• home

    Reducing Poverty Through Trade: Zero Hunger in a Coastal Resort


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 4/2004

    Photo: Leonardo Asezedo The Berimbau project's success in fostering sustainable community development is reflected in the smile of ITC Executive Director J. Denis Bélisle and the delight of the Brazilian children he is meeting.

    "Berimbau, Berimbau, Berimbau: It is a wire and a piece of wood," sing the women of the Sauípe region of the Brazilian state of Bahia. This local musical instrument, a key element of their culture, is also the symbol of hope for poor communities around Costa do Sauípe resort.

    Part of the Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) campaign launched by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva, the Berimbau project promotes social inclusion by integrating the communities surrounding the resort in tourism, agriculture, fishing and crafts work; providing basic education and professional training; and strengthening local culture.
    ITC was able to help get the project up and running by showing how to give the programme credibility - with the local communities and among its funders. As a result, a resort development designed to increase export earnings through tourism has won the support of local communities and promises to improve, in a sustainable way, the living standards of those previously excluded.

    Costa do Sauípe is a "quality tourism" resort in the heart of an environmentally protected region of Brazil, 70 km from Bahia's capital, Salvador.

    This development, however, has still left 54% of the local community without regular income. Some 45% of adults are illiterate and among the working population, 23% earn less than the national minimum monthly wage. As a development, therefore, it has lacked community support.

    As part of President Lula's Zero Hunger campaign, the Banco do Brasil launched its Work and Income-Generation Trade Programme in 2003 and looked around for a partner to help it with pilot projects. On a search via the Internet, Banco do Brasil found ITC. "I was told that they liked our approach because we were the only institution focusing on comprehensive poverty reduction," says Jaime Crespo-Blanco, long-time coordinator of ITC's Export-led Poverty Reduction Programme. "We aren't just concerned with health or social welfare or jobs."

    As a result of their discussions, Banco do Brasil and ITC signed a Memorandum of Understanding in June 2003 to formalize their partnership, enabling ITC to transfer to Banco do Brasil its methodology, "best practices" and tools, by implementing an export-led poverty reduction project in Brazil.

    ITC then reviewed several proposals before the two institutions jointly selected the Costa do Sauípe proposal, known informally as the Berimbau project, in which tourism benefits the local community as well as the developers.

    Why Berimbau? "From our strategic point of view it presented the ideal criteria for success," explains Mr Crespo-Blanco. "It is a socially responsible, private initiative which includes international hotel chains, the Banco do Brasil, as well as the Banco do Brasil Foundation and its pension fund. Its potential population of beneficiaries totals some 10,000 people. It offers diverse opportunities to integrate the surrounding poor communities into the value-chain of products and services.

    "It also represents a practical vehicle for advocacy at the policy-making level, since it fully responds to President Lula's Zero Hunger programme."

    A community-based approach

    The project features a "sustainable triangle" of the community, market link and institutional support, thus linking eight poor communities as project beneficiaries, a socially responsible "market link" with four internationally renowned hotel chains and a committed "trade support institution" (the Banco do Brasil).

    Education and cultural activities are also integrated into the project. "This rescued our capoeira (street dance/martial art) and our samba da roda (circle dancing)," notes Janete de Souza Carneiro, President of the Association of Vila Sauípe Residents.
    Sports, too, have benefited from the Berimbau programme, and the programme's credibility has benefited from giving such aid. 

    Also a result of the programme, the Sauípe region now has a community hall for meetings and a training school. The school has offered various professional courses, including literacy courses for 252 adults. Rosevaldo Conceição dos Santos, a teacher, observes: "Many people have been able to enter the job market or even create their own businesses." People of 50 are learning to read, and artisans have refrigerators, televisions and phones at home for the first time.

    People from the Sauípe region are producing soap, shampoo and handicrafts for sale to the hotels and tourists. They also plan to sell garments such as uniforms to hotels and to organize cultural activities at the hotels and in the neighbouring villages.

    Ana Maria Alcãntara, President of a local cooperative, adds that bee keeping has shown itself to be a viable economic pursuit with the Berimbau programme "and we are starting this activity, which offers one more source of income for farmers".

