In the rural zone of the semi-arid region of Paraiba, the union of farmers, teachers, students, and technicians for the implementation of rural sanitation is beginning a transformation in the municipality of Princesa Isabel, about 420 kilometers away from the state's capital, João Pessoa.
Selected for the 8th World Water Forum's Solutions Market, the project “Dissemination of Social Technologies for Rural Sanitation in Princesa Isabel and Surrounding Cities” currently covers 14 rural communities and quilombolas (African slave descendants communities) in the semiarid region, involving more than 150 people engaged in learning and applying social technologies to improve sanitation in these communities, protecting water sources and promoting the population's health.
According to estimates by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the municipality has approximately 23.5 thousand inhabitants. The last demographic census showed that the rural territory occupies 98% of the total of the municipality, with 31% of the population living in rural communities. The distances between the communities and nearby cities varies from 10 to 35 km, and in a region with irregular relief and difficult to access. Located in the Eastern Atlantic River Basin, the municipality has one of the lowest Human Development Indices (HDI) of Paraíba, and is also among the lowest levels of environmental sanitation and water security, according to a publication by Brazil's National Waters Agency (ANA).
To face the harsh reality of lack of basic sanitation, the communities of family farmers and quilombolas were in search of support and found it in the Federal Institute of Paraíba (IFB-PB, Campus Princesa Isabel) an ally in the provision of courses of initial and continuing training for family farmers with a focus on the environment and sustainable rural development. The establishment of an extension project to find solutions to local challenges was a natural consequence of this union.
“The project does not provide ready-made packages. It is based on the relationship with the communities that needs and demands are identified, and we mobilized ourselves to serve them. For us, the setoff is the exchange of traditional knowledge, sharing of knowledge, and promotion of more in-depth environmental education”, explains Artur Lourenço, Responsible: Artur Moises Gonçalves Lourenço, Research Extension, and Innovation Coordinator of IFPB's Campus Princesa Isabel and of the project.
For IFPB's students who attended the extension course, the project makes it possible to put into practice what is seen in the classroom. “A motivation is that the community knows of their difficulties and are interested in changing the situation. This experience made me realize that not every problem requires a conventional solution. The solution can be simple and feasible, and anyone can put into practice," says student Cirleide Gomes.
Run by the members of the Centre Advisory Community Technologies, Social Utilities (CACTUS), in partnership with the non-governmental organization Training Center Agrocomunitário (CCA) and the Company of Technical Assistance and Rural Extension (EMATER-PB), the project conducts conversation groups, field days, workshops on the treatment of domestic sewage, production of manuals and models, as well as 3D modeling technologies with the aim of systematizing the technology and register the adaptations performed in conjunction with the communities, as well as installation of demonstration units. Upon the request of the communities, the actions are always carried out on Sundays since during the week the villagers are busy in the plantations.
The project will continue in 2018, and the goal is to mobilize the local public authorities to extend the access to basic sanitation to all households in the rural area. With the participation in the 8th World Water Forum, the hope is to find national and international partnerships to enable the implementation of eco-friendly septic tanks in the entire rural zone of the municipality. “In the Forum, we will draw attention to the need for actions aimed at sanitation in rural areas, and strengthen to built community-based approaches ,” says Artur Lourenço.
A land of poets, troubadours and the famous guitarist Canhoto da Paraíba, the city - which in the 1930s staged a revolt that temporarily created the independent territory of Princesa, now puts in motion a new movement to ensure basic rights: access to rural domestic sanitation.