Story by Marilene N. Melo | Projects Advisor | Heifer Brazil-Argentina
Photos Courtesy of Heifer Brazil-Argentina
The Women of Pedra Miuda
In 2010, the women of the Pedra Miuda community in Brazil wanted to conduct an agroecology experiment for raising sheep. A neighboring community, who was already raising sheep successfully, encouraged the women to seek support from the Movement of the Rural Women Workers and Fisherwomen of Alagoas (MMTRP-AL). The organization helped the Pedra Miuda women access resources and start their own sheep project.
MMTRP-AL and the Movement of the Rural Women Workers of the Northeast (MMTR-NE) partner with Heifer Brazil-Argentina to provide opportunities for educational workshops, seminars and monthly meetings. They also participate in the City Council for Sustainable Rural Development, a forum that discusses public policies for family farming.
"I love raising sheep, even during dry seasons, I do not regret it," group member Zilda Neto said. "Sheep are like a cheque (check). If you've got a sheep, you've got money."
Although these revolutionary women face many challenges, their teamwork has changed their lives and improved their families' living conditions. Some members have gone back to school while others are voluntarily offering private lessons for children in their community.
Quilombolas in Action for Social Sustainability
The women's group Quilombolas in Action for Social Sustainability in Pernambuco, Brazil, produces clothes, dolls and necklaces, which not only generate income but reinforce the community's history.
The group's 50 members descended from six women who had escaped slavery and settled in Conceicao das Crioulas in the mid-18th century. Their descendents produced cotton, but were invaded by farmers within the last century. The Brazilian government only recently returned ownership of their lands to the Quilombola people.
The Quilombola people struggle for food security and sustainable incomes in their semi-arid territory. The Quilombola Association Conceicao das Crioulas and Heifer Brazil-Argentina partnered to help the women's group attend workshops for product management, agroecology and livestock.
Now, the dolls that personify important female leaders in Quilombola history contribute to sustainable income and help strengthen ethnic and gender equality.
Daughters of the Land in the Canoa de Dentro Community
In 2008, the women's group, Daughters of the Land in the Canoa de Dentro Community, in the county of Pedra Lavrada, Brazil, began processing and selling organic pulps, jellies and jams made from native and adapted fruits.
The Regional Solidary Revolving Fund, which is supported by Heifer International, provided materials and equipment for the women to initiate their project. The products are purchased by the National School Nutrition Program and the Food Purchase Program of Brazil and also donated to needy families in Pedra Lavrada, Juazeirinho, Soledade and Cubati.
The self-organized group develops and strengthens the activities of farm families in partnership with The Center for Women's Citizenship in Pedra Lavrada, the Coletivo Regional and Heifer Brazil-Argentina. They have established food security for families, empowered their local market and increased income and equality for men and women.
In April 2013, Daughters of the Land won the "Women of the Country who Provide Brazil with Sustainability" award. The contest considered 517 projects and chose 30 finalists. The ceremony was held by Minister Eleonora Menicucci of the Secretariat of Policies for the Women of the Presidency of Republic and recognized by President Dilma Rouseff.
Member Rosimare Alves da Silva said winning the award was inspiring. "As a farmer and worker in the processing of fruit, it was a singular moment in my life because I would not have had the opportunity at the Palacio do Planalto if it were not because of this work. Speaking to the President and receiving this trophy while exalting the name of our group to a nationwide platform was a great moment, which also served to demonstrate the value of women."