Bringing „Water for Life“ to Brazil

A lot of rain in a short period of the year – this is the reality of the Brazilian steppe. For many people living here agriculture is the main source of income. However, the lack of water is the main challenge. The Daimler Group and Caritas „Water for Life“ cooperation opens up new perspectives. In my example: Becoming a proud producer of fruit pulp.

Bom dia! I am Valmirete da Silva Oliveira, a rural worker from Povoado Massaranduba in the northeastern part of Brazil. I live in the so called „drought polygon“ of my country. It covers an area of about 1.1 million square kilometers and has over 28 million inhabitants. Here, drought periods can last for years and severely threaten the water supply.

This is where the “Water for Life” project developed by German and Brazilian Caritas in partnership with Daimler Group comes in. With the project, 120 families of our community experience the principles of agroecology. Thus, they learn how to coexist with the tough living conditions in the steppe. Furthermore, through internship programs in the communities, the project benefits young students from the Agricultural Family Schools in the region.

The community’s new water reserves are another result of the project: Almost every family was given a cistern of 16,000 liters for consumption. This opens up new opportunities and possibilities.

Empowering women

In order to become more financially independent, and, in turn, to empower ourselves, we founded a women’s association. Being integrated in our municipality, it was inspired by activities on an international women’s day. It includes women who work in family agriculture. Currently, we have 26 members. Before, many women – including myself – had low self-esteem. Today, we are generating our own income.

Fruit pulp and spices

There are two groups within our association: One group that grows spices and one group producing fruit pulp. With “Water for Live” we learned how to do these jobs. As there was a lot of fruit waste in the community people simply sorted out, I personally joined the fruit pulp group. Through the project, people from an agricultural school taught us important things about planting fruits, storing water, elaborating the entity’s diagnosis and also strategies to improve the production. The exchanges, the experiences, the people, the past difficulties, all that has been a huge learning for me. Currently, I am producing pulp with seven other women from my community.

The fruits’ way

When the fruits arrive, the first thing we do is selecting and removing the damaged or unripe ones. Then, after we have washed and sterilized those, fruits are ready to go through the pulper machine. After being crushed, the fruits are packed and put in the freezer, which serves both for storage and to keep them durable.

Every woman participates in every step, but each identifies herself with one or another function. I prefer the sealing stage. I can seal up a thousand kilos of pulp in one morning. We offer the pulp at snack bars, sell it at outdoor fairs, and we are now arranging a point of sale for family agriculture. However, the commercialization dropped significantly after the government requisites were enforced, and because our group belongs to the family agriculture we still do not have a certification.

Mutirão – help each other

Our association gets great support from our whole community. One example: Every June, we celebrate Saint John’s festival. In my community we have some traditions on this day: people dance, play soccer, there are prayers in the houses, and we eat carurus (typical food). Thus, families help each other with the problem they have. We call that mutirão (joint task-force). When our association needed a place for our production, everyone built it altogether.

Big improvement for many families

In the beginning, people donated fruits for pulp production, as we had no money to purchase them. So, women who had acerola, passion fruit, cajá, mango, guava, and other fruits handed them over to us after the harvest. Today, we no longer receive such donations. Instead, we buy them from the women and from the producers in the region in order to contribute to the local economy.

With the installation of the cisterns, families have the possibility to grow a small number of plants. Harvesting one or two boxes of fruits and selling them to our pulp production contributes to their income significantly. This way “Water for Live” not only supports mid-size associations such as ours but whole communities.

Opportunity to express myself

”Water for Life” is a very good thing. And I have learned a lot. It is a project that understands my language and gives me the opportunity to express myself. I want to put the things I learned into practice for the welfare of my community as soon as possible. Seeing the project working out is what motivates me to continue in this journey.

The post was translated from Portuguese.

She is a 42 year old rural worker from the municipality of Baixa Grande/Bahia in Brazil. With help of the project “Water for Life” she became a proud producer of fruit pulp.