Climate Change has no boundaries:Help rural Brazil

 
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The III Fórum Adapta Sertão (October 7th to 9th)  was titled “Reflexion dialogue: climate change and food production – Innovative public policies for small farmers in the Brazilian semi arid”. It was conceived as a dialogue opportunity to discuss five themes that are central to the development of the Bacia de Jacuipe county, state of Bahia, where Adapta Sertao is mostly working. The Bacia do Jacuipe county has a total population of 250,000 and it is fairly representative of the whole semi-arid region of Brazil in terms of socio-economical structure and environmental settings. All themes were approached from a climate change adaptation perspective that represented the cross-cutting theme.
The five themes that were discussed were.
•    Access to technology, technical assistance and knowledge
•    Research and technical development
•    Commercialization programs
•    Access to credit
•    Infrastructure (focus on water infrastructures)
To facilitate the discussion, each theme was discussed initially through two or three presentations by relevant experts and/or representatives of key regional organizations in the field. Each presenter was asked to focus his/her presentation on key questions and barriers, looking especially at the policy framework and where possible changes should have occurred. The objective of this forum was therefore to:
1.    Get to know initiatives, technologies and projects related to the production of food within the Bacia do Jacuipe, that can be considered as a reference to guarantee food security of the local population
2.    Identify limitations e barriers for a n effective dissemination of the most promising initiatives, technologies and projects
3.    Elaborate  ideas and proposals for public policies for a better integration of issues related to food production and food security in the context of an intensification of climate variability
During the second day, each theme was discussed in more details to elaborate possible proposals that could be eventually taken to policy makers in the state of Bahia.

During the discussions it emerged the difficulty to elaborate key proposals in an integrated way for a number of different reasons. Many of these issues are well known also by government officials. However it seems that the process of making changes in the legislations has very complex dynamics that go beyond the presentation of good proposals and ideas and have different levels of complexity. It was very difficult to identify one or two themes to develop specific proposals, as each group had its own expertise in specific themes, and it was very difficult to identify a issue that could be considered objectively more relevant than any other one by all participants.

In the next forum in March 2012, the Adapta Sertao technical and coordination team will go to Brasilia to propose to work with state and federal government on a possible integration of existing policies and take Adapta Sertao experience as a common ground for testing such integration. 

The key barriers/issues that were identified by were:

ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY AND TECHNICA ASSISTENCE + RESEARCH
o    Small farmers already struggle. They perceive small changes already on a yearly basis and it is necessary to have technology and knowledge to help them adapt
o    Better education in childhood/primary and secondary school. The education system in the region seems to be fairly poor and farmers today have serious difficulties to assimilate innovations and knowledge because they have not been prepared to deal with changes and incorporate innovations rapidly in their life.
o    Decentralize technical assistance. It is important for the federal and state governments to allow cooperatives and farmers associations access financial resources to provide technical assistance. Technical assistance provided mostly by federal and state entities show to be often poor and inefficient.
o     It is necessary to identify specific technologies that respond to the farmers’ needs and develop dissemination mechanisms. These are technologies that have to be adapted to the reality of the farmers and not vice-versa

•    FINANCING
o    The federal micro-credit system PRONAF is providing good conditions (2% annual interest rates) for farmers. However there are some serious limitations that need to be overcome: Famers do not need to present real guarantee to take the loan. This is a risk for the financial institutions that if a financial crisis occurs (example of Europe), then several financial institutions can go bankrupt;  PRONAF is not equally distributed across Brazil. In terms of density, the semi-arid region should receive at least the double of what it is receiving now; A lot of bureaucracy to get the loan;  Better monitoring on where the resources are allocated: some farmers access much more financial resources than other farmers but on which basis?
•    COMMERCIALIZATION 
o    PAA is the federal school feeding program, where all schools have to provide to the students at least one meal per day. Since 2009, at least 30% of the food has to be purchased by small farmers (the PAA program). The PAA is providing  a crucial market access  opportunity for small farmers in the region. It shows to be an important instrument for capacity building. It is  also promoting various changes in farmers’ production and organizational processes such as creating structures and cooperatives and employing better production methods
o    PAA has also strengthened farmers’ organizations because it requires food purchase to be done from formal groups.
o    The values offered by PAA are used by farmers as a reference price in negotiations with middlemen. This is increasing the selling power of farmers
o    It is important to complement the commercialization opportunity with further support to farmers’ production and organizational process. This means to improve the way in which technical assistance is given. There is a clear need of technical assistance services especially for production planning, which is a  major factor to be improved in the PAA
•    WATER INFRASTRUCTURES
o    Today water infrastructures have improved a lot the reality of the local population. In 1993, farmers had to walk over 2 km to harvest water. Today they are not doing it as much because local water  infrastructures (rainwater harvesting systems  and small earth dams) that have been constructed by NGOs and governments, improving local access to water
o    Farmers have also learnt how to adapt themselves to water scarcity and they are open to adopt water conservation technologies. However, from a animal breeding erspective, it is essencial to improve the production system for example by disseminating plants that store water like “palma forrageira” or by having a more adequate management of the local water resources.
o    There are several low cost strategies that can be implemented but farmers do not have money to do them, also because their pay back is uncertain in specific conditions. It seems that government subsidies are here important: the government needs to invest much more money to improve water infrastrctures but in a decentralized way 

Post-forum field visit to Adapta Sertao projects
Post-forum field visit to Adapta Sertao projects
Post-forum field visit to Adapta Sertao project
Post-forum field visit to Adapta Sertao project

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Farmers selling products in the Pintadas Open Fair
Farmers selling products in the Pintadas Open Fair

Commercialization of products is a key challenge in under-served communities of semi-arid Brazil. Farmers find it difficult to transport their products to local fairs because they usually have very precarious transportaion means. In addition, the commercialization process requires investments, organizational and managerial skills.

