With the goal of encouraging the development of sustainable initiatives in education, the Eco-Schools Program is an initiative created by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), a partnership between the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Hundreds of educational centers in Brazil and abroad are part of the program, which for over 20 years has been creating a network of schools that advocates environmental awareness and that now has three new members from the state of Bahia: the Rural Family Houses of Presidente Tancredo Neves (CFR-PTN) and in Igrapiúna (CFR-I) and the Agroforest Family House (Cfaf) in Nilo Peçanha.
The Family Houses are part of the Development and Integrated Growth Program with Sustainability (PDCIS), a program created in 2003 and run by the Odebrecht Foundation in the Southern Bahia Lowlands that offers high school degrees with technical qualifications in the fields of Agriculture, Agribusiness and Forestry. Joining Eco-Schools will help the three institutions to strengthen their existing practices in preserving natural resources.
With a methodology based on a seven-step framework, Eco-Schools motivates students and educators to organize awareness-raising actions in schools and the local community. Work already has begun on the first step (Forming an Eco Committee), with the Family Houses working jointly with the FEE program to obtain, after concluding all of the steps, the “Green Flag” certificate, which recognizes their commitment to environmental management.
“This program is formed by institutions that operate connected to and in harmony with the environment. The association is a way to disseminate what we already do at the CFR-PTN. By working with Eco-Schools, we can expand dialogue on the topics the world is discussing. Our actions will be better aligned with what the other schools in the network have prioritized,” said Quionei Araújo, the principal of CFR-PTN.
After forming the committee, the next steps are “Carrying out an Environmental Review,” which will help the Family Houses to identify their current environmental impacts; “Developing an Action Plan,” which is the core of the program and includes targets and deadlines established based on the previous step; “Monitoring and Evaluating,” which follows the progress being made on the Plan; “Curriculum Work,” where environmental education topics are incorporated into the curriculum; “Informing and Involving the School and Community,” which seeks to disseminate the evolution in environmental performance in local communities; and “Producing an Eco Code,” which is based on the targets and translates them into concrete actions that everyone must follow.
“The young students are the ones who will produce the action plan inside the Family House. After that, it will be expanded to engage the community. Being a part of yet another international network will allow us to improve and systematize the environmental work we are doing,” said Francisvaldo Roza, the principal of CFR-I.
The association with Eco-Schools is carried out on an integrated basis at all the Family Houses of the PDCIS program and that are connected to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), a global agenda of the United Nations (UN) for 2030 that includes goals to be achieved to move society as a whole towards sustainability. “Eco-Schools seeks to create the conditions for addressing environmental preservation in day-to-day activities and to pass this on to the communities through the students, who play a lead role in this effort. We believe that when the school cares for nature, the community follows,” explained Rita Cardoso, the principal at Cfaf.
According to the principals of the Family Houses, all of the steps should be concluded by October this year. Once concluded, they will receive a certificate and start working with students on a routine basis the topics suggested by Eco-Schools, such as organic agriculture, climate change and biodiversity.
“The association of Family Houses with the Eco-Schools partner network is fully aligned with the principles of our PDCIS Program, which prioritizes environmental conservation and strengthening in the beneficiaries and institutions behaviors and agricultural practices that are in harmony with nature,” said Fábio Wanderley, superintendent of the Odebrecht Foundation.
Did you know? The Family Houses supported by the Odebrecht Foundation also are part of the Associated Schools Network of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).