In the 1940s, during his frequent visits to construction sites in Ituberá, Bahia, Norberto Odebrecht was enchanted by the natural beauty and wealth of the Southern Bahia Lowlands. Comprised of 15 municipalities and a population that makes a living from diversified farming, fisheries and tourism, the area is a mosaic of Environmental Protection Areas (APAs) whose natural lushness coexists with local poverty.
Aiming to help turn that situation around, Norberto Odebrecht in the 1950s started a company focused on local development that boosted the economy of the Southern Bahia Lowlands. Called SAICI S/A - Ituberá Commerce and Industry, it was active in several areas. However, some years later, structural conditions radically changed the situation and culminated in the demise of that company.
Years later, his commitment to developing the Southern Bahia Lowlands resulted in projects like the Alliance with Adolescents for Sustainable Development, a partnership with the Ayrton Senna Institute, the Kellogg Foundation and the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES). In all, 18 municipalities in the states of Bahia, Pernambuco and Ceará became the sites of educational activities aimed at young people.
Since 2003, all of Norberto Odebrecht’s efforts as Chairman of the Foundation focused on the fulfillment of rural Family-Units in the Southern Bahia Lowlands by developing the Development and Integrated Growth Program with Sustainability for the Southern Bahia Lowlands Environmental Protection Areas Mosaic (PDCIS) in partnership with private- and public-sector organizations.
Through Participatory Governance, the Odebrecht Foundation practices the ethos of service by joining forces with Governments (Federal, State and Municipal), businesses and civil society, with the challenge of making a rural area with tremendous environmental heritage both prosperous and dynamic. “We are here to create opportunities so that you can earn more than you consume. So you can save and start acquiring material wealth.
We want farming families stop putting money into the hands of middlemen and become the owners of cooperatives that let them receive the profits generated by their production,” said Norberto Odebrecht during a visit to the area in 2000.
In this spirit, he systemized the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology (TEO), the principles, concepts and standards adopted throughout the Group’s operations. Transferring and adapting that technology to the social context was one of his greatest contributions to the PDCIS.
Influenced by TEO, the 17 institutions that comprise the Program are following the path of sustainable development. In 2003 alone, more than 23,000 people benefited directly, 424 young rural entrepreneurs were educated, and more than 1,100 Family-Units joined cooperatives.