Community efforts transform the rural village of Lagoa da Baixa

By Bernardo Carvalho, Photographer and Volunteer at BrazilFoundation

10 years ago the people of Lagoa Baixa had to walk 5–7 kilometers every day to retrieve potable water. This community, located in the municipality of Cansanção, Bahia, in the semi-arid region of Brazil, has one of the lowest human development indicators in the state.

Thanks to a movement of young local leaders, Lagoa Baixa is seeing big changes. With a socio-economic model based on collaboration and mobilizing, Associação dos Pequenos Agricultores is transforming family agriculture and inspiring the community.

Joint efforts make it possible:

The transformation taking place in Lagoa Baixa is a result of joint efforts. The residents help each other without expecting anything in return since they know it will benefit the entire community.

60 local farmers helped to create four community plots for raising pigs, goats, and free-range chickens. The results were so successful that the group has entered their municipality’s food program, significantly increasing family incomes.

Danilson’s sheep farm, for example, is run by he and volunteering neighbors — the majority of which are young and interested in learning his trade. “It’s an exchange!” — he says.

Only 21 years old, Maurício Dias advises and helps farmers to diversify their produce to meet market demands.

A co-founder of the collective, Mauricio has a degree in Agricultural Engineering and is also a strong advocate for education and job creation.

More than 89% of the population of Cansanção is dependent on the Bolsa Família, a social welfare program. ( DATASUS, 2012).

(Vendors from Lagoa Baixa display their produce at local markets )

The harsh reality of living in the sertão (semi-arid region) of Brazil.

In the sertão, where Lagoa Baixa is located, extended periods of drought are very common — a nightmare for those who live off the land there.

Enrique Morales do Santos managed to gather resources to build a water cistern that can hold up to 52,000 liters of water, guaranteeing him income year-round. How? He is now able to plant a variety of vegetables throughout the entire year including: coriander, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, onions and peppers.

“Building the water cistern was a dream of mine and my family’s. Now we can support ourselves from our land”, he says.

Landscapes of the Sertão

Giovania Borges has been raising chickens since she started working with Associação dos Pequenos Agricultores. She now has over 100 chickens.

“My dream is to continue to raise chickens. When I finish selling this lot, I will buy another”, Giovana says.

Maicon de Jesus Neto also dreams of one day owning his own chicken farm. Like many others from the community, he, too contributes voluntarily.

Migration of youth to bigger cities:

Creating opportunities for young people to stay in Lagoa Baixa is the main goal behind the work of Associação dos Pequenos Agricultores. Lack of work and professional training opportunities are what lead youth to migrate to large urban centers, arriving unprepared with no education, money, or proper documentation.

Luciano da Silva, one of the local youth leaders, encourages people to seek employment in their region.

By sharing his knowledge with classmates and colleagues, he introduces them to new job skills and opportunities.

His gamut of skills includes: masonry, farming, raising pigs, and even cutting hair!

Looking to the future:

Associação dos Pequenos Agricultores looks to continue to expand their agricultural productivity and increase family income in the area. After their success in creating the collaborative team model and in increasing family incomes, the youth leaders are seeking financial and technical support to do even more. They believe their accumulated knowledge, education and experiences serve as examples to all surrounding communities.

How can you help make a difference?

Over the past 15 years BrazilFoundation has invested in many projects such as Associação dos Pequenos Agricultores da Comunidade de Lagoa da Baixa. With your help we can support even more transformative initiatives.