Family farming, water supply and food security in Pernambuco, Brazil

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

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Technology for Harvesting Rainwater

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.

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Agroecology Technique: The Anaerobic Digester

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.

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Agroecology Course in the Caatinga

 

Researching the development of rural communities in the Metropolitan Region of Salvador, Brazil

In January 2017, Francesca Fois from the GLOBAL-RURAL team travelled to Brazil to investigate how life in rural Brazil has been changed by connections with the global economy and global society and how global issues such as food security and water supply are addressed at the national, regional and local levels. GLOBAL-RURAL aims to explore several case studies across the different Brazilian biomes such as the Atlantic forest, the Caatinga (the semi-arid region), the Amazon forest and the Pampa.

The research started in the Atlantic Forest of Bahia studying how processes of industrialisation and urbanisation have affected the rural areas and, especially, the traditional communities of the Metropolitan Region of Salvador. The research has been undertaken in collaboration with Terra Mirim communitarian foundation located in the Itamboatá valley and the field assistants Daniela Sampaio (Dahvi) and Maria Isabel Nunes (Minah). Since its foundation, Terra Mirim has played a crucial role for promoting a sustainable development and for the recognition of environmental and social rights in the valley.

The research initially focused on studying the Itamboatá valley located in the municipality of Simões Filho but the scale has extended on the Metropolitan Region of Salvador as it is essential to explore the role of Salvador, the Industrial Centres of Aratú and Petrol Chemical Centre of Camaçari to understand the rural dynamics of the valley

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In this context, the research has 3 main research questions:

  1. How has the development of rural areas of the Metropolitan Region of Salvador been affected by the global economy?
  2. How do the rural traditional communities deal with issues of food security and how do the municipalities and government support such programs?
  3. How are issues of water supply and sanitation addressed in these rural areas?

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The research is using semi-structured interviews and in January the team has interviewed more than 40 people from the Metropolitan Region of Salvador such as local governors from Simões Filho and Camaçari; several institutions from the State of Bahia; residents and leaders from traditional rural communities of Terra Mirim, Dandá, Oitero, Palmares, Mapele, Guerrero, Goes Calmon; and collaborators from different organisations of the civil society and universities.

It is early to communicate the results of the research as a qualitative analysis is needed; however, the first impressions are that the rural areas of the valley have so far not been targeted with specifically development programs from the municipality of Simões Filho. The focus has rather been given to support the expansion of the industrial centres, the entrance of global capital and the advancement of the urban areas and the rural communities’ necessities are not addressed. These are some general initial findings; however, more data will be collected in March 2017 and a more detailed analysis is needed to further present the rural dynamics of the Metropolitan Region of Salvador.

For the Portuguese version see: http://terramirim.org.br/comunidades-tradicionais-rurais