Brazil is world champion in pesticide use. But resistance is mounting to the power of agricultural conglomerates and their cultivation methods: In the extreme south of the country, a network of organic firms is supplying municipal schools and kindergartens with healthy food.


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Carrots, Potatoes, Cabbages: These school children eat healthily thanks to the Uniao cooperative. All Photos: (c): Florian KoppCarrots, potatoes, cabbage: these school children are eating healthy thanks to the Uniao cooperative. All Photos: (c): Florian K

Project sponsor

Centro de Apoio ao Pequeno Agricultor (CAPA).

Target group

About 17,000 small farmers benefit from the organization and its training

Around 430,000 people are supplied with healthy food through school meals and other government-sponsored programs

Donations required

EUR 70,000

Sample costs

Vegetable seed mixture for two families: EUR 40

Training seminar for 30 farmers in Pelotas: EUR 303

"Hello tomato!" says the green hand puppet. "Hello apple!", replies the red one. What follows is a loud, not always intelligible conversation between the two felt puppets which two-year-old Derick brings imaginatively to life. Meanwhile, a couple of girls paint drawing cards and giggle at their pink apples and pineapples in the colors of the rainbow. Healthy nutrition can be funny, after all. At least when one is as committed and resourceful as the teachers in the "Snow White" kindergarten in the southern Brazilian town of Canguçu. A knock on the door interrupts the cheerful activity. The members of the União cooperative have come as they do every Tuesday to deliver their goods fresh from the field for lunch. Crunchy salads, peaches with red cheeks and fresh carrots are carried into the pantry where the cook Claudia Schiavon quickly stashes them in the right place. "They are always fresh, have more nutrients and taste much better than the stuff from the supermarket", says Schiavon. "This way, the children learn from the start how to eat healthy. We are laying the foundation for their future lives."


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Turnips, radishes, beets and other products are in the organic market of the small farmers’ cooperative.

It wasn't always this way. But since 2009, there has been a law in Brazil stating that 30 per cent of the food for public school meals has to come from small farmers in the region. "Before, there used to be prepackaged industrial crackers with jam and rice with beans for the little ones", Schiavon remembers. "A whole generation was fed with cheap food that was poor in nutrients." That this is no longer the case is thanks to the lobbying work of CAPA, the Center to Support Small Farming, in Pelotas. The organization, founded in the bosom of the Lutheran Church with assistance from Brot für die Welt, has performed trailblazing work.


Since the end of the 1970s, it has assisted family farms in southern Brazil with organic farming, as well as with processing and marketing. With CAPA's help, a broad network was created in the three states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Paraná in southern Brazil devoted to alternative food supply, including cooperatives, farmers' markets, vegetarian restaurants and health food stores. But it was not until the 2009 School Meals Act that organic farming emerged from a niche segment into a central role, making healthy food accessible to even the poorest sections of society.

There are only winners

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Farmer, Eliane Roloff, and daughter, Iasmin, plant lettuce. The schools are regular buyers.

The law also benefited small family farmers. The public sector is a guaranteed customer, and so enactment of the law was for many a welcome incentive to produce food instead of soy or tobacco. And so it was for the family of Iasmin Roloff: "We used to grow tobacco, but for that we had to spray so much poison, I never liked it", says the 18-year-old. "Two years ago, we switched over our five-hectare plot to grow mostly vegetables. We also have cattle and pigs.” As is customary in small farming families, all members of the Roloff family do their part, from the grandmother to the youngest member, eight-year-old Saymon, who recently planted his own bed of strawberries on his own initiative.


Every Tuesday, Iasmin drives to Canguçu, to the main warehouse of the União cooperative, loads the crates onto the cooperative's light truck and delivers them to eight kindergartens and schools in town. The town's government has set an ambitious goal: by the time the term of the current municipal administration comes to an end in 2017, 75 percent of the ingredients of school meals are to come from small organic farms. "This will allow us to kill two birds with one stone", says the head of the rural development department, Cleider da Cunha: "We will supply the urban population with healthy food while providing aid to the small farming families that form the backbone of our local economy."  


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A Project by

Brot für die Welt

Brot für die Welt (BfdW)

Brot für die Welt is a globally active developmental organization of the German Protestant Regional and Free Churches and their deaconry. In more than 90 countries, Brot für die Welt helps poor and marginalized people to independently improve their lives.

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