It’s with good reason that the semi-arid land of Pajeú in Brazil’s Pernambuco state is renowned for being a tough place to earn a living.
Farmer Genedite knows how hard it can be from bitter experience: ‘I remember that life was very difficult, and involved a lot of suffering,’ the 50-year-old recalls.
‘Before, my family worked for others, in the sun and rain, with no time to rest even at weekends.’ She remembers often being sick because of the chemicals used in pesticides.
Ten years on and much has changed due to the work of Tearfund partner Diaconia.
After Diaconia helped us, our life greatly improvedGenedite
Diaconia showed Genedite and her husband José how to use specially-adapted techniques and equipment to help them farm successfully in semi-arid conditions. The family now has a water tank, irrigation system and brushland biodigester.
Today, Genedite and her husband manage their large and successful farm using the principles of agroecology, adopting production systems that are socially responsible, economically viable and ecologically sustainable.
Strength to strength
‘After Diaconia helped us, our life greatly improved,’ says Genedite.
She and her husband now grow a wide range of vegetables (lettuce, chives, cilantro, peppers, okra and rocket) and fruit (acerola, banana, orange, mango, guava), as well as producing honey, fruit pulp, corn and hummus. Their produce is sold at fairs throughout the region.
Now, the family has plans to expand their business into fish farming, raising tilapia, a Brazilian species of fish. This will be possible thanks to the desalination unit Diaconia has helped the community to install in their well, which removes salt and other minerals from the brackish local water. The desalination unit produces four gallons of drinking water from every ten gallons of brackish water – a real necessity in the dry local conditions.
Genedite and José have gone from strength to strength, and are now helping others to transform their lives: today, José is president of the Association of Rural Workers from Poço do Moleque.
‘From the beginning, we have always had support and guidance,’ Genedite says. ‘Diaconia is very important in our lives.’
A little history...
Tearfund has been supporting projects in Brazil for more than 30 years and we currently work with eight partners in the country. Between 1990 and 1997 we backed a number of children at risk projects, but our main current focus is north-east Brazil, where severe drought intensifies hardships and encourages migration. Here is just a brief sample of Tearfund-supported work in the region:
ACEV (Ação Evangélica), a Brazilian evangelical church denomination, has installed around 100 wells during the last 14 years, providing tens of thousands of rural people with a reliable water supply and improved sanitation. Local community members receive training in basic health, well maintenance and community mobilisation.
ACEV also raises awareness of community rights to government water deliveries. Without this intervention, uneducated villagers are vulnerable to deception by corrupt local government officials who demand payment for what should be a free service.
Seeking to transform the circumstances of ‘excluded’ people, Diaconia supports vulnerable children and trains church volunteers to care for people living with HIV. A Diaconia food security programme, meanwhile, helps drought-affected communities become self-sufficient in food and water. Small farmers are taught to diversify crops, build affordable irrigation systems and sanitation facilities, sell excess produce in local markets and get involved in local politics.