Quilombo of Prosperity
by Vivian Maitê
The quilombola community Senhor do Bonfim has organic and agroecological farming at the basis of its economy and livelihood. Located in an area of 122 hectares in the city of Areia, 200 km from João Pessoa, capital of the state of Paraíba, Northeast region of Brazil, this is a privileged height zone belonging to the Atlantic Forest biome. With a constant water regime due to humidity and transpiration of the forest, the farms of the region can continue to produce even in periods of long drought, typical in this region of Brazil.
Despite being part of Brazilian federal government food schemes, Senhor do Bonfim quilombo members have, over time, found it hard to commercialise their excess products directly to the consumer. The nature of this difficulty goes back to their origin. They were still slaves in the 21st century, exchanging 18 hours of daily labour in sugar cane fields for housing and food. This was true up until 2003, when a local NGO supported them to gain recognition as slave descendants as well as acquire collective ownership of the land.
Without contact with the outside world for decades, they did not have access to basic education, married one another and, due to inbreeding; disability became common within their families. This has added to the difficulty to socialize and interact in general, particularly in the food market and direct sales to consumers as a possibility to diversify incomes and strengthen their local economy.
The idea of the project emerged during the certified Gaia João Pessoa programme, on which one of the members of Senhor do Bonfim community was a participant. For six months, he actively participated in the Design for Sustainability course and eventually brought some fruit to sell amongst friends. Gradually, the organisers of the course - Collective Gaia Parahyba – supported him to create a basket with seasonal salads, fruits and vegetables, which could be bought at a single price and in two sizes.
In addition, a proactive consumer network was created in order to collect requests and send information on the weekly fresh produce. Within three months, the project gained 230 consumers on its database who all buy or have bought the Senhor do Bonfim weekly basket. The community is now able to distribute 50 baskets per week, which are ordered by whatsapp, and picked-up in two locations in João Pessoa.
At the moment, project organisers are circulating a satisfaction survey to consumers and, together with the community, are reviewing the great success of the project and co-designing the 2017 plans.
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