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With support from CESE, RedeMoinho distributed 7 tons of agro-ecological food during pandemic

The initiative benefited Bahian farmers and distributed food to recycling cooperatives in Salvador during the pandemic.

In cooperation between the countryside and the city, farmers have been sending their agro-ecological produce to recyclable waste pickers in Salvador.  Aimed at guaranteeing income for the families of vulnerable farmers, given the disruption to their commercialization channels during the pandemic, the initiative was employed by RedeMoinho – the Market and Solidarity Trade Cooperative (Cooperativa de Comércio Justo e Solidário) and reached a landmark of 7 tons of food distributed since March 2020.

On 25 November, the Bahia Museum of Art (Museu de Arte da Bahia: MAB) AGRO-ECOLOGICAL MARKET was visited by representatives of the Waste Picker Cooperatives that benefited from staple food basket donations, for example, the Citizen Collection (Coleta Cidadã) and the Centre for Art and the Environment (Centro de Arte e Meio Ambiente: CAMA), as well as partner organizations and supporters of the initiative.  The meeting marked the end of the donation cycle, which this year was supported by CESE’s Small Projects Programme and the Casa Socio-environmental Fund (Fundo Casa Socioambiental).

In the face of the worsening social scene because of the pandemic, the project was created to maintain agro-ecological practices and provide support to recyclable waste pickers.  According to Eduardo Guimarães, member of RedeMoinho, “with the confinement of the population the quantity of recyclables fell and the risk of infection increased. For the vast majority of pickers the situation was doubly traumatic.  On the one hand, problems with access to recyclable materials because of the pandemic; on the other, the need to remain at home to look after their small children.”

According to data from the National Survey of Food Insecurity in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Brazil, the country has hit a landmark of 19.1 million people experiencing Food Insecurity, in both urban and rural areas.

In March 2020, the first steps were taken with support from RedeMoinho’s clientele, who donated baskets (for each delivery basket bought one was donated to the pickers) through a call for Solidarity Baskets. “RedeMoinho used the little working capital it had.  The prospect of guaranteeing income in the countryside and quality food to those most in need motivated the team,” Guimarães explained.

In 2021, the “MAB AGRO-ECOLOGY MARKET: AGRO-ECOLOGY AND ECONOMIC SOLIDARITY RECONNECTING AND RECONSTRUCTING CITY-COUNTRYSIDE BONDS” was approved by CESE’s Small Projects Programme, providing continuity of work and donations from May to July – based on the purchase of products by RedeMoinho’s clientele, the baskets were donated to vulnerable families.

Importance of Markets – markets are essential for income generation and the social inclusion of farmers.  It was through this understanding that, alongside the Integrated Body Therapy Institute for Human and Community Development (Instituto Terapia Corporal Integrado para o Desenvolvimento Humano e Comunitário), RedeMoinho participated in the creation of three agro-ecological markets, highlights for the agro-ecology and solidarity economy sector: the UNEB Agro-ecological Market, that of UFBA and the one at MAB. In each of these initiatives farmers were actively sought out by the UFBA Agro-ecological Market team.

It is the assessment of RedeMoinho that the promotion of these markets has been very successful, but was greatly affected by the pandemic – the interruption of activities jeopardized work that had been going on for five years.  “The drop in the income of families who worked at the market was brutal.  The families lost such a lot.  In the first place, the loss of relatives and friends and the health of those who were hospitalized for months with COVID-19.  In the second place, financial losses, with cuts to electricity making it impossible to continue working in the vegetable gardens; the need to sell the cars used to transport the produce to the markets,” Guimarães noted.

With the reopening of the Bahia Art Museum, the physical market has been resumed, with support from the “Coopermonte at the MAB agro-ecological market” project, reactivating income generation for the farmers.  After a long period in which markets were suspended, the workers’ situation is challenging. “The reality on the farms was pitiful: electricity cut because of non-payment, cars sold or broken, ill people in the families and, above all, undercapitalization,” he added.

Support from CESE was important in providing transport for produce and farmers to get to market.  “On the other hand, farmers donated agro-ecological food aimed at vulnerable families linked to the Recyclable Waste Picker Cooperatives,” Guimarães explained.

The partnership between CESE and RedeMoinho is long-standing, with projects such as “Agro-ecological Thursdays at the Museum,” dedicated to popularizing agro-ecology.  “CESE has been fundamental to the existence of RedeMoinho throughout the pandemic.  Support to projects guaranteed continuity of commercialization activities and the donation of agro-ecological baskets,” he concluded.  Practices such as this illustrate the purpose of the solidarity economy, which understands the interdependence between the countryside and the city, and seeks to create mechanisms to generate solutions and minimize problems.

In addition to providing transport for farmers and their produce, the project also enabled visits for monitoring and to raise awareness with the farmers’ families, mobilized recyclable waste pickers to participate in the market’s activities, and shared learning from the Solidarity Market project, encouraging donations of agro-ecological baskets to recyclable waste picker cooperatives.