Stories

Helping children grow up healthy and strong is a full-time job, and in Brazil, it means planting the seeds for community gardens! ChildFund Brazil and our local partner organisations are working with families in several communities to plant gardens and grow vegetables for everyone’s nourishment, especially children.

PROCAJ is one of ChildFund Brasil`s local partner organisations in the Jequitinhonha Valley in the state of Minas Gerais, one of the poorest and most remote regions of Brazil. PROCAJ have begun a nutrition project which is helping to improve the nutrition of 57 families from the local community.

The families grow vegetables for their households at the local children’s community centre, and the rest of the crops are sold, generating an income for the families.

“Today we ate freshly baked vegetables which helped feed the kids at school. They have vegetables on the table every day,” says 68-year-old Maria.

For many mothers involved, the project goes beyond physical nourishment; Uca says she has seen her self-esteem grow stronger as well. “Before the garden, I took anti-depression medication,” she says. “Today I don`t need it.”

Maria adds that the community gardens have also changed how the community sees the families: “We were discredited; they used to say that we didn’t like working that we just liked to plead.”

“PROCAJ gave us confidence, believed in our efforts and our willingness to grow and succeed in life.”

 

What strikes you immediately when visiting river communities in Brazil`s Amazon rainforest is their absolute remoteness. Villages are small, with often fewer than 20 families in residence. There are no roads connecting one community to another – any social interaction must be done by boat. And while the rainforest covers almost 40% of the entire country, less than 2% of Brazil`s total population live here permanently.

In Amazonas where ChildFund Brasil is now working, 98% of the state, which is approximately the same size as Mongolia, is covered in forest. Adding to the sense of isolation is the fact that Amazonas is virtually disconnected from the remainder of the country. A road from here to the southern states was built almost 50 years ago, but has now been entirely reclaimed by the forest. To visit Amazonas now means even Brazilians must board a plane or take a boat journey of many days.

Given these facts, and the sheer density of this jungle, it is not surprising to discover that the Brazilian government estimates that there are around 20 ethnic groups which still have had no contact with the outside world. Ranging in size from 50 to 500 people, the only reason we are aware of their existence is through satellite imaging.