New thinking helps farming communities

Escola Família Agrícola, translates to  Family School of Agricultural and is a new idea for supporting families  in rural communities. It also  plays an important role in the VinB volunteer programme in Cristino.  Once volunteers are accepted for a placement the agricultural school  acts as the guarantor and prepares the visa documentation, in return volunteers such as myself  teach English to the students.

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The college has a non-traditional approach to timetabling and to developing a supportive relationship with student and their families. The students alternate between two weeks of residential full time education and two weeks of home study. As the school name suggests this is to sustain the bond with home and family and provides the time and space for students to apply and share the skills and knowledge back on the home farm.

Though the focus is on agriculture and  animal husbandry (with some  agronomy),  the
students  learn  Portuguese, mathematics, geography and  chemistry and the  course concludes with an obligatory internship with an  agricultural company.


The  school opened in 2008  and like other agricultural schools  belongs to the community and though  salaries and some funding is paid by the state, the  college  is always short of resources and looking for partnerships. As a relatively new school it is also working to build its reputation and to increasing student numbers. It is an initiative to support and encourage youngsters to stay and farm in  rural areas.

VinB’s  micro loan scheme is another initiative that contributes to the sustainability of farming in the rural areas around Cristino.  As co-ordinator I am excited to be involved in helping students to prepare business plans for a micro-loan.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Dave and Shelagh

    Thank you Martin for this article factual and not overtly emotional. As a Geography teacher we tend to teach only the broad issues and classic examples. Specific (and sometimes personal) examples are the reality on the ground and help give a much closer grasp of the real processes and issues. I have taught about Rio and the Favelas for over 30 years but its only now that I am retired (and no longer teaching mainstream) do I feel that I could give a full and balanced viewpoint

  2. sandra farmer

    I do so like reading this kind of info. It gives a real insight into the on-the-ground aspects of VinB. Thankyou Martin. Please tell us more about how your day-by-day life impacts on you and the folks you work with!

  3. kathleen jordan

    I think the two weeks in college then two weeks back home to share their newly
    learnt skills and knowledge is a great idea . It is a surprise though that some of
    the MPs in the town only 6km away didn’t know about the college. perhaps the college will get some support now. its good to know the young people are trying to improve
    prospects for themselves and their families.

  4. Joe Howson

    The work of the Agricultural College is ultimately geared towards enabling young people to stay and farm in the rural communities surrounding places like Cristino Castro. Martin -in your experience how many of the young people who have been educated at the college actually stay on the land?

  5. martin

    Re: Dave and Shelagh – You’re right. I’d never imagined the complexion of the reality before I came here. In past I just very briefly learnt about Rio and its problems but the north-east is just “another world”

    Re: Sandra – I will explain more in following posts

    Re: Kathleen – The idea of “alternating” originated in France and other European countries where students of some schools stayed one week at school and other week at home. As the distances in Brazil are bigger, our school applies two-week periods. Actually, I am sure that MPs heard about the school before but they have never visited the college. This type type of school is something new here in southern Piaui so we need to keep raising the awareness.

    Re: Joe – That’s a good question. The school is new so there have only been 30 students graduating so far. Most of them actually started to work for big agricultural companies which came to the region in last few years. Our students were the first local agricultural experts so obviously the companies were interested in them. On one hand it’s great that the school helped them to get good jobs, on the other it’s a pity that one of original ideas of the college has not been fulfilled yet. However, the number of vacancies at companies aren’t unlimited so I believe that many students will return back to their home farms in the future

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