Fellow Since 1988
This profile was prepared when Josephina Bacariça was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1988.
The New Idea
When Josephina Bacarica was starting her teaching career, her first assignment was at a rural school where she soon learned that her students needed much more than reading and writing. They had nothing, she recalls, and their families suffered from isolation and lacked the most basic information.Even then, Bacarica began thinking how education tailored to reality could help country people's day-to-day living conditions. Rather than an education with city biases, she felt country people needed more specific information, for example, on farming methods, health care and forming cooperatives to enhance results of their efforts. Bacarica has long since quit teaching reading and writing to devote her teaching and organizing skills to rural associations, unions and cooperatives. Her long-term goal is to change public policies that provoke the exodus of Brazil's small farmers to swollen metropolitan areas. Her impact in this area is already starting to be seen. For example, an education proposal of hers has been adopted by decree of the State of Sao Paulo Secretary of Education. It provides that rural schools must be located near public transportation and that primary grade teachers are to discuss Brazil's agricultural issues with their students. In addition, the State Secretary of Agriculture endorses a project to intensively plan and foster small farming along certain river basins. However, Josephina says with mobilization from within the community, such government-instigated projects do not gain farmers' confidence and consequently do not succeed. The challenge there is to build the project through community organization.Meanwhile, she is not waiting around for public awareness and public policies to change. That's a very slow process, and the rural poor need faster solutions to keep them from going to the city. Consequently Bacarica is helping organize agricultural schools and community centers to promote cooperative production and marketing, advanced organic farming techniques and regional rural culture.The work has begun in three regions. The pilot community agricultural center at Mogi das Cruzes offers technical assistance to about 1,000 area residents. Here they teach such things such as crop and livestock cultivation and how to gain access to seed banks. Farmers take their goods to greater Sao Paulo markets -- in bags provided through the town government -- to sell directly to consumers, bypassing middleman costs. Bacarica managed this through accords with companies, banks and industry. She's taking the idea to other communities and finding her enthusiasm for it is contagious.