SEATTLE, Washington — Since 2012, Brazil has worked alongside the U.N. Development Program and the International Fund for Agricultural Development to create a project intended to improve rural poverty in its smallest region. The Dom Távora Project has been underway in Sergipe and 15 of its municipalities with an intended endpoint of 2021. With a budget of just more than $37 million, the program utilizes funding and advisement to develop businesses, both agricultural or otherwise, for a projected 12,000 rural families. It specifically focuses on less protected groups, including women. In addition, over the past year, the Dom Távora Project has had the added challenge of addressing a socially-distanced world as COVID-19 swept over Latin America. However, despite the limitations, the project has been able to continue aiding developing farmers in one of Brazil’s poorest regions.
COVID-19 and Unemployment in Brazil
Much like the United States, Brazil has been one of the most highly-impacted and infected nations in the world. With 4.3 million cases and more than 130,000 deaths, Brazil has the third most cases worldwide. While there have been slight drops in daily cases, the country still suffers from the effects on living conditions and the economy, especially in poorer areas. Unemployment in the nation has suffered greatly as well since the onset of COVID-19. Reaching a record high for three years, Brazil’s national unemployment rate is now at 13.3% with a downward trend. As the nation begins to take the safety precautions and mask rules more seriously, plans to protect the employed and poor of the nation is fundamental to reverse the impacts of this crisis.
Dom Távora Project in Sergipe
The main goal of the Dom Távora Project is to bolster development and entrepreneurship in Sergipe. Sergipe is home to many of the most vulnerable groups in the nation. Historically, there is a large wealth disparity between the rural and non-rural citizens of Brazil. This program aims to address that issue. Since 2012, this program has created agencies in Sergipe in order to provide rural citizens with training in areas like farming, animal keeping and business skills.
As of February 2020, the Dom Távora Project has been able to successfully implement many business and agricultural changes. With 154 businesses started and nearly 50% fully-funded, this project has been more successful in this area than previous programs. Additionally, more than 6,000 Sergipe families have been provided for by the project and this number continues to rise.
Assistance to Women and Young People
It is worth noting that the Project has put added focus on women and young people since its inception. A pilot initiative, Young Agent, gives the youth of Sergipe lessons in production and marketing. This has allowed a new group better skills with which to develop their own businesses and farms. This also gives them the ability to assist their communities as well.
As for women, the focus has been on giving them financial stability and highlighting gender violence. Financial insecurity more negatively impacts women, so the Project included these specific terms to ensure the group does not miss out on the benefits. The diversity goals of the Dom Távora Project have been successful. The same study that found that 6,000 families benefited also found that around 4,500 of these people were women and young people.
Moving Forward During COVID-19
Since the implementation of COVID-19 rules and mask mandates, the project has successfully turned toward digital platforms. Luckily, most areas already have stable internet and those that do not have used WhatsApp to communicate with assistance and agencies.
In order to keep markets open and working, the Project held weekly digital meetings between the project team and potential buyers. This has allowed the sales to begin to heal, rising from around 20% in March to a healthier 50-60% rate. Much of this returned success can be credited to successful online marketing, another set of skills the project has been teaching poor families.
The Project has not forgotten the added provisions to more vulnerable demographics. As many of the female business owners had stakes in handcrafting, they have been significantly impacted. To alleviate some of this, project advisors had them manufacturing face masks to be sold to the state to distribute. This new venture helped lift some of the pressure off these female entrepreneurs.
Brazil continues to see rising COVID-19 cases and its economy dip. Meanwhile, the Dom Távora Project has been able to protect and educate groups in the most vulnerable jobs. Continued adaption to a changing world could allow the project to see continued success, as it nears its intended endpoint in 2021.