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Steve’s Field Notes: Learning Visit in Brazil

Dear Friends, 

Last week, I returned from an invigorating trip with our regional partners in Latin America and new allies in Brazil. We met to draw lessons from the excellent work being done in Brazil to improve the lives of rural communities by spreading resilient, ecological farming and to strengthen local food economies. We were hosted by the local NGO, AS-PTA, in Paraiba, Brazil, in the country’s northeastern semi-arid region. AS-PTA is a member of the Agricultures Network and coordinated by our ally ILEIA.

Participants from Partenariat pour le Développement Local (Haiti), Vecinos Honduras, REDSAG (Food Sovereignty Network of Guatemala), and EkoRural (Ecuador), joined consultant Kaia Ambrose, who is supporting our program development in Latin America, and myself. We learned about the excellent application of people-centered development principles that we share, applied in a different context over 30 years. By the end of the week we also created a coherent regional action-learning framework for Groundswell and partners, focusing on the social construction of sustainable local food systems with emphasis on the cycle of local seed systems, agroecological farming, and consumption of healthy local food.

Groundswell meets with community leaders to discuss local seed banks, water management, and women’s leadership.


Particularly impressive was the work of Polo Borborema, a rural union of 14 municipalities in the Borborema region. Since 1993, this union has been supporting the agroecological transition of family farmers, with the assistance of AS-PTA. Through visits with leaders and community members, we had in-depth dialogue about strengthening networks of farmer experimenters to spread ecological farming practices, water harvesting through the “one million cisterns” campaign, and strengthening family and community seed banks. We also learned about farmers markets and government polices that ensure that 30% of the food for school programs comes from family farmers producing sustainably. 

Household gardens provide vegetables and medicinal plants.  Women play a key role in producing food and feeding families.

Household gardens provide vegetables and medicinal plants. Women play a key role in producing food and feeding families.

The role of women’s leadership was particularly powerful. We talked with women leaders of Polo Borborema who just the week before had organized over 4,500 women in the annual women’s march for life and agroecology. They spoke with tears in their eyes as they described how they were gaining power to improve their lives and create a more just and life giving situation for their families, communities and region.

We also heard from youth leaders who shared their stories, dreams, and plan to ensure that they can stay and raise families in the region and create fulfilling lives. They told us: “We want to stay here and live a good life where we were born, and we are working to make that happen.” We were all encouraged by the energy and dedication of our next generation of leaders. 

We are grateful to ASPTA for welcoming us and sharing their lessons and stories. A wonderful summary of our visit is available on their blog. You can also read more about the trip and listen to a radio broadcast on the Agricultures Network website.  

Every day, Groundswell and our partners and allies are working to transition to a food and farming system that is healthier and more sustainable for people and the planet. Learning visits like these are an important opportunity to connect, align, and bring this inspiration back to our networks. 

I look forward to sharing more updates with you in the near future about our regional learning action network in Latin America. Please feel free to share your questions and ideas in the comments below. 


Steve Brescia Signature 

Steve Brescia  

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