The northeast region of Brazil is considered one of the most socially, economically and environmentally vulnerable areas of Brazil due to the prolonged and recurrent periods of droughts that affect the population and the local economy. The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that the periods of droughts and heavy precipitations are likely to increase in the region over the coming years, a fact that researchers and those responsible for public policy are having to taking notice of.
Since the 1960’s, the Brazilian government has managed to reduce the effects and impacts of the droughts by investing in the region and constructing hundreds of earth dams - medium and large sized artificial reservoirs which are installed mainly in the municipalities of the region, in order to store torrential rain water. This has led to an increase in the water resources available but unfortunately the expected positive impact on the quality of life for the people in the region was less than predicted and less than required. The local economy continues to be extensively based on cattle farming with this being the major cause of deforestation. The majority of wealth keeps being distributed amongst large land owners, leaving crop farming based on highly inefficient production systems. A further environmental consequence of an economy based on cattle and inefficient agriculture is that the “Caatinga” (the type of vegetation and ecosystem that characterizes the semi-arid region of Brazil) is being reduced.
In 2004, as a result of seeing what was happening in the region, various non-profit, academic and private sector leaders initiated a program to mobilise technological, human, financial and public policy resources in order to devise new methods of living in the Brazilian semi-arid and adapting to the impacts of climate change by better use of the water infrastructure available (i.e. earth dams and wells). The vision of the project was to provide sustainable livelihoods for small-scale farmers by guaranteeing food security and a stable income for these farmers without destroying the local eco-system.
The Pintadas Solar Project (www.pintadas-solar.org), which was developed between 2006 and 2008 in the municipality of Pintadas, Bahia, was a pilot program that through its innovative approach in managing technical, scientific, social and public policy resources, has transformed into a social technology platform with a vision of being a way to help vulnerable communities generate a sustainable income and adapt to the effects of climate change. The project received Best Practice awards from Dubai/UN-Habitat in 2008 and Wisions in 2006. In 2008, the project was also awarded the SEED 2008 prize (www.seedinit.org), for its community-led approach to water-efficient crop irrigation in semi-arid regions and was chosen from more than 400 projects worldwide as one of the 5 most scalable initiatives.
The Adapta Sertão network was created from the experienced gained in the Pintadas pilot, and the idea has evolved. Today the network brings together municipalities, public, private and non-profit institutions with a vision to integrate technical, scientific and human resources by linking clean water and energy technologies to social entrepreneurship in order to help small-scale farmers to adapt to the effects of climate change. The proposed implementation methodology is based on four principles that constitute the fundamental concepts of social technology incorporating:
The vision of the Adapta Sertão network is to disseminate this approach of adapting to the effects of climate change in the semi-arid region by the development of small-scale agricultural solutions that offer food security, guarantee livelihoods, reduce poverty and sustain the Caatinga.
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