José Roberto Silva


This profile was prepared when José Roberto Silva was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Through the Eco-Engenho Institute, José Roberto questions the widespread assumption of fighting against drought, and bases his work on a new paradigm where it is possible for small rural communities to draw on the potential of semi-arid regions for their socioeconomic development. He has created a model for remote rural zones in the northeast of Brazil which utilizes renewable energies and technologies appropriate for cultivating products of high aggregate value in this climate. He is also developing mechanisms for access to a fair market in which there is solidarity; guaranteeing income for these communities.
With the project H2Sol, José Roberto makes use of the abundant solar energy to amplify access to water and develop irrigation micro-systems which permit agricultural production without wasting water. This technological process is customized to each producer. With the vision that it is necessary to produce in order to generate income and not only subsistence, José Roberto stimulates production valued in the market and through Articulation of Solidarity Trade (AmercSol) supports the entire productive process and commercialization.
To guarantee sustainability, José Roberto encourages both community associative activities, to share expenses and experience, and the creation of social micro-companies by each producer that receive tax exemption (producer and buyer), thus increasing their competitiveness in the consumer market. This transforms the mentality of these communities, accustomed to assistance programs, demonstrating that it is possible to construct a dignified and productive life on rural semi-arid regions.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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