During the second semester of 2010, I had the opportunity to know some places within the Leste de Minas region (Brazil). This region is very different to others where I worked. The countryside is characterised by a dominant crop, the coffee – as bananas in the Ribeira Valley – however, the settlement pattern is more scattered. The petty producer families appear to be better off than those in the Ribeira Valley – and surprised me that the human development index of the municipalities I visited is lower (0,73) than the Ribeira valley HDI (0,75) – both of them are lower than the national average, of 0,766 (source: PNUD 2000).
It is interesting that the better-off families are producing, besides the coffee, many other goods: so, when you visit them, they could kindly give you some cheese, or rapadura (dried sugarcane juice). In this region there are some peasants with strong knowledge of organic farming; they are true researchers, who, with great creativity, carry on trial-and-error experiments. For that reason, here could be implemented with success the “campesino a campesino” (farmer to farmer) methodology, which is very different from, for example, the Lower Amazon region.
Within a beautiful landscape, of dark green hills, it is a pity that the towns haven’t any beauty, any remnant of the past, and… even a bar where drink a very good local coffee.
In this region, I monitored a project, developed by the Brazilian NGO REDE, and the Italian one, RETE, with the co-financing of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project takes place in the municipalities of Caratinga, Simonesia, Manhuaçu, São João de Manhuaçu e Conceição de Ipanema.
I was impressed by the achievement of the project, even if it started only one and half a year ago. One project result is, for example, the participation of organic farmers in a local fair; and, visiting some farmers – most of the people like to spend a good time talking (prosando) – we can see some improvements, aimed at sounder management of the production system.