Story by Vanderlei Thies | Project Advisor for the Southern Region | Heifer Brazil
Photos by Vanderlei Thies and the Communication Advisory Department of the Presidency of the Republic of Brazil
March 13, 2013, will not soon be forgotten by Maria Rosa Lewitzki and Claudete Dupezaki, members of Living Water (Agua Viva), a group of women agroecologists in the community of Gois Artigas, Inacio Martins, Parana, Brazil. On that day, in Brasilia, in the presence of President Dilma Rousseff, the women received the Rural Women Producers for a Sustainable Brazil award on behalf of their group. The award, which includes a trophy and a cash prize, is given by the Secretary for Womens Policies for the President of the Republic.
Living Water's work was selected from a list of 521 initiatives. For Maria Rosa, The award is a form of recognition of womens struggles in life and gives us strength to continue with our organization. With the prize money, we will build a group headquarters for meetings, food deliveries and to put into place our agroecological milk and yogurt agribusiness.
Heifer Brazil-Argentina has strongly supported the work of this group since 2008 through activities of the Institute of Popular Educators (IEEP) and the Mission Center of Campesino Support, Antonio Tavares Pereira (CEMPO), providing technical support, organization consulting and training. With support, the volume of agroecological food produced by the group has increased in recent years, while maintaining great diversity. Part of the produce is used for household consumption and some is donated through the Food Purchase Program, a federal public policy of commercialization to fight hunger, for public schools and kindergartens in the municipality of Inacio Martins. This includes Rural Municipal School Good Jesus, which is located in the community.
Heifers support has strengthened not only the work of Living Water, which combines environmental conservation, women's empowerment and income generation, but also three other groups, from northeastern Brazil, that received a trophy: Women Daughters of the Earth - Pedra Lavrada - Paraíba State; Women Producers Group of Pedra Miú Community - Mata Grande - Alagoas State; and Quilombola Women in Action for Social Sustainablitiy Group, from Quilombola Association of Conceição das Crioulas (AQCC) - Salgueiro - Pernambuco State.
This award is a symbol of the government of Brazils recognition of the work of these women and Heifer International.