Living harmoniously with the Climate in the Northeast of Brazil
The Regional Institute for Appropriate Small Farming and Animal Husbandry (Instituto Regional da Pequena Agropecuária Apropriada) - IRPAA is a non profit making institution based in Juazeiro, Bahia State, in the center of the semiarid area of Northeast Brazil. The Institute with its technical and educational projects tries to transmit a correct understanding of the semi arid environment to farmers engaged in small farming and animal husbandry.
The semi arid Northeast is a special region, different from other regions of Brazil, and demands specific knowledge, technology and focal priorities. In this way, a sustainable small farming production can be ensured, which, in its turn, can guarantee the living standards of the population. The abundance of the dry area of the Northeast can thus to be transformed into a promising future for the Northeast.
Special attention must be paid to the provision of water for the population and agricultural needs remembering:
- Rainfall is regionally and seasonally very irregular;
- Limited ground water reserves in most of the semi arid region;
- Very high potential evaporation rate (some times higher than precipitation).
All these factors should be considered when elaborating a plan for the Northeast region: the choice of plants and animals, and the appropriate technologies especially when coming to political decisions concerning the real needs of the population. The water for human consumption should be provided primarily by rainwater collected in reservoirs, but also by groundwater (wells).
When we remember the climate and the availability of water in semi arid regions it is obvious that the principal activity of the rural population should be animal husbandry. This means chiefly the husbandry of goats and sheep because they are better acclimatized to most regions of the Northeast.
The main concern is, therefore, the guarantee fodder reserves for the stock for the dry season, for example through storing hay from grasses and legumes.
If we consider animal husbandry economically fundamental, we must change in the minimum size of farms when implementing land and agricultural reforms. In this respect one could take the existing communal grazing lands (which in Bahia State are already legally recognized) is the most ecological, social and economic solution for the whole semi arid area.
It goes without saying that farming annual crops is also very important for families in the semi arid region. But, as now and again there are years with very high precipitation many people are tempted to plant crops and plants which are not suitable for the normal climate of Northeast Brazil.
Crop farming should be limited to small areas which can be well cared for and on which suitable plants such as sorghum, pigeon peas and others can be grown. By using appropriate technologies such as planting along contour lines, mulching and others one can produce crops to satisfy the daily needs of families in the Northeast.
A strong partner in this type of farming is animal husbandry. Compost manure when spread out on the soil helps the roots of the plants to store water for a longer period than would otherwise be the case. In addition to annual crops perennial plants such as umbu, cashew, sisal etc. should be grown on the fields to diversify the production and to guarantee income.
The Regional Institute for Appropriate Small Farming and Animal Husbandry works especially with small crop and livestock farmers in the dry areas of the Northeast. These are the most efficient multipliers and promoters of a new vision of living with the drought area (Sertão).
To get to know the Northeast better, its climate, its soils, to know why there are droughts, to learn what types of crops are to be grown and how to grow them, in order to have more success, to discover that animal husbandry is the best way to ensure one's survival - all this is important for achieving our human rights and encourages us to fight for justice.
The courageous women of Northeast Brazil always find a way to feed their families even in the driest months and years. Therefore the role of women should be strengthened in any activity and planning. It is important to discover that Northeast Brazil with its potential and many resources is different from the rest of the country. If one wants to live well here it is important to live in harmony with the Northeast, its rainfall, its droughts, its winds...
An informed awareness of the semi arid climate and the need for appropriate production techniques open the way for the fight for a just distribution of the land and for the necessary measures to ensure that the population in the Northeast can stay permanently in their "promised land" - the Northeast of Brazil.