Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2007
Instituto Sertão Vivo


This profile was prepared when Carlos Antonio Chaves Simão was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Carlos has introduced a new technology to improve the water supply in the semiarid regions of Brazil most affected by drought. In contrast to the deep wells the government typically digs, shallow tube wells are less expensive, easier to build, and more efficient at producing water. Most importantly, they do not tap into the high-salinity, unusable water found at greater depths. Although shallow tube wells are common in Brazil’s coastal regions, Carlos was the first to adapt the technology and bring it to inland semiarid regions. Since 1999, he has constructed almost 4,000 wells with the participation of local communities.
Carlos realized that new well technologies are useless if they aren’t accompanied by community-based management, participation, and ownership. He believes local residents themselves need to dig and maintain the wells in order to benefit from them. Participating in the process of obtaining water in arid regions transforms a community’s perception of what it can achieve. His Irrigated Family Agriculture program supports well construction by providing access to loans, technical production aid, and assistance in selling the crops made possible by new irrigation systems.
Local governments have historically controlled the water systems in Brazil’s semiarid regions, so Carlos has established partnerships with the government that will allow his system to proliferate. He is working to develop public policy that will guarantee access to water in drought-affected regions.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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