After many months of anticipation, I am finally about to leave on a volunteer project working in the Pernambuco Sertão, North East Brazil. The preparation for this trip has been somewhat haphazard, amongst working and trying to tie up loose ends before I leave, but now there is little else to do except get on a plane on Monday and see what is waiting for me when I get there.
So what will I be doing exactly? I am going over with a UK organisation called International Service, who have decades of experience in the international development field. They are working with local partners in Brazil, both local NGOs who focus their efforts on the sustainable livelihoods of small agricultural communities in the Pernambucan Sertão. The Sertão, or Backlands, is a notoriously harsh environment, characterised by long periods of drought.
Whilst the traditional vegetation is that of “caatinga”, some of which is very valuable vegetation, much of the land has been degraded through years of cattle ranching and clearing for monoculture farming such as cotton. The organisations with whom we are going to work, CECOR (Centro de Educação Comunitária Rural) and CHAPADA (Centro de Habilitação e Apoio ao Pequeno Agricultor do Araripe), focus on the strengthening and broadening of production based on agroecology (drawing upon traditional knowledge, alternative agriculture and local food system experiences) in their communities and the dynamics of solid commercial projects, to build sustainable livelihoods within these communities.
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The work is community orientated and all the work we will be carrying out will be led by the needs of these communities. I am very excited about the project, and whilst I will not have reliable or frequent access to the internet whilst I am away, I will be creating a blog and uploading to it whenever possible.
I wish you all the best for the next three months, and hope you follow the blog!