“I have dedicated my youth to agriculture. Through it, I will build my future.” These are the words of young Islândia dos Santos, who at 16 already knows what she wants to do: become a rural entrepreneur. A resident of the community of São Paulinho, located in the municipality of Teolândia, Bahia, she believes in the potential of this activity. “It is possible to live in the field and make good income,” she said.
Santos is a student of the Presidente Tancredo Neves Rural Family Home (CFR-PTN) – a teaching institution associated with the Bahia Southern Lowlands Environmental Protection Area Mosaic Integrated and Sustainable Development Program (PDIS), supported by the Odebrecht Foundation.
She is taking the technical qualification course in Agriculture at the institution integrated with her high school courses. Her training is based on Trade-Off Teaching: one week as an intern, both in the classroom and the field, and another two weeks on her property, applying new knowledge while being followed and oriented by specialized monitors. The young girl and her colleagues learn about rural administration, cooperativism, soil management, irrigation and drainage, as well as a range of different cultivations.
Currently completing her second year at CFR-PTN, Santos is accumulating learning that she will apply to her life. “Before, my dad didn’t support me,” she explained. “I was able to influence him with the results of my project. He always planted banana, but the plantation didn’t develop well. When it came time to harvest, the fruits were in terrible shape. I planted a hectare of this same crop and now, with the technologies that I learned, we harvest excellent fruits,” said the youth.
He father, Luiz Marinaldo dos Santos, is clearly proud. “The training is complemented by the work in the field,” he said. “I want my daughter to continue studying,” said the farmer who, also influenced by Islândia, decided to join the Presidente Tancredo Neves Rural Producers’ Cooperative (COOPATAN) – an institution that is part of PDIS. “She showed me that it is possible to sell our crops at a higher price.”
For Islândia, the union between farmers is essential. “My father joined because he realized the advantages of the cooperative model,” she said. “We receive technical assistance to improve the quality of the products and have the guarantee of a fair price,” said the youth, who plans to join COOPATAN as soon as she turns 18.
The new rural entrepreneur only has one doubt when it comes to the future. What path she should take to complement her studies. Between the university courses in Agronomy and Communication, two areas that have caught her interest since she was a child, Islândia is certain about one thing: “Whatever major I decide to study, I will use my knowledge to benefit my community,” she said.