Communicating deforestation a focus for PhD candidate

Rafaela Aragao is interested in communicating the impacts of deforestation to farmers.

A Griffith University doctoral researcher will receive the prestigious Crawford Fund Student Award 2021 for a communications plan to positively influence sustainable soy farming in Brazil.

PhD candidate Rafaela Aragao, from Griffith Sciences, said the award would allow her to carry out the project, which in turn would complement her PhD research looking at the role information plays in Brazilian soy farmers’ attitudes towards deforestation.

Rafaela Aragao at a farm in Brisbane.

Soy production has boomed in recent years, with the world’s forests often cleared to make way for crops.

“International pressure to reduce deforestation caused by the soy supply chain has been increasing over the years,” Rafaela said.

“However, in the Brazilian Cerrado – a biome threatened by soy expansion – from 2003 to 2015, most land conversions occurred within the legal limits.

“In this sense, any attempt to understand deforestation in the Brazilian soy supply chain can only be successful by considering soy farmers’ attitudes towards deforestation.”

The Crawford Fund seeks to facilitate active student participation in international agricultural research projects, helping to gain experience and expertise in the area.

Rafaela aims to implement a research communications plan to provide effective communication strategies for farmers around sustainable food production, developed along with her PhD research and complemented through a workshop with Brazilian farmers.

“The gap between academics and farmers is a reality in both Brazil and Queensland,” she said.

“In the workshop, I will share the results of my PhD research on the role of information in deforestation with farmers and get their insights, in turn giving them an awareness of aspects that may have previously subconsciously influenced their decisions.

“These influences could be things like the people helping them interpret information, modes of information communication that they are accessing, and information influencing their land-use decisions.

“Through this activity, I’m hoping to fill that gap by giving visibility to the importance of international agricultural research that ultimately impacts food security.”

Rafaela will then create an executive summary of her findings using non-technical language and visual elements, before publishing them in Globo Rural magazine — the main magazine broadly accessed by Brazilian farmers and stakeholders — along with other websites.

She said theory behind the project, while carried out in Brazil, could be applied in Queensland, which also suffers from high rates of deforestation.

“Sharing the results of this project can help stakeholders within commodities supply chains, such as Queensland traders, think of strategies for communicating information to farmers to promote sustainable production,” Rafaela said.

“Consumers in Queensland are more than ever looking for sustainable food and local traders are aware of that.

“I am super excited to get started!”