The Chamber of Agriculture of the São Paulo State government in Brazil has tasked two online volunteers with supporting a participatory agro-ecological project in urban and peri-urban areas of the municipality Álvaro de Carvalho.
The project, which receives funds from the federal government, aims to engage around 300 beneficiary families in vegetable farming in public spaces to enhance rural development and food security. The beneficiaries will be provided with access to land, know-how of innovative agro-ecological techniques as well as agricultural equipment.
“The beneficiary’s participation is key to improving their situation on a sustained basis, and we therefore sought to pull in additional expertise in this regard,” says Hemerson Fernandes Calgaro from the government of São Paulo. “We expect the volunteers to advise us on coordination and cooperation mechanisms that ensure active, effective and lasting participation of the beneficiaries to gradually reduce their dependence on project inputs.”
The online volunteers, Henry Serrrano Lenis and Llanquirai de Leon, bring decades of relevant experience. Henry, an agronomist from Colombia who served as a UN Volunteer in Equatorial Guinea, is particularly knowledgeable in the field of community capacity building.
Llanquirai de Leon, a retired social anthropologist from Uruguay who has practical experience with “facilitating the organization and association of men and women belonging to poor rural populations in order to improve their living conditions”, sees her role in “defining the strategy to create enthusiasm, confidence and a sense of belonging to a collective adventure.”
“The establishment of associations strengthens the smallholder farmers and allows them to mobilize their own resources, as well as to be reached by governmental initiatives. This year, for example, we started school feeding programmes in Álvaro de Carvalho, for which we purchased products from local producers, and we hope to increase the number of farmers involved”, says Hemerson.