BBC News Report
Brazilian police backed by troops, helicopters and armoured vehicles have moved into shanty-towns near Rio de Janeiro’s international airport.
More than 1,300 security personnel were involved in the operation in the Caju and Barreira do Vasco neighbourhoods.
What really surprised me was to find out that my students at the Agricultural College are motivated to learn English. Maybe you ask, what is so surprising about that? Everybody needs English nowadays! But you have to imagine a different reality. We are in the northeast rural Brazil, far away from the industrial south and the big multinational companies and where it is very rare to meet a tourist or a foreigner.
During the first lesson the students had to answer three questions – if they like English, if they find it useful for their life and finally if they want to learn and understand English. Just to help them to be as honest as possible, I didn’t ask them to write their names. I was expecting anything but the final result was a surprise. All of them (except one) want to learn English and they understand the importance of a new language, to improve better job opportunities, to travel out of Brazil (they mentioned Slovakia a couple of times; flattering and at the same time make me smile as not everybody in Slovakia speaks English). Or to marry an American woman – why not – it is said that love is the best motivation.
Indeed, I was surprised and happy about the honest answers those teenagers gave and I think this ‘revelation’ will keep me going for a long time!
It isn’t easy to write about the politics of North East Brazil, but following elections in October 2012 I just thought that it would make sense to touch this topic and explain some of the issues.
While elections in big cities in the South of Brazil (São Paulo, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, etc.) more or less follow European democratic standards, North Eastern Brazil is still influenced by heritage of so-called coronelism. Many smaller towns are controlled by influential groups of local politicians and vote buying is not uncommon.
I‘m not saying that there isn’t any progress. There are towns where you can see significant improvements in education, health care or agriculture during the last few years. This happened especially in places where people from poorer families got to power and ended the command of influential groups.
Cristino Castro and regions of the Brazilian North East are undergoing a period of severe drought. There was some rainfall in November and December, but since then there was only one rainy week at the end of January.
Droughts are not uncommon, though. The rainy period in southern Piauí normally starts in November and ends in April. However, there are some years with very little rainfall. Or even if there is rain, it might come too early, too late or there can be a big gap in the middle of rainy season. These irregularities have a greater affect on small farmers who can lose significant part of their crops.
To counter the impact of the drought the government releases loans with a prolonged time of repayment (up to 10 years) in case of emergency. These loans are related to use of water sources and enable people to build water tanks, ponds, cisterns, fences, planting pasture or other types of technical infrastructure. It is available only if the municipality declares a status of emergency.
But this still isn’t a solution for immediate food aid. The truth is that Brazil has enough food resources coming from southern part of the country. Hopefully there will be a strategy of bringing the food to the North East if needed later this year.
This entire situation repeatedly brings up the importance of sustainable development based on underground water resources. Cristino Castro has a huge potential for agricultural production, even in times of drought, but the water resources have to be used effectively and wisely.
We’re two weeks in to To Ligado’s new year and things are really starting to come together. We had a slightly bumpy start, partly due to Carnival and partly due to big changes in state school timetabling. Traditionally school kids have only gone to school in the morning or the afternoon, but the government are rolling out new full day schedules. This is obviously great news for the kids as they’ll have more taught hours and there won’t be this ‘dead time’ in the morning or afternoon where their parents are working but they’re not in school. What this means for the project is that it has lost some of its older kids as they’ve been put on this full day timetable.