Here is something that Alice and Emily, two of our volunteers, want to comment about their experiences here in the community, particularly focusing on the agroecological farming that is carried out by our host families.
Since our arrival and the realities of life here have set in, our interest in sustainable and small scale farming has been stimulated. The practicalities of the way of life here have encouraged us to broaden our considerations. Our expectations haven’t been challenged as such, but instead we´ve been given a “reality check”.
Alice: Having worked for an agricultural contractor in England, it is of no surprise that I have noticed vast differences between the two ways of farming and their intentions. I have gone from doing office administration to practical labour, from working for a profit intensive company to living on a self-sufficient farm. From large scale production to a small-scale close knit community; this stark contrast was always expected, but since being in Brazil I have fully come to terms with the huge difference in priorities. Intensive English farming practices prioritise maximising short-term profit margins, which leads to a way of using land that cannot be sustained. The way they farm here is an investment for the future.
The day to day contrast is significant. In England, it is easy to shrug off responsibility for things such as water usage. Seeing the lifestyle here has made us appreciate the significance of small actions and that proved that everyone can make a difference. The daily structure is very similar to that in England – the biggest difference is their resourcefulness. For example, small things like using water only when you really need it and using all bits of an animal and fruit (banana skin cake, sheep stomach etc) and any waste food used as a natural fertiliser or to feed the pigs.
So having done some research, we need to tap into new areas and ways of farming. “The US department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service observed in 2008 that global consumption of grain and oilseeds outstripped production for seven of the eight years between 2001 and 2008.”[i] Land is being exploited and damaged when this precious land is needed to meet the ever growing demand the world population, set to grow to 9.1 billion in 2050[ii], exerts upon it. Their way of working here is inspiring, and there is so much unlocked potential that we could learn from. They benefit from having a system that is extremely self-sufficient. The family we live with grow and cultivate everything themselves and then sell these products at the weekly local fair trade market. With no middle man, there is no exploitation and selling within the area helps to boost the local economy. Furthermore and unlike England, it is the good food that is the cheap food (For example, our family sells 15 limes for 33p while sainsbury’s sells 1 lemon for 30p).
Intensive farming leads to ever diminishing returns and severe environmental consequences. The resourcefulness we have been witness to in our community is both inspiring and humbling. The ever increasing demand for food alongside an accelerated population boom needs to be addressed now. We have learned a lot from living with our family in this community and hope to learn a lot more.
[i] R. Trostle (2008), op. cit.
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