In partnership with CESE, CIMI takes support to indigenous peoples in Bahia and Minas Gerais affected by heavy rains


 In December 2021, Bahia and Minas Gerais were two of the states that suffered the worst impacts of the heavy rains that affected certain regions in Brazil.  Entire cities were flooded, families lost houses, property was destroyed, lives were cut short.  Indigenous people also experienced moments of tension. In the first heavy rains, many villages were stranded, with damage to infrastructure and to access roads and crops destroyed.

In Bahia alone, 11 thousand indigenous people from nine peoples were affected by the floods, according to Agnaldo Francisco dos Santos leader of the Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe. He noted that, out of all the municipalities that declared a state of emergency, 19 contained indigenous lands, and of the 195 indigenous communities, 104 were affected. In Minas Gerais, it is calculated that approximately 25 thousand indigenous people were hit by the floods.

The same families that were affected by the rains had already suffered the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which further aggravated their level of vulnerability.  In this context, CESE and the Eastern Region of the Indigenous Missionary Council (Conselho Indigenista Missionário: CIMI) mobilized to help some of the affected communities, supporting structured solidarity activities over the post-flood period, particularly focused on economic empowerment, and food and nutritional security in order to support local good living.

Supported activities included the acquisition of materials to mend irrigation channels and rainwater collection tanks; the purchase of items to run workshops for hygiene materials, bio jewellery, handicrafts, beads; the distribution of native bean, corn, manioc, pumpkin, broad bean, sesame and other seeds; and the acquisition of 220 stable food baskets for families in particular food vulnerability.

Dozens of indigenous communities were served by these activities, from the following peoples: Xakriabá, Pataxó, Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe, Atikum, Kiriri, Tupinambá, Imboré, Kamakã, Maxakali, Pankararu-Pataxó, Aranã Caboclo and Mokuriñ. In all, approximately 1200 families benefitted.

CIMI ran the activities in the selected locations, while CESE was responsible for generating funds and purchasing products. The project received support from Swiss Solidarity, an independent foundation set up by SRG SSR, the Swiss media corporation, dedicated to victims of disaster and conflict. The project also received support from the Terre des Hommes Suisse and Terre des Hommes Swcheiz alliance in Brazil, and from Cosude.

Haroldo Heleno, CIMI Eastern Region Coordinator, confirmed that  the support from CESE and Terre des Hommes Suisse arrived at a challenging moment for these communities, which had faced federal government neglect and been severely punished by the floods. “In this sense, the solidarity action represents more than aid to guarantee food sovereignty.  It offers the possibility of reclaiming these communities’ sense of citizenship and self-esteem.  The word we have for you at the moment is ‘gratitude’.”