In 1996, Valdomiro de Souza, today 31, left the region of Bahia’s Southern Lowlands in search of a better life in Brazil’s Southeast. At that time, his family had a plantation of chili peppers that had been decimated by insects. Souza had lost everything and decided to leave with his two brothers.
Nine years later, one of the Valdomiro brothers returned to the region to visit his parents. “My brother learned about the project my father is developing” he explained. “The planting of heart of palm is working well and he received technical orientation from COOPALM [Bahia Southern Lowlands Heart of Palm Producers’ Cooperative],” he said. It was only a matter of time before the three brothers left Espírito Santo and returned to the Southern Lowlands. “I had the dream of having my own business and the cooperative gave me this chance,” revealed Valdomiro, after spending 14 years far from his native land.
The Souza family is currently associated with COOPALM, one of the four cooperatives in Bahia’s Southern Lowlands to be recommended for the ISO 9001 certification – the first in Brazil based on family farming to earn this achievement. Associated with the Bahia Southern Lowlands Environmental Protection Area Mosaic Integrated and Sustainable Development Program (PDIS), supported by the Odebrecht Foundation, the institutions promote the generation of jobs and distribution of income to 995 families from the region.
The Pratigi Environmental Protection Rural Area Producers’ Cooperative (COOPRAP), the Presidente Tancredo Neves Rural Producers’ Cooperative (COOPATAN), the Bahia Southern Lowlands Mixed Shellfish Farmers’, Fishermen’s and Aquafarmers’ Cooperative (COOPEMAR) and COOPALM were recommended for INMET RO by Bureau Veritas Certification. It was proven that the cooperatives’ management system is based on principles of quality, with team involvement, leadership, continuous improvement, and a process and system-based approach, among others. The certification is internationally recognized and the issuing of certificates is set to take place by the end of this month.
For Roberto Lessa, Vice President of the Odebrecht Foundation - Social-Production Area, this is the result of actions undertaken based on planning and discipline. “The support of the Inter-American Development Bank [BID], the motivation of employees from each institution and the unique vision of the contracted consultants helped guarantee this achievement,” said Lessa. “The effort and commitment of all involved was crucial. Our commitment is to improve every day and guarantee the indicated certification,” said Rosiene Barreto, responsible for the Quality System at COOPATAN.
“COOPALM came to organize our production and this administration guarantees our future,” said now rural producer, Valdomiro.