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Posted by on in General

sala-de-computadores-1One of CEN’s main goals is to end dependency and create self-sufficient communities. CEN helps people to develop not only the tools to be a successful business owner but the mind-set as well. Communities that are able to rely on their own innovation and adaptability will thrive and less prone to economic downturns. This is why CEN works to create entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs are problem-solvers firstly. They are the ones working to make a society better by solving everyday problems. Thus an entrepreneurial workforce is crucial to sustain economic welfare and the evidence is abundant. A country of entrepreneurs does not wait for an economy to bounce back. They do not wait for more jobs to be created. Entrepreneurs innovate when times are hard and they create their own jobs and income through their own companies. A country of entrepreneurs do not wait for things to get better, they are the ones proactively changing life for the better. The self-sufficiency and proactive attitude are incredibly important attributes for a strong society to possess and is what CEN tries to instill.

America is a good example of a highly entrepreneurial country. America’s entrepreneurial spirit and small business are often cited as the backbone of America’s economic strength. No matter how bad and dim an economy seems, America is always expected to rebound precisely because its citizens are so entrepreneurial. Companies such as Microsoft, GE, HP, FedEx and Wikipedia were all created during recessions. But being entrepreneurial is not mutually exclusive to America. Brazilians have just as much ability as Americans. CEN helps to foster the entrepreneurial minds that every Brazilian has.

Stopping urban overcrowding is one significant benefit of entrepreneurial people. People in villages that have the entrepreneur mind-set are more likely to contribute their energy and talents toward making their local communities economically vibrant. The people CEN works with are self-sufficient and do not depend on jobs that the big cities are more likely to have. CEN wants smaller communities to become independent so that they are not looking outward for opportunities but looking inward to recognize their own community’s benefits.

CEN hopes that by building a more entrepreneurial culture in Brazil the citizens will be less dependent on others. A more entrepreneurial Brazil will be less dependent on foreign aid, jobs in big cities and money that tourists bring. Citizens will start to utilize their natural abilities in productive ways that create sustainable communities and create economic wealth not in a few centralized large cities, but disperse the wealth across all regions of Brazil.

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Posted by on in News

Both CEN and Program Participants Learn Alot

Table produced by Alison Camilo

Dated: 15 October 2009

We’re pleased to announce that the cCLEAR Phase 1 pilot in Suruacá, the first community with which CEN began in May 2008 has been completed. As result of the pilot project, the eight participants in Suruaca 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 pilot in the communities on the east bank of the Tapajos River, Jamaraquá and Maguary, until we can hire a replacement.

During the 14 month pilot, 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 contact 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 on methodology but had very limited capacity for managing projects.

Magarete Lima sells bread to a customer from her bakery

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 the delays and implementation challenges, most project participants made terrific progress 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 pilot. 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 clothing articles. She’s also realizing a strong sense of accomplishment from her participation in the project.
  • Couro Ecologico is rebuilding. Association members are more engaged, at least partially due to realizing some income from the increased sales of their purses. They’ve 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 was a large factor in them losing most 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 has showed improved critical thinking and ability to solve problems for herself.

For more information about each participant, please visit participant profiles;

Luciene Souza shows off some of the clothing she made

Future Plans

With the pilot 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 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 work 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 that long to secure funding once we complete the handbook, we will keep active in the region through the year:

Ecotourism – We are hosting an ecotour to the communities of Jamaraquá and Maguary March 19-30. 2010. This trip will offer an intimate group of 10-15 visitors the rare opportunity to experience and participate in the unique lifestyle of communities in this region, while also witnessing CEN’s work.  For more information, please visit here.

Expand Product Sales by Suruacá Participants – One key challenge experienced by all 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, Nei Feitosa to improve operations and in particular marketing. Since the beginning of the pilot, 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 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 accomplishments of the program participants and look forward to building on our work in 2010 and beyond.

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(Translated from Portuguese)

igarape_near_jamaraqua_webParadise. This is the word most people use to describe the view that graces the shores alongside the Tapajós River. This is also the concept that attracts tourists from all over the world to visit Amazon each year to experience how people live within the world's largest forest.

