In February the Global-Rural team visited the semi-arid region of Pernambuco, Brazil. This area is home to a unique biome that exists exclusively in Brazil, called Caatinga. This ecosystem is very important from the biological point of view because it has formed a vast biodiversity; rich in genetic resources and vegetation; and it presents unique fauna and flora.
During the first week, Francesca spent some time in the organization of the civil society known as SERTA (Service for Alternative Technologies) in Ibimirim and the last two weeks she visited the organization CECOR (Centre for Communitarian Rural Education) in Serra Talhada. Thanks to these organisations and their networks, Francesca was able to investigate how global issues, such as water supply and food security, are addressed at a local level by family farmers in the semi-arid Caatinga.
The Caatinga in the last four years has suffered of an unprecedented drought which has hindered agricultural production. Although the drought can be considered cyclical, the last years have seen extremely low levels of rain being registered. Some of the respondents connected it to the wider issues relating to climate change and the global warming. This scenario has pushed some of the farmers to search for other sources of incomes. Moreover most of the young population have left for the urban areas or in search of other occupations elsewhere in the country. The harsh conditions generated by the drought have thus reinforced social rural issues such as rural exodus and depopulation. However, this is just one aspect of what is happening in this semi-arid region.
In the last 20 years, civil society organisations are trying to promote agricultural practices and technological solutions that can ameliorate the rural life in the Caatinga. Their objective is not only to deal with the limits and challenges of such semi-arid areas, but rather to emphasise the potentialities of the Caatinga. As one respondent mentioned; “we aim for a cultural change that tries to ‘live with the drought’ rather than to ‘fight the drought’”. Agroecology seems to be
playing a crucial role in such cultural and technical processes. For instance, the government of Pernambuco funds courses for young people to acquire a technical qualification on agroecology, and supports other programs that aim to provide technical skills linked with agroecological practices to family farmers. Moreover, to reinforce the agricultural production of family farmers, the program “Pernambuco mais Productivo” (Pernambuco more productive) addresses issues of water supply by installing water tanks and other technologies to collect rain water. Organizations such as SERTA and CECOR have therefore the function of implementing such policies and providing the technical and social support to the farmers.
This is clearly a short summary about the case study investigated. The research was based mainly in the municipalities of Ibimirim, Serra Talhada and Santo Cruiz do Baixo Verde and 28 interviews were conducted with young people, family farmers of the rural communities, representative of the Rural Union and collaborators of the two organizations.
At a first glance, this area does not seem to be affected by those violent global processes such as agribusiness or industrialization (mainly located in the specific area of Petrolina). However we can observe how local assemblages are being mobilised to contest the effects of a mainstream economic development model and how regional strategies are addressing key global challenges.