written by: Gabriela Vasconcellos
photos by: Artur Ikishima
Since childhood, Arisson Santos, 18, has had a strong connection with nature. He has always loved riding on horseback for miles and raising small livestock. His relationship with the land is in his blood. A resident of the Gendiba community, in Presidente Tancredo Neves County, Bahia, this young man has decided to make a living from farming. “I’m proud to be a farmer,” he says.
His trajectory towards life in the countryside gained even more momentum in 2008 when Arisson joined the Presidente Tancredo Neves Rural Family House (CFR-PTN) – a teaching unit associated with the Odebrecht Foundation’s Program for the Integrated and Sustainable Development of the Mosaic of Environmental Protection Areas of the Southern Bahia Lowlands (PDIS). Arisson spent three years at that school, and part of his studies involved working on two Educational-Productive projects: the first on his family’s farm, on a hectare of land, and the second on two hectares belonging to relatives. His cassava and banana plantations earned him about BRL 14,000 in 2008 and 2009.
Arisson received the inputs needed to tend his crops with the help of Tribute to the Future, which supports initiatives certified by the Odebrecht Foundation through allocations of income tax from Odebrecht Organization Members. He always reinvests his profits in the next season’s crops.
“Lots of people thought these new methods wouldn’t work, but I’m getting good results and making a profit,” says Arisson, who took a technical course in Farming at the Rural Family House. His education was based on the Pedagogy of Alternation: a week in boarding school, taking classes in the classroom and the field, and two weeks on his own property, applying the knowledge he had acquired under the supervision and guidance of specialized monitors. Arisson and his classmates learned about farm management, cooperative systems, soil management, irrigation, drainage, and a variety of crops.
In 2010, the young farmer discovered how far he could go with his family’s support. And his life began to change. Arisson teamed up with his father, farmer Antônio Santos, and together they bought roughly ten hectares of farmland. Their banana plantation covers almost half that area – the equivalent of four and a half soccer fields. As a result, their income has doubled, and they expect to earn BRL 27,000 by the end of this year. “Now we’re thinking big. It was a bold move. You always have to say ‘I know I can,’” says Antônio.
Acquiring the new land wasn’t easy. Antônio had stopped farming to work as a night watchman, but the results his son was getting convinced him to go back to the fields. “It’s amazing to build a dream alongside my father,” says the young rural entrepreneur. Together, they tend their crops every day and make plans for the future. “We’re going to improve productivity and add more land,” says Arisson eagerly. His mother, Nadia Santos, says that everything has changed. “We had no place to plant, no fertilizer. Now there’s even money left over to fix things up at home,” she rejoices.
According to Quionei Araújo, the CFR-PTN monitor who follows up on Arisson’s projects, the thing that sets Arisson apart is his ability to face problems. “His hands are calloused, the noon-day sun is blazing, and his smile never wavers. The only way for him is up, and the sky’s the limit. He is a role model,” says Araújo.
With tremendous enthusiasm, every day after work Arisson visits the local schools to encourage young people to stay in the countryside. “I want them to do better than me. I can only grow if my community is developing too, so I share my knowledge. That way, my neighbors will produce high-quality crops and so will their neighbors,” explains the farmer, who is also a poet and a multiplier of the Reading Circles – another project linked to the PDIS that encourages reading, reading comprehension, and the study of classic works, and contributes to the development of new leaders.
And young Arisson wants even more. “I will continue my education by going to college,” he guarantees. “After taking on one challenge, we must plan to take on more. That’s what people are made of. The horizon is beyond the horizon. We’ll never stop growing!”