The "Pintadas Open Fair" happens every monday from 6 am to 2 pm. This is the mais commercial and trade event in the municipality of Pintadas where locals can buy fresh fruits and vegetables and a variety of different items. However, most of the fruits and vegetables sold in the market come from outside the region  (over 95%). The reason is the unstructured agricultural production in the municipality of Pintadas that seriously undermines local food security, especially under an intensification of the dry periods due to climate change.

Through the CEMINA initiative, local small farmers have managed to have access to knowledge and technology to boost their agricultural production. Today, over 30 farmers have access to irrigation, drought-resistant seeds, water pumps and shadowing systems. They have recently gather together to overcome the commercialization barriers through a collective commercialization of their products in the Pintadas Open Fair. The initiative has been a real success, as local people do support local production and prefer it compared to products coming from outside the region. All fruits and vegetables are sold very quickly, giving an excellent incentive to local farmers to continue doing and expanding their production.

Congratulations to all Pintadas farmers and keep up with the good work!

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Flor with one of the irrigation hoses
Flor with one of the irrigation hoses

The sertão of Bahia is a semi-arid area of the state where climate change has made rain and drought more and more erratic. Many people in the sertão make a living on subsistence farming, which can be quite difficult when there is little access to water. Many farmers grow "drought crops", using no water or irrigation systems. Farmers who use this method have to work extremely hard with the risk of not getting any return.

Six years ago, Flor Oswaldo, a small land-owner outside the town of Pinatadas, Bahia, grew his crops this way. He had water on his property but had no way to access it. Flor had to get water with his horse drawn cart every weekend in order to have water in his house for the week. As you can imagine, for a busy farmer Flor's time is valuable and it was inconvenient to have to fetch the water every week. Six years ago, Flor got a micro loan from Adapta Sertão to be able to buy an irrigation system. This system includes a solar powered pump that pumps water from dams that the Bahian state government has built on his property to be able to water his crops. This has allowed Flor to be able to grow produce such as beans, corn, bananas, cassava, tomatoes, passion fruit, and more. Flor is also able to use the solar panels for his pump to provide electricity for his house.

Now that Flor doesn´t have to get water every week, he is able to dedicate more time to his farm, and able to relax on the weekends! With the new irrigation system, he is earning minimum wage by selling his produce to the co-op that Adapta Sertão runs. The micro-loan irrigation project and the co-op run by Adapta Sertão are just two examples of the active civil society that exists in Pintadas. Flor is proof that this civil society is really working for the citizens it strives to help.

Flor showing ITF traveler Josh irrigation hose
Flor showing ITF traveler Josh irrigation hose

Dear Valued Donors,

Adapta Sertao is happy to report the ongoing initiatives and partnerships we have with local schools as collectively, we integrate and promote sustainable practices and education.

Currently many Brazilian schools within rural and remote areas, especially those arid and semi-arid regions, suffer a shortage of potable water. Many of these schools lack a sufficient source of clean, drinkable water and thus, coupled with sporadic rainfall and poor water management and infrastructure, stems a challenging situation into one that is inherently more complex. 

The Brazilian Federal government has initiated and provided financial support in launching the "Agua na Escola" program (Water in School). Dedicated to improving water supply and access for at-risk schools, the Brazilian government will implement a number of rainwater harvesting systems throughout several rural schools. The system collects water from the rooftop in a large tank, stores and processes it for future use. The schools will have a reliable source of clean water that can be used for cooking meals or drinking purposes.

Adapta Sertao recognizes the efforts of the Federal government and has been tirelessly working toward supporting and shaping an important sustainable development strategy. Adapta Sertao has co-financed the installation of three rainwater harvesting systems linked to three small irrigation systems in the municipality of Pintadas, semi-arid region of Bahia. The "irrigation" component is an innovation that is not part of Agua na Escola and one which has been introduced by Adapta Sertao. Adapta Sertao’s objective for installing efficient irrigation systems (drip irrigation) in the schools is to show children that it is possible to grow vegetables and staple crops more efficiently compared to local irrigation technologies that are still very rudimentary such as hand irrigation. The aim of installing efficient irrigation in the schools is to develop a more contextualized education in the schools of the region, by showing children strategies that can really work for the local population and that can improve their quality of life.

Help us provide education and enhance one of the most precious and finite resources in the world!

Sincerely,

Adapta Sertao

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Students engaged in a lesson about climate change
Students engaged in a lesson about climate change

Dear valued donors,

We are enthusiastic to report and share our recent experience in the field!

The Adapta Sertao team visited Pintadas, Bahia last week where we engaged in community development, education and awareness workshops, facilitated interviews and visited farmer’s cooperatives.

Adapta Sertao has been working in partnership with the Secretary of Education in Pintadas by facilitating group discussions with other academic and various leaders of the community. Last week, Adapta Sertao spoke with the educators about the methodology and processes toward creating and implementing material on sustainable agricultural production.

Establishing new school material and disseminating resources is a costly venture for the small municipality. We rely on generous donors for their continued support throughout our initiatives and believe that education is a fundamental and powerful tool in spreading and developing knowledge. Through education in the classroom, future generations will have the capacity to understand and implement sustainable agricultural practices that will ensure food security, employment, and community cohesion.

Thank-you kindly for your interest and continued support.

Sincerely,

Adapta Sertao

Adapta Sertao meets with local Pintadas teachers
Adapta Sertao meets with local Pintadas teachers

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