    Toolkit helps communities make the right choices

    Today's successes have come after tackling several challenges when the project started in October 2003. The development previously lacked credibility with local communities. Some did not understand the advantage of working in a group, and lacked the capacity to determine priority needs.

    So ITC organized a six-day workshop at the start of the project. Its export-led, poverty reduction "toolkit" took participants through the process of building a credible programme. It also trained 30 national tutors to assist communities to organize themselves and develop their capacities to supply quality products and services.

    Since then, the community groups have established themselves and are thriving. The Berimbau programme created a warehouse to store fruits and vegetables from the communities, enabling quality control and direct sales to the hotels. A sales showroom for artisans was also built, as was a workshop in which craftspeople can work together. "It is better for everyone to work together," says local artisan Waldimira Batista Bispo Silva. "If someone is late, another takes over and helps. If something goes wrong, another person knows how to fix it. It is better to collaborate than for each person to work at home."

    100% local

    By the end of the project (December 2005), local employment at hotels is due to be 100%, up from 50% now.

    The programme still faces challenges, such as in involving the fishing community. But overall, community residents have termed the approach a successful one.

    "The first big step of Berimbau was born of the awareness that a socially responsible attitude was needed," says Marcella Ferri, coordinator of the Association of Artisans of Porto de Sauípe. "Almost for the first time in Brazil this really happened, and in multiple ways. The project started to support all other levels [of society] as a partner, as a major player, organizing the partnerships of the hotels of the complex to be able to maintain the [children's] school, the school meals, the teachers - all this as part of a very beautiful vision of education: of acceptance and quality of instruction."

    Ely Ferreira, Vice-President of the Residents of Canoas nearby, sums up the hopes: "With the growth of the programme we are uniting. Today we are much stronger: we have the communities, the collaborators and partners and the big partner, the programme, which allows us to dream."

    Partners to replicate the approach

    Banco do Brasil is disseminating ITC's methodology elsewhere in Brazil, and is ready to use its representation abroad to replicate the pilot experience in other countries. In a second phase of the Berimbau programme, ITC will provide technical support to help local producers choose "winner products" and help ensure fair-trade conditions through formal contractual arrangements with the resort.

    "The adoption of the export-led poverty reduction methodology was very important for the Berimbau programme to achieve efficiency in promoting sustainable development of poor communities surrounding Costa do Sauípe," says Francisco Oliveira, the programme's coordinator. The hotels see the advantages of the ITC methodology, too. Christophe Caron, General Manager of SOFITEL Costa do Sauípe, is convinced: "In the success of the Berimbau programme, I see an approach that could be replicated by all the hotels of the ACCOR Group located in developing countries."

    Test site for green project

    The Berimbau project is also the test site of an innovative waste-processing plant, invented by a Brazilian university professor. It transforms organic residues into organic fertilizer in three days at 20% lower cost than normal.

    The processing plant, opened in July 2004, created 40 jobs directly. But local farmers use its product to grow the fruits and vegetables that are sold to hotels. So it will generate much more indirect employment.

    The local farmers welcome the recycling plant. Agronomy engineer Rosivane Cruz Pires, a director of a small farmers' association in Sauípe, is proud of the way the system operates within a closed ecological cycle when the tourism industry elsewhere is known for producing unmanaged waste.

    Hearing of the innovation, ITC Executive Director J. Denis Bélisle organized a meeting with the professor and the director of a Caribbean trade promotion organization (TPO) whose family is a major banana producer. "ITC was interested in the export potential this compost plant could represent for Brazil," reports Mr Bélisle. "We were glad to bring these people together."

    He also invited a number of Brazilians to the discussion. "I learned that this is not just a prototype. The professor told me it is already operating in some 18 communities in Brazil handling 8,300 tonnes of waste each day. And an investment bank is already keen on taking over the professor's invention.

    "The professor himself, who sees the development potential of his composting plant, is not so keen on handing over his product to be commercially exploited. In cases like this, ITC can be a channel to find the right contacts to encourage exports designed to reduce poverty while promoting development. The Caribbean TPO immediately saw the potential, too, and we are hoping these contacts will lead to something concrete."

    Writer: Peter Hulm

    Organizations mentioned in this story:


    Related ITC links:
    Poverty Reduction: