Brazil Service Learning Field Experience
Poverty and Community Conflicts in Northeast Brazil
March 12 - 22, 2014
Applications due Friday, January 30th!
Photo Credit: Alison O'Connell
One of the world’s most pervasive wars is the one on poverty. It often occurs pre, during, and post armed and cyber conflict and it becomes increasingly prevalent (and dramatic) following regime changes. Brasil (Brazil as Americans present it) is such an example, whereby the most recent governments’ leadership have engaged in strategies to address many core and critical issues of poverty. Other struggles in the country occur concurrently—e.g., respect for and inclusion of indigenous populations, the landless, the un- and under-employed, ecological and environmental preservation, developing an improved distribution of wealth, and the like.
Brasil is the sixth economy of the world and the largest ethanol producer; it is also the largest producer of soybeans and coffee. It was colonized by the Portuguese who brought West African slaves to work in agriculture. Historically, Brasil has seen immigration from Italy, Germany, Lebanon, Syria, The Netherlands, and Japan (there are nearly three million of Japanese heritage). The Bolshoi Ballet of Russia chose the State of Santa Catarina as its site for establishing the first Bolshoi ballet outside of Russia. The current Brazilian capitol is Brasíla, the third in its history, and was created as one of the world’s first efforts of establishing a capitol in the interior area of a country to encourage and stimulate development.
Brasil has engaged in important initiatives to eradicate poverty in several ways during the recent governments. One of the results has been elevating likely 65 million (actual numbers vary from 40 to 105 million) into the lower sector of middle class—out of poverty—through initiatives of solidarity economics at the local and community levels and a family food basket program.
The solidary economics program of the Management School of the Federal University of Bahia (EAUFBA), is working in several communities and the SCAR field work will occur at one of their program site areas, Matarandiba, Bahia. It is a traditional community of shell- and fishermen, with a population of less than 1,000, who live on the income generated by the artisanal fishing activity and from extraction of its mangrove areas. The village belongs to the Metropolitan Region of Salvador (RMS). The community has many significant aspects of poverty. The traditional “way of life” in Matarandiba began changing in the second half of the 1970s when the chemical industry discovered large deposits of rock salt in the subsoil of the Vera Cruz municipality where Matarandiba is located. In 1977, the Dow Chemical Company began the exploration of rock salt, installing its mining unit in the surroundings of the Matarandiba community. The company acquired the right for subterranean mining of the mineral and bought nearly 90% of the land of the Matarandiba Island. In 2007 the solidarity economics program of the EAUFBA began working with this village.
The Brazil Service Learning Field Experience is being coordinated through the Solidarity Economics Program of the EAUFBA. The S-CAR student team will work together in the field with English speaking and other members of the Solidarity Economics program. The S-CAR students will help the solidarity economics team address a long-standing conflict in Matarandiba that is impeding the progress of the village’s development. The student team will also train the Solidarity Economics team in facilitation and mediation skills. Portuguese language, or other Latin-based languages, will be extremely useful for this intensive work, however, the S-CAR team will be accompanied by English-speaking graduate students from EAUFBA, working collaboratively in the field.
The S-CAR team will also have the opportunity to engage in Bahia’s culture, learn about the history of Bahia-Brazil, witness Afro-Brazilian aspects of life in Bahia, and visit several historic locales, monuments, and churches—the cultural aspect of this intensive service is important for the over-all learning objectives.