Over the course of the last three months, Jarrod Russell, associate researcher at the University of California San Diego, participated in a series of programs connected to our project, Adapta Sertao. Here is the testimony of his experiences:
“I had the privilege of working within a collaborative that increases the climate resilience of subsistence farming communities in the Northeast of Brazil.
Pintadas is a small town in the state of Bahia, surrounded by smallholder subsistence farmers. This is naturally a dry land, located in the seemingly endless semi-arid region of Brazil - the Sertão. In an already difficult land, times are especially worrying given the crippling impacts of a lingering drought that arrived in late 2010 and has yet to subside. In addition, over the last 50 years, climate change research - including our own - shows that regional average temperature rose by 1.75 degrees Celsius and annual precipitation fell by 30%. However, despite its humble appearance and tough circumstances, social and environmental innovation is abuzz in the small town of Pintadas.
This past week, Pintadas hosted an event that made it the focal point of agricultural cooperativism for the surrounding territory of the Jacuípe Basin. The event organizer was Adapta Sertão, a coalition of research institutions and NGOs, which has worked in the region since 2006, and is now entering a new stage of project implementation. Adapta Sertão’s goals are timely, as they have the potential to increase the climate resilience of subsistence farmers in the region. This is being achieved through technological innovation (high-efficiency drip irrigation, balanced animal feed, and innovative crop varieties) as well as social innovation vis-à-vis the strengthening of local cooperatives as the hubs of best agricultural practices and the catalysts of community-level adaptations. Now, Adapta Sertão is expanding its irrigation initiative to include 300 subsistence farmers across the 14 municipalities of the Jacuípe Basin, and that is why I am here today.
The event was simple: a 3-day capacity-building session to coordinate the process of identifying and monitoring farmers that are to participate in Adapta Sertão’s new irrigation initiative. As a collaborative, we aim to measure smallholder farmers’ benefits from using these systems while simultaneously strengthening cooperativism in the region. A team needed to be assembled. A diverse group of 18 people from every corner of the Basin came together. They included youth just out of high school, cooperative leaders, and a secretary of agriculture. Their different life stories converged on one issue: we need to work together if we are to overcome the ever-increasing challenges of the semi-arid environment in which we all live in and depend upon.
All participants were immediately struck by the format of the event, which was interactive and inclusive, rather than a read-this-manual and lecture format. We worked as a team to contextualize our efforts and identify our dreams. We contextualized our efforts within the challenges of an unpredictable climate being exacerbated by local deforestation and global climate. We identified our dream as the development of flourishing communities resilient to – even reversing – the aforementioned climatic impacts.
As the event came to a close, the sense of partnership and collective action we cultivated was readily apparent in the exchanges of our concluding remarks. In the spirit of collaboration, we built a team. This team, I am confident, has been empowered with a vision to strengthen their communities and build resilient livelihoods, within and beyond the confines of this project. I was lucky to be a part of the process. Therefore, I encourage you to support this team’s efforts, as your contributions will make a lasting positive impact on the lives of countless subsistence farming families in the region.”
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