Fabio Luis de Oliviera Rosa is a fellow with Ashoka Brazil. An economist and lawyer, he has developed low-cost rural electrification models to improve quality of life for the rural poor and to slow urban migration.

Monday, 6 Nov 2000

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil

At IDEAAS, the Brazilian NGO that I started, we are working in rural areas to develop and improve programs that simultaneously eliminate poverty, promote sustainable development, and conserve the environment. To this end, we combine technology with appropriate actions and policies. Our projects are highly integrated, simultaneously utilizing knowledge from agronomy, electrical engineering, sociology, banking, politics, economics, the environmental field, and organizational administration. It’s a big challenge because we need to go further, from the multi-disciplinary to the trans-disciplinary.

In the different areas of Brazil where we work — from the pampas here in the extreme south, to the Amazon in the north, passing through Cerrado in the center, and the arid and semiarid northeast — the challenges are the same, though the symptoms vary: excluded populations, children with miserable childhoods, degraded environments, threatened biodiversity, and people living as they did in the 18th and 19th centuries, without electricity or communications, lacking both adequate public policies and a systematic vision for sustainable development. In essence, there are many, many deficiencies.

At the same time, in all these places, one finds a humble and moving testimony from the brave Brazilian people. People are interested in improving their lives and the lives of their children, in conserving the environment, in dreaming of and fighting for a better and brighter future. In general, everyone has a notion of their problems, and these are spoken of with a touching sincerity.

A great conscience exists among the people that gives importance to living without destroying the environment: relating to it, understanding it, harvesting the fruits of its plenty with care, and guaranteeing its future survival. It is possible to involve people in a movement for both human and environmental well-being. By working with the people, it is possible to think about constructing a better future.

In the next four days, I will be working with you all, as is the daily work of someone who thinks about constructing a positive future. We will begin in Bahia, where I have a partnership with another Ashoka Fellow working to develop rural solar photovoltaic electrification in arid zones with poor populations.

In the interior state of Rio de Janeiro, we will visit another project, where a hacienda has managed to address its environmental, social, and economic challenges with a system of organic management, a stance for conservation of the Atlantic Forest, and a successful business.

Afterwards, we will continue south to Parana State, to visit a project in partnership with yet another Ashoka Fellow. Here, we are uniting environmental conservation and models of sustainable development in a project to fight global warming.

And finally, we will return to the city of Porto Alegre, here in the extreme south of Brazil, where the pampas begin. You will learn about two projects that we are developing with IDEAAS: a big rural solar electrification project and a project to reverse the deserts that are emerging in the Brazilian pampas due to human activity.

I’ll see you tomorrow, when we begin our journey.