In a world where the gap between rich and poor is as wide it’s ever been, gross domestic product figures won’t tell you where the communities living in the most extreme poverty are.
Brazil is just one example of somewhere we work that may be classified as a ‘middle income country’, but it’s also one of the most unequal. The Brazilian economy is the world's seventh largest by nominal GDP. Brazil has one of the world's fastest growing major economies. But millions of people live in poverty, mostly in the North and NE regions. This is why Tearfund focuses our efforts here.
Fifty-year-old Genedite is a farmer. She lives with her family in the brushland of Pajeú, Pernambuco state, Brazil. In these challenging, semi-arid conditions, making a living from the land can be a constant struggle.
‘Before, my family worked for others, in the sun and rain, with no time to rest even at weekends,’ Genedite explains. ‘I remember that life was very difficult, and involved a lot of suffering.’
The farming methods used by her employers revolved around the use of dangerous pesticides. ‘We worked with chemicals, and were sick all the time,’ Genedite remembers.
‘Before, my family worked for others, in the sun and rain, with no time to rest. Life was very difficult, and involved a lot of suffering.’Genedite, a farmer, Pernambuco state, Brazil
Tearfund partner Diaconia began working with Genedite’s family in 2004 – and the change since then has been remarkable.
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.
‘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 and soursop), as well as producing honey, fruit pulp, corn and hummus. Their produce is sold at agro-ecology 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.’