Getting people back to their business

Keila dos Santos by Ricardo Correa

Keila dos Santoswas making preparations for the beak pepper harvest. The peppers were ripe, ready to make the preserve that pairs just perfectly with meat or cheese. “But the crops were buried under the mud along with almost the entire town of Bento Rodrigues. We managed to save some tools, stock and a handful of other items because the kitchen was in an area that was not affected”, she remembers. Keila is one of the producers in the Bento Rodrigues Horticulturalist Association (AHOBERO), subsequently relocated to Mariana. “The preserve sells well because we handle the entire process, from the pesticide free planting, to the final product. The whole process is organic. We are looking for land to plant our crops here in Mariana until the new town of Bento is ready, but this is proving easier to be said than done”, she says. Keila has been helped by a work front dedicated to help small businesses affected by the dam collapse to get back on their feet. The problem now is that the association is located in the center of Mariana, far from any land available for plantation.

Restored stores (Renova Foundation’s Archive)

249 businesses were assisted in this first emergency stage, including stores that had been rebuilt or reequipped, and service providers who had lost their equipment. This initiative was based on the fundamental principle that the new business be better than the old one.

In 2017 a new stage commences: to encourage the emergence of businesses that will preferably generate a positive social impact. In other words, businesses that will involve and benefit the poorest extracts of society (at the bottom of the social pyramid). Events on entrepreneurship, business management and business rounds will take place in the municipalities that have been more directly impacted of the whole region.

Local development is also fostered given Renova Foundation’s (and its service providers) needs to hire people in order to deliver the programs.
In 2016, 61% of the labour force was locally recruited from the region, benefiting 1,759 people.
This is not a job creation program per se, but rather a guideline to use our operating requirements to drive the local economy. It is our target to ensure local labour accounts for at least 60% of our total workforce. In order to achieve this we are currently seeking to anticipate future internal recruitment demands for the programs as to prepare people in the local community through training partnerships with various institutions. This will enable these people to fill these job positions and the payment for these services will circulate within the region itself.

Ivanildes Melo Campos by Alexandre Battibugli

If not for this, job opportunities are very limited. “My husband began working as a bricklayer as there are no longer jobs in farming and fishing. Unfortunately, he is not a formally registered employee and work is not always available. I am a crochet artist, and I knit everything, blankets, clothes, bikinis, but always made to order”, said Ivanildes Melo Campos, who lives with her family in a country home adjacent to the Doce river, in Santana do Paraíso (MG).

To identify and drive Mariana’s economic potential, we resumed the “Mariana 2030” study, conducted by Samarco, with the participation of the municipal government and community leaders. Two meetings have been held to discuss long-term social and economic development. The study was renamed “Mariana Present and Future” and now has a new mission: to rank Mariana amongst the top ten towns in terms of HDI in Brazil by 2030*.

*With 0.742, Mariana is ranked 52nd in Minas Gerais

The gradual return of fishing
“I came to Povoação in 1973 to work in a beach hut and became a professional fisherman. I am retired now, but keep working because an fishermen cannot resist going into the river or the sea. In the old days, we used clew thread knitted fishnets. The Doce river used to be teeming with fish, but began losing its vitality, which was significantly aggravated by the mudslide. The fish disappeared and it was impossible to enter the river to work. The sea was also affected and the courts forbid us from fishing. People are afraid the fish is contaminated”, said Simião Barbosa dos Santos, 73, president of the Fishermen and Alike Association of Povoação (APAP – Associação de Pescadores e Assemelhados de Povoação), in the district of Linhares, Espírito Santo state.

Economic development

Simião Barbosa dos Santos by Alexandre Battibugli

Indeed, the initial analyses about water quality and fish stocks in the Doce river have not yet yielded a conclusion. Two panels were held with the main research institutions in the region to determine the criteria for a new study. “Our expectation is the same as all fishermen: that this tragedy can be turned into a huge asset, with better fishing conditions for the future, with new technologies, new employment and income opportunities for the communities, better organization and market expansion. All of this will result in better socio-environmental quality for the Doce river basin,”, said Carlos Sangalia, of the Tamar Project, during the technical panel for resuming fishing activities organized by the Foundation.

It is our intention to temporarily foster alternative river-based employment, such as cleaning and monitoring, in addition to strengthening fishermen colonies and associations.

“The fish tanks project have huge potential for success. I want to see it working, I want to see everyone working the way they used to”, said Simião, getting enthusiastic at the thought of it. However, he recognizes that dialogue is not always easy. “I think greater understanding is needed between the community and Renova Foundation. We fishermen have no problems at all with receiving professional help. I think they want to do a good job. In my opinion they should have spoken to people in groups: to fishermen and farmers, instead of the whole community at once. In this situation nobody gets on, some people are only interested in the card, it’s a bit of a mess. We fishermen form a segment and we want our river and sea life back”, he explains.

Workshop about fishing (Renova Foundation’s Archive)

Some 4,000 fishermen are receiving financial assistance because of the interruption to production activities. We are also seeking to establish weekly conversations with fishing associations and colonies to devise a strategy for resuming fishing activities in an inclusive and transformational way.