Zé Pequeno cried when he learned that the heirloom seeds he had inherited from his father were contaminated by the transgenic corn his neighbor had brought from the south. Fortunately, he was able to salvage the native seeds because he had shared them with other neighbors.
"Anxiety, insomnia and depression have become widespread. We don't sleep well, I wake up three, four times a night," complained Brazilian farmer Roselma de Melo Oliveira, 35, who has lived 160 meters from a wind turbine for eight years.
"The rainwater tanks are the best invention in the world for us," said Maria de Lourdes Feitosa, 46, who recalls the deadly droughts of the past in Brazil's semiarid Northeast region.
"The biodigester really gives a huge boost to those who have the courage to do things," said Maria das Dores Alves da Silva, based on her own experience as a 63-year-old small farmer.
Basic sanitation, a sector that is undervalued because, according to politicians, it does not bring in votes, has gained relevance in Brazil due to the pandemic that has hit the poor especially hard and the drought that threatens millions of people.
No one died of hunger during the worst drought in Brazil's semiarid ecoregion, between 2011 and 2018, in sharp contrast to the past when scarce rainfall caused deaths, looting, a mass exodus to the South and bloody conflicts.
After centuries of poverty, marginalisation from national development policies and a lack of support for positive local practices and projects, the semiarid regions of Latin America are preparing to forge their own agricultural paths by sharing knowledge, in a new and unprecedented initiative.
Dozens of trucks used to leave São Gonçalo every day, carrying the local agricultural production, mainly coconuts, to markets throughout Brazil, including the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, more than 2,000 kilometers away.
Young Peruvians plan to take advantage of the knowledge acquired in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast to bring water to segments of the population who suffer from shortages, after sharing experiences in that ecoregion on the multiple uses of renewable energies in communities affected by climatic phenomena.
“We want to make history," agreed the teachers at the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School. They are the first to teach adolescents about generating power from bad weather in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil.
“The sun which used to torment us now blesses us," said one of the 19 women who run the Community Bakery of Varzea Comprida dos Oliveiras, a settlement in the rural area of Pombal, a municipality of the state of Paraiba, in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast.
The small pulp mill that uses native fruits that were previously discarded is a synthesis of the multiple objectives of the Adapta Sertão project, a programme created to build resilience to climate change in Brazil's most vulnerable region.
Cattle ranching has been severely affected by drought in Brazi's Northeast region, but it has not only survived but has made a comeback in the Jacuípe river basin thanks to an optimal use of water.
Irrigated green fields of vineyards and monoculture crops coexist in Brazil’s semiarid Northeast with dry plains dotted with flowering cacti and native crops traditionally planted by the locals. Two models of development in struggle, with very different fruits.
The drought that has plagued Brazil’s semiarid Northeast region since 2012 is already more severe than the 1979-1983 drought, the longest in the 20th century. But prolonged dry spells no longer cause the tragedies of the past.
The decisions taken by the Brazilian government in the fight against drought in the country’s semiarid Northeast are an example of the disconnect between politicians and the citizens, which triggered an unexpected wave of protests in June.