Written by: Gabriela Vasconcellos
Photos by: Márcio Lima
An act of solidarity. That is how Luzia dos Santos, 39, a resident of Igrapiúna county in the Southern Bahia Lowlands, describes her involvement in the Food Acquisition Program (PAA). “A lot of produce used to go to waste, but that won’t happen any more. What’s more, we’re helping people who need it,” says Luzia, who grows fruits and vegetables.
The PAA is a Federal public policy program aimed at combating hunger, increasing income distribution and growing family farms in Brazil. The Companhia Nacional de Abastecimento (CONAB), a state-owned company linked to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, which has run the program since 2003, is responsible for coordinating small farmers organized in cooperatives to supplement the nutritional needs of daycare centers, shelters, hostels and public hospitals.
The Rights and Citizenship Institute (IDC) and the Inter-County Consortium for the Pratigi Environmental Protection Area (CIAPRA) are helping network with and mobilize local farmers to participate in the PAA. "We are carrying out a range of activities to inform farmers about the program,” says André Lisboa, the Mayor of Ituberá, Bahia, and President of CIAPRA.
More than 500 farmers have already attended the IDC’s training seminars, which give them the information they need to join the program. The Institute also helps organize the paperwork and prepare proposals that are submitted to the CONAB. All told, 74 families have signed on in Igrapiúna county.
According to Mescias de Santana, 63, a farmer who has been involved in the PAA in Ibirapitanga county for over a year, this initiative is helping increase the incomes of people who make their livelihood from the land. “It’s important for schools, daycare centers and hospitals to get grade-A produce. The financial side is good for us, too, so we can support our families, enjoy life, and still have some money in our pockets,” he says.
Farmers could each receive as much as BRL 4,500.00 per year for delivering food to the program. “Increasing family incomes and providing an easy way to sell produce that was once thrown in the trash are the main benefits,” observes Maria Celeste, Executive Director of the IDC.
The PAA has been multiplied in the Southern Bahia Lowlands through a technical cooperation agreement signed in December 2009 by the Odebrecht Foundation, CIAPRA and the Ministry of Social Development and Combating Hunger. “I am enthusiastic about regional development. We need to leverage resources and encourage local associations. Inter-county consortia are a fundamental means to achieve that end,” said then-Minister Patrus Ananias.