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Resisting climate change and fighting poverty in Brazil's semi-arid Caatinga biome.

To encourage traditional family farming businesses adopting climate smart technologies through collaborative financial services.

Photo of Marcelo Albagli
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

The Caatinga covers an area of 326,000sq mi and registers the lowest HDI in Brazil. It is home to 28 million people, half of which do not have direct access to water. Due to water scarcity and habitat degradation, this biome is progressively turning from semi-arid to intense arid with increasing desertification patches. This is where the most significant socio-environmental impact caused by climate change is happening in the country. With virtually no industries, small and medium size farming is by far the main economic activity here. However, traditional family businesses are challenged more and more by technical, financial, socio-economical, and environmental conditions. In this context, our project idea is to advance a new financial service to promote the adoption of climate smart technologies which can mitigate climate change and, at the same time, generate wealth for the Caatinga productive ecosystem. As our research suggests, no initial funding contributions would ever be sufficient to pursue the long-term action required to make a significant impact on poverty alleviation and climate change in this biome. It is crucial to consider the socio-economic constraints of the Caatinga in a holistic design: low instruction and information levels; scarce familiarity with modern technologies; very small land parcels and low productivity scale; urban migration with corresponding decrease of rural population; traditional and conservative culture, with rigid segregation of gender roles, low level of opportunities for the young. Therefore it is imperative to articulate social capital around a continuous effort to promote practices change in the region. Working in collaboration with two existing initiatives, we intend to bring together rural producers, cooperatives, associations, teaching and research institutions, providing and processing agents, nonprofits, credit and loan institutions, as well as other family businesses in the design process of this service.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our primary beneficiaries are traditional family farmers in the Caatinga, more precisely those in the Brazilian States of Alagoas and Bahia, and selected according to the levels of poverty, vegetation cover, and exposure to climate change in the municipalities they live in (see "PriorityAreas.pdf"). Other beneficiaries are small and medium businesses in co-related productive chains, such as honey and fruit producers, the tourism sector, technical assistance, cooperatives, and non-timber forest products.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

The Caatinga does not have the resources abundance found in other biomes in Brazil, such as the Amazon, the Atlantic Rainforest, and the Pantanal. Sadly enough, that seems to be the reason why so little have been invested here if compared to other regions in the country. Our idea is unique because any social and/or climate smart technologies previously conceived in other contexts should be adapted for the harsh and complex reality of this region. The Caatinga is diverse and truly unique. That opens up possibilities for developing new approaches for resisting climate change and fighting poverty yet to be formulated.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

The Brazilian Foundation for Sustainable Development is a nonprofit organization founded in 1992 and differentiated by its network with the scientific community, international finance agencies and national corporations. Find out more at

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

"Climate change and global poverty are two sides of the same coin. Both challenges must be addressed together. If we fail on one, we will also fail on the other". - Nicholas Stern

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

PLANET - The Caatinga is among the six world ecosystems most vulnerable to climate change, due to water scarcity and habitat degradation. Despite an average precipitation of 600 mm per year, climate variability, low rainfall predictability, and limited stock of available groundwater are the main reasons for that. PROSPERITY - With a population of 28 million, 65% of which living in urban centers, it is also one of the most populous semi-arid regions on Earth. Per capita income is less than half the national average, and around 60% of its municipalities are considered extremely poor (< USD 1,90 per day). OUR PROJECT - Environmental degradation and poverty in the Caatinga are often originated from small-scale agricultural processes. Firewood collection, extensive livestock farming, hunting, and introduction of invasive species of plants and fish are still common practices. Firewood is one of the main energy sources in the area and a major driver of deforestation in the region.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We will collaborate with two existing initiatives in the region. - The Coexistence with the Semiarid Xingó Center ( is located in the State of Alagoas. Its objective is to develop and disseminate knowledge on innovative practices in the semiarid. Their program is based on four themes: productive inclusion, social technologies, environment, and social protagonism. The center sits on a 70 ha area, where it supports sheep and goat farming, beekeeping, as well as it serves to demonstrate social technologies such as biodigestors and low budget rainwater tanks. - The Adapta Sertão ( is a network of cooperatives in the State of Bahia. Its objective is to promote social technologies to support family farmers adapting to climate change. They are responsible for the Sustainable Intelligent Agroclimatic Module, an innovative productive system designed to benefit small rural businesses and to increase production even during long periods of drought.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The Caatinga Man ("sertanejo") is deeply connected to their land and known for their resilience. They strongly believe life is still possible here, even though worse environmental conditions and continuous year long drought periods suggest otherwise. Centro Xingó and the Adapta Group have extensive experience with innovative low cost interventions in the region. They understand regenerative farming is not only possible, but that it can reach large scale with the appropriate social technology.

Geographic Focus

The States of Bahia and Alagoas (Brazil). Full scale roll out to other seven States in the Caatinga.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

A. Insight generation to brief - 3 months B. Development - 3 to 6 months B. Full delivery - 6 to 9 months (2 States) Given the complexity of the project and the diversity of the region, Majority Adoption and Full Scale Roll Out to other States in the Caatinga biome can be reached within 18 months and may as well depend on other institutions support.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of David Ezra Jay

Hi Marcelo,
If not already, you should connect with Russell Davis

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