Spotlight on the Sertão

Brazil's growing wealth makes it a place the world wants to trade with. But it’s also a country of enormous inequality, where millions are denied their basic rights.

In the semi-arid North East of Brazil, known as the Sertão, we're supporting isolated rural communities to grow nutritious food and make a living from farming.  They are given the poorest quality land - and what’s available to them is being reduced by aggressive commercial farming activities. 

What challenges do people living in the Sertão face?

It's a region characterised by high temperatures, slash-and-burn agriculture, scarce water resources, and severe environmental degradation. Only two rivers flow throughout the year.

As well as the tough environment, communities are isolated from many services and public policies don't take account of their needs.

In 2006, we began working with 3 local organisations to support small-hold farmers in 14 communities across 7 municipalities.
Together, we aim to reduce poverty in these communities, and enable local people to take part in the decision-making that affects them.


How have we helped make a difference so far?

By 2009, the project was seeing a strong impact:
  • 336 farmers incorporated fruit and vegetables into family diets, improving nutrition and food security
  • Farmers learned to plant native seedlings, mange soil, produce bio-fertiliser and natural insecticides, and green-manure their plots
  • Biodiversity in the local area has been improved to counter the effects of intensive farming - plots now average 26 native fruit and vegetable species
  • Local organic markets are now exempt from tax in 5 municipalities
  • 6 local markets are now better-supplied with fresh organic food, and 2 new markets have been created.
  • 40% more people are selling organic produce, 53% more people are consuming organic produce
  • The 3 project partners are becoming more effective, professional organisations
In 2009 we involved 7 new communities in the project, inlcuding urban communities who are learning to create gardens and plots. 
4000 people are now benefitting from this work.

How you can help

This project runs until December 2012. Funding from the European Commision enables most of this project to happen, but we still need your support. Please make a donation through JustGiving.

Find out more

Although our work benefits entire communities, we focus on the most marginalised people: women, Quilombolas (rural people of African descent), rural workers, and unemployed people.

Find out more about the Quilombola community in this short film:

a young girl plants seeds in a school garden in Brazil

Planting a school garden

© CHAPADA/International Service