Often, Indigenous and Afro descendant communities across Brazil face a hard reality, with limited access to basic services and employment opportunities, which forces many to abandon their homes and migrate to the city. But a group of young people living in the Ho Chi Minh settlement hope to change that, with Guaracy, an agroecological farming project that focuses on improving living conditions of rural communities. So inspiring is the project, that it has won a 2018 Lush Spring Prize Intentional Projects Award, plus £10,000 in funding.
Guaracy’s plan is to not only grow food in a more sustainable way, but to also reconnect descendants of Indigenous cultures with nature, generate revenue which can be used to improve the community’s infrastructure so residents can have easier access to services such as clean water, education, healthcare and sanitation, and to share the secrets of their success with other settlements all over the country.
Guaracy’s leader, Guilherme Fernandes da Silva says the first step is to grow food for their community, a Brazilian Landless Workers’ Movement settlement based two hours from the nearest city, Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais, through sustainable farming methods known as syntropic agriculture, which mimics the way nature works in the forest.
“Agroforestry promotes efficient use of water and the storage of carbon in soil,” Guilherme explains. “This model of crop management and production is proven to recover and conserve the soil’s natural condition.”
By fusing the community's existing knowledge of farming with permaculture techniques, Guilherme believes they will harvest a surplus of produce which can then be sold to the organic marketplace to generate an income for the workers.
“Our goal is to show that this business model is good for everyone in the settlement and to restore the environment, showing people in the community how this can benefit all of us in a model of resilient agriculture that will help recuperating our natural resources while generating income for our people.”
If all goes to plan, Guaracy’s solution should give the community a more positive perspective of agriculture as a profession, in the hope its people will stay in the settlement instead of moving to the city for work. But Guaracy’s plans don’t end there.
“In two years we estimate that we’ll have developed the resources and infrastructure to welcome ecotourism, agro-tourism and offer experiences in nature at the community,” Guilherme says.
“Over time, we expect to consolidate the business model and scale up to other rural settlements in Brazil. There are nearly 10,000 rural settlements in Brazil, home to a population of over one million people, who could benefit from sustainable production and commercialisation of food products. As part of the Landless Workers' Movement, we already have a starting partnership to positively impact more people living in rural areas.”
According to Guilherme, Guaracy will use the prize fund to invest in seeds and tools, develop a web presence, learn from online resources, and travel to other regions to share what they’ve learned.
“Nowadays in Brazil, the poorest rural producers do not have access to information about innovative models of sustainable production and end up falling into the adoption of traditional systems that are not as efficient and effective as agroforestry, for instance. We will empower the poor and landless producers by sharing this knowledge so that everyone can contribute to resilience and have a better life quality.”
Read more about Guaracy’s plans as they unfold and reach fruition.
The Lush Spring Prize, hosted by Lush and co-operative Ethical Consumer Research Association, offers a £200,000 prize fund and other support activities, to help projects around the world that are working towards environmental and social regeneration.
Regeneration illustration by David McMillan.