Often times, curiosity wins over cautiousness, and tourists go by themselves to explore the forest and its inhabitants. We call them the backpackers. They come allured by the forest's culture, the possibility of watching and learning from the people of the region, call caboclos.

They soon find out that not only the forest view changes as you explore, but also the culture within it. There are many cultures within Amazon and many stories to learn and discover. They are so close and yet so different that it can leave you in bewilderment. The same heritage doesn't always mean the same experience.

For the communities, tourism is more than just making a living, but also a great way to make friends. Friends, with memories they will cherish for many years.

When we started to implement cCLEAR and became more familiar with the participants' way of life, we realized that  contact with visitors would enhance  their lives. For them, tourism is more than just making a living, but also a great way to make friends. Friends, with memories they will cherish for many years.

Tourism brings a world that is near, and at the same time far away from their reality. On one hand, they have access to information from around the globe, and on the other, they are geographically isolated and have to face the changes that progress brings to their doorstep.

The exchange of information and culture is precious to the communities and they treasure that experience as much as they treasure education. In their simple words, they are wise enough to recognize that knowing people from other places is a powerful tool. CEN's ecotour Unveiling the Amazon aims to be that tool, within cCLEAR project.

With the Unveiling the Amazon program we want to create a unique opportunity for visitors and for members of the community to teach and learn together, by participating in their daily routine. Visitors will be able to glimpse what it is like to live and to work within a river community. How nature sets the pace on their way of life and how that is being changed by the contemporary changes Amazon is facing.

The community members, on the other hand, will have the chance to see their life under a different perspective, putting themselves as the guides through the process. Moreover, they will have the opportunity to see the similarities and differences that makes their culture worth preserving.

More than a cultural exchange program, Unveiling the Amazon is meant to be a powerful and dynamic tool to develop awareness for both sides of this exchange.  You will be able to experience the unique and self-reliant culture the jungle has been housing for centuries, whereas they will realize that this dialog enriches their culture, preserving it for more centuries to come.

If this experience appeals to you, get in touch with CEN and join us on this unique experience. It will be a pleasure to meet you in person here in the Amazon.

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soybean-boat-loading-up-5One of our supporters just sent me this interesting article in the New York Times by Elisabeth Rosenthal about how the environmental groups are offering farmers money to refrain from cutting down the rain forest. By Degrees:  In Brazil, Paying Farmers to Let the Trees Stand.

While I haven't yet heard about similar offers in the area where we work near Santarem, huge swaths of land there have been cleared, primarily for soy farming. Right in front of our previous Field Manager, Angela Viehmayer's apartment was the Cargill Soybean Terminal (see the picture) where huge grain ships were loaded with tons of soy from the interior - mostly former rainforest land. What was even more amazing is that a different ship docked about every four days to fill up. That's a lot of soybeans!


The effects are not only environmental; they are social, too. About a year ago I met a gentleman who had lived in a small community in the Plano Alto south of Santarem, where farmers mostly from other parts of Brazil have been buying up land, cutting down trees and planting soybeans. He had been invited by Greenpeace to speak with the Dutch Parliament. He told the Parliament how the land clearing by surrounding farmers forced snakes and other poisenous animals from the surroundings to take refuge in his community, and how many people were bitten by the desperate snakes. Then the farmers (either intentionally or unintentionally) poisened the well water with the pesticides they used, forcing them to leave their land. As result of this testimony, Mc Donalds publically committed to stop buying beef fed with soy from former rainforest, although compliance is nearly impossble to ensure.

While CEN doesn't expressly focus on ending deforestation, we help local communities develop the tools and confidence they need to become effective stewards for their surroundings.It is possible for communities to stand up for their rights against powerful forces. For example, XIxuau was effective at regaining sole fishing rights on the Jauaperi River, They were also successful at battling forest special interests and wealthy farmers by securing recognition for the Xixuau-Xiparana Extractive Reserve; Residents of the region will play an increasingly important role in the preservation of the rainforest, since they have the most to lose in the short-term. In the longer term - we all do!

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I think this is a totally cool way to end rural poverty.  Instead of feeding someone, we are teaching this community how to feed everyone else.
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