The dream of living in the rural area and sharing information and knowledge led biologist Alessandra Lopes Calvão to move to Extrema, Minas Gerais (Brazil), to begin to change the life of the village’s dwellers by holding workshops about caring for the environment, which resulted in the implementation of low-cost rural sanitation. This action is one of the 60 experiences selected for the Solutions Market at the Citizen Village during the 8th World Water Forum.
The traditional rural village is located in Congonhas do Norte, Minas Gerais (Brazil), has about 200 inhabitants, and is 1,700 m above sea level, in Espinhaço Range, a water divider of river basins. Full of canyons, water springs and water falls, the Espinhaço Range is recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve.
At the community of family farmers, the abundant access to water also brings the responsibility to care for pollution and domestic waste. Seeking alternatives to replace traditional cesspools that contaminated water has become one of the priorities of the “New alternatives to old issues” project.
Alessandra Calvão, responsible for this project and the person who envisioned and founded the Counterpoint Educational Space, says that in 2009 she built in her house the first evapotranspiration bed reusing tires and construction waste. “In the beginning, the locals were a little skeptical, but with the workshops we held, they slowly started to adopt the permaculture technique to treat domestic waste,” she states.
Currently, of the 50 houses in Extrema, 34 already have the evapotranspiration bed to treat their domestic waste, built by the project, with the support from Extrema’s Community Association of Farmers (Acare), and labor force of the families involved, always reusing discarded materials.
The evapotranspiration bed technique is recognized by the Brazilian Health Foundation (Funasa) of the Ministry of Health. In partnership with Congonhas do Norte’s local government, the project will enable to provide this service to all houses in Extrema and to extend the benefits to families in a district nearby. “The ecologically correct and low-cost domestic sanitation is slowly becoming a public policy in our city,” points out Alessandra.
The “New alternatives for old issues” project has also brought other changes. The reuse of tires led to a search for the discarded product, which is now “ordered” in other places in Congonhas do Norte. Additionally, the inhabitants of Extrema who have been trained in the workshops are being invited to give lectures and replicate the techniques at the University of Diamantina, which has become a new source of income.
“Our job is to share simple solutions with the communities’ members. Together we will make Extrema an ecovillage and, who knows, even consolidate the ecotourism here,” concludes Alessandra.