Both CEN and Program Participants Learn A Lot

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Table produced by Alison Camilo

We’re pleased to announce that the cCLEAR Proof of Concept Project in Suruacá, the first community with which CEN began working in May 2008, has been completed. As a result of the project, the eight participants in Suruacá gained critical basic skills they will need to become successful and independent entrepreneurs, and CEN learned many valuable lessons which will be key for replicating and expanding the program.

Unfortunately, due to the departure of our field manager, Marcos Abreu, in July, we have been forced to postpone the continuation of the project in the communities on the east bank of the Tapajós River, Jamaraquá and Maguary, until we can hire a replacement.

During the 14-month project, CEN faced numerous hurdles in 2009 resulting from the complex nature of managing economic development projects like this from thousands of miles away and with very limited resources. Hurdles included a complete failure of telecommunication with our field staff for many weeks, as well as the result of the risks of partnering with a tiny local partner, Link Social, which excelled in methodology but had very limited capacity for managing projects.

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Magarete Lima sells bread from her bakery to a customer. 

Due to the hard work and perseverance of our field and headquarters staff, CEN successfully achieved most of the project’s key objectives.

 

Project Achievements

Despite delays and implementation challenges, most project participants made terrific progress in improving basic skills such as problem solving and critical thinking, as well as achieving a marked growth in their acceptance that they can solve many problems they face without relying exclusively on others. Most participants accomplished, and even exceeded, the personal objectives they set from their participation in the project. Here are just a few examples:

  • Regina Souza, one of our participants who had the fewest resources, learned how to sew and has started earning much-needed income from selling articles of clothing. She’s also realizing a strong sense of accomplishment from her participation in the project.
  • Couro Ecológico is rebuilding. Association members are more engaged, at least partially due to realizing some income from the increased sales of their purses. They have developed several new purses that are more authentic to their roots and have abandoned the models with cheap zippers and Velcro that they were producing over the past couple of years, which were a large factor in causing them to lose most of their foreign customers. They are also noticeably better organized.
  • Magarete Lima is earning more profits from her bakery because she is now producing only what there is a demand for and not “eating” all her profits by making a lot and having her family consume the leftovers day after day. She also relies less on her husband (an early CEN participant), Djalma Lima, for planning and direction, and she has shown improved critical thinking and ability to solve problems for herself.

For more information about each participant, please visit the participant profiles.

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Luciene Sousa dos Santos shows off some of the clothing she made.

Future Plans

With the Proof of Concept completed in Suruacá, we have the data we need to complete a handbook about our experiences with the project and how to implement our methodologies. We believe this handbook will be a crucial tool for the expansion and replication of the project by CEN and other organizations, as well as important in our efforts to secure funding for the second phase of cCLEAR. The second phase will involve working with the initial participants and others to apply the skills they’ve learned through Phase 1 for larger individual and community-led income-generation initiatives. We hope to complete a draft of this handbook by early 2010.

While we don’t currently anticipate beginning the second phase of cCLEAR until the end of 2010, since it will likely take at least that long to secure funding once we complete the handbook, we will remain active in the region through the year.

Ecotourism — We are hosting an ecotour to the communities of Jamaraquá and Maguary, which will take place from March 19 to March 30, 2010. This trip will offer an intimate group of 10 to 15 visitors the rare opportunity to experience and participate in the unique lifestyle of communities in this region, while also witnessing CEN’s work. 

Expand Product Sales by Suruacá Participants — One key challenge experienced by all of the participants from Suruacá was the extremely weak market available to them within the community. Prior to his departure, Marcos Abreu began mentoring the Suruacá participants to set up a stand to sell products from their activities in the nearby city of Santarém. This activity is very important because it will enable participants to realize additional tangible results from their effort. It will also offer them the opportunity to put many of the skills they’ve learned to use. We expect to have more details about this activity in our next eNewsletter, scheduled for January 2010.

Couro Ecológico — For the past year, CEN has been coaching this worker-owned association and its director, Ney Feitosa, to improve operations and, in particular, marketing. Since the beginning of the project, production has increased, worker morale has improved and sales have increased; however, there’s still a lot more work to be done. Since Marcos’ departure in July, we’ve had to suspend our work with the association; however, we hope to find someone local by March to coordinate orders of purses so that we can at least help maintain and expand sales levels. We are also pursuing a project grant to allow us to resume our capacity-building work with the association as soon as possible.

CEN still has an inventory of purses available for sale on our store. Your purchase helps support this important entrepreneurial role model as well as CEN’s operations. Please visit our store.

We are proud of the program participants' accomplishments and look forward to building on our work in 2010 and beyond.