowledge of rubber, we can develop varieties which are more resistant to disease and parasites, and therefore more productive. An increase in yield means satisfying global demand with less cultivated land, reducing deforestation. Since 2013, a new, highly productive rubber variety has been successfully grown at Ouro Verde.
Biodiversity studies are also carried out, in particular on intercropping with rubber, banana and cocoa in the same area. This practice encourages the development of family farms around the world.
 

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91 scientific articles published
94 completed research projects on biodiversity
13 ongoing research projects on biodiversity

Preserving the environment

All the research projects on the site are part of our ongoing environmental preservation scheme, but Ouro Verde Bahia is also an ecological reserve of great importance. Since 2006, 3,000 hectares have been safeguarded to protect the Brazil’s Atlantic forest, one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems. The Brazilian government has granted the reserve the highest level of environmental protection for privately owned property. Thanks to the reintroduction of endemic plant varieties, today Ouro Verde has a forest with a very high level of biodiversity, marked by an abundant presence of animals, particularly endangered species.
 

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2000 plant and animal species listed in the Michelin ecological reserve
116% increase in fauna in 11 years

Encouraging development of local communities

The last component is certainly not the least. It encourages the development of local communities, to establish rubber farming in a virtuous social dynamic. 250 families have directly benefited from the redistribution of plots of land, and have seen their material situation improve through rubber and cocoa farming. They now have a regular income and rubber farming is an important source of local employment.
 

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A family farming training center opened its doors to educate young people from the region about farming techniques. There is also a family farming support program, which reaches over 1,300 families.
Finally, to encourage economic development and improve conditions for everyone, important infrastructures have been built (medical center, school, mobile phone network, etc.).

Natural sustainable rubber: a challenge shared with car manufacturers

In May 2017, General Motors announced its commitment to natural sustainable rubber. The Detroit manufacturer will now privilege suppliers meeting their sustainability standards. The company’s definition of natural sustainable rubber is exhaustive: production must avoid deforestation, encourage the economic and social development of rubber farmers and meet transparency and traceability criteria. The objective is to encourage lasting and responsible rubber farming.
 

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This approach is clearly a response to our sustainable development program in general and to the Ouro Verde Bahia program in particular. We welcome GM’s commitment and encourage other manufacturers to join the movement to support natural sustainable rubber. 

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Ouro Verde Bahia program: rubber farming for the future