In a recent video by Agenda Gotsch, the success of Fazenda da Toca’s Burrow Farm- an organic, agroecological family farm in Sao Paulo, Brazil covering 2,130 football fields- is highlighted. “I believe it is possible to create abundance without destroying the planet. We could thrive with it instead,” explained Pedro Diniz, founder of Fazenda da Toca.
Fazenda da Toca uses methods from applied research in agroforestry systems oriented for large-scale production according to agroecologist Ernst Gotsch’s principles. Gotsch developed complex crop systems in the 1970s by experimenting with multi-species consortia, such as planting corn with beans or apples with cherries. His methods restore degraded soils, produce high yields, and eliminate the use of pesticides.
“Life in the Northeast has gotten easier. With the government’s social benefits, people aren’t suffering the same deprivations as before, even during the current drought, one of the worst in history.” — Luciano de Almeida
Six million people in Brazil’s biggest city, São Paulo, may at some point find themselves without water. The February rains did not ward off the risk and could even aggravate it by postponing rationing measures which hydrologists have been demanding for the last six months.
The threat is especially frightening for millions of people who have flocked here from Brazil’s poorest region, the semi-arid Northeast, many of whom fled the droughts that are so frequent there.
The Nordestinos did not imagine that they would face a scarcity of water in this land of abundance, where most of them have prospered. The most famous of them, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, became a trade union leader and eventually president of the country from 2003 to 2011.
Many people in this city of 22 million people share his concern about storing more water, especially in the Zona Norte or northern zone of Greater São Paulo, which will be the first area affected by rationing if the state government decides to take measures aimed at guaranteeing water supplies year-round.
The Zona Norte is supplied by the Cantareira system of interconnecting reservoirs which, on the verge of collapse, is still providing water for six million people. It supplied nine million people up to mid-2014, when one-third of the demand was transferred to the other eight systems that provide water in the city.
It is precisely the Zona Norte that is home to many of the Nordestino migrants and their descendants, as reflected by the numerous restaurants that offer typical food from the Northeast, such as carne-de-sol (heavily salted beef cured in the sun), cassava flour and different kinds of beans.
Halfway through the rainy season, the key reservoir for the southern hemisphere’s largest city holds just 6% of its capacity, and experts warned Friday that Sao Paulo’s authorities must take urgent steps to prevent the worst drought in more than 80 years from drying it out.
The system of reservoirs and rivers that provide water to millions in the Brazilian metropolis have received less rainfall than hoped during the first weeks of the wet season, raising fears they will not be replenished as hoped. Rainfall during the first two weeks of January totalled just 7.1 centimetres, well below the historic average for the month of 27.1cm.
The biggest problem is in the Cantareira water system, which is the largest of six reservoirs that provide water to some 6 million of the 20 million people living in the metropolitan area of Sao Paulo city. Cantareira is now down to 6% of its capacity of 1tn litres, the water utility Sabesp said on its website.
Of the remaining five systems, Alto Tiete is at 11% of capacity, Rio Claro 25%, Alto Cotia 30%, Guarapiranga 40% and Rio Grande 70%.
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