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Brazilian Dialogue

Environmental project making progress

From CEAPA to Rainbow of Hope For Children and CIDA:

Dear friends,

This brief report gives information on the progress of our community project on environment. With this project, we have already managed to conduct environmental discussions in 175 associations in the municipalities of Uniao dos Palmares, Branquinda, Santana do Mundau, Sao Jose da Lage, Craibas, Feira Grande, Agua Branca and others. In our affiliated associations we have already had positive results. Thanks to this project, most of our small-holders already work their land without agro-toxins and chemical fertilizers. This newfound awareness of the need to preserve our environment has reduced by 50 per cent the "slash and burn" fires of the past.

Our two nurseries have produced 60,000 seedlings this year. The nursery at Uniao dos Palmares produced 30,000 seedlings of tree species native to the Atlantic coastal forests of old. The nursery at Limoeiro de Anadias likewise produced 30,000 seedlings, these being native to the low-bush vegetation of the caatinga, the drought-resistant woods of the sertao.

All those seedlings were distributed free of charge during the training courses in reforestation held throughout 175 of our affiliates in all our geographic regions, each receiving seedlings specific to their region. At the moment, these nurseries are not yet self-sustaining because it will take some years for the trees to reach commercial value.

In the Limoeiro municipality we established our "mother" orchard. In two years we hope that the seedlings are ready to be grafted on to existing trees (of less value but sturdy and resistant -- AG). Our people are becoming aware of the need to collect the seeds of species that are at risk of extinction. Changes are occurring in how our agricultural workers view their environment.

In the organic gardens, too, we are making progress in agricultural practice. Today, we have numerous plots grown without chemicals and insecticides, growing short-term, medium-term and long-term crops for sale at local fairs.

We have in our employ an agricultural technician whose job it is to organize 100 such gardens and to form associations of organic producers training them in production and marketing. The hope is that this practice will become contagious and spread to communities not yet participating in the project.

Environmental education is important because we are dealing with a generation of small-holder farmers long used to cultivating with toxins and chemical fertilizers. To wean them of this will require long, slow, patient education.

Making this education even more difficult is the fact that the technical experts hired by the government all favour "conventional" tillage, that is, with chemicals. This is of course fostered by the multinationals who produce them.

For example, our state department of agriculture recently gave a grant of 7,000 kilos of a toxin to "revitalize" the cotton industry and $1,700,000 to sugar cane growers (27 families!) to buy agro-toxins. Organic production on the other hand does not receive one cent in government help.

That's why it is a great joy to us to know Canadians, individuals and NGOs who stand with us in a spirit of solidarity. How often have our flagging spirits been buoyed thanks to your support. The election of Lula da Silva likewise fills us with hope.

Thanks, friends.

Zilma -- project co-ordinator
Genivaldo -- CEAPA president

(Since this column has not featured CEAPA for a long time, I'm happy to offer readers this personalized interim report on a current environmental project supported by Rainbow of Hope for Children -- AG)

Al Gerwing