How entrepreneurship is improving livelihoods in rural Brazil

In rural Brazil, entrepreneurship offers a pathway out of poverty. Since 2018, TechnoServe, in partnership with Fundação Vale, has been working with communities in the Brumadinho municipality of Minas Gerais, improving livelihoods by helping people create their own businesses.

Photo credit: TechnoServe

In recent years, Brazil has made significant progress in the fight against poverty. Between 1992 and 2015, extreme poverty decreased from 13% to 4%. But despite this progress, widespread inequality — particularly in rural areas — has made it difficult for entrepreneurs to access basic services, including education and skills training. Without the necessary knowledge and tools, improving livelihoods can be challenging.

Patricia Cristina da Silva, Lenice Alves Celes, and Emília Alves da Silva grew up in the lush rural environs of Brazil’s Brumadinho municipality. Every day, they worked in the fields, and every day, they dreamed of more.

In 2018, TechnoServe and the Vale Foundation partnered to launch the AGIR (Apoio a Geração e Incremento de Renda) program, which works with several communities in the Brumadinho municipality of Minas Gerais, supporting them to strengthen local economies by targeting key sectors for growth and providing entrepreneurship training and support.

Talento do Campo

In 2017, Patricia, Lenice, and Emília decided to act on their dreams by starting an artisanal spice production business: Talento do Campo (Countryside Talent). But in the beginning, they faced many challenges. “We had a lot of difficulty in business management, including finances, marketing, and organization,” Lenice shares. “There were no well-defined functions, and we were very disorganized.”

Today, Talento do Campo is a highly professional family-run business that produces fresh garlic and condiments such as seasoned salt and crushed peppers. But back in 2017, that was not the case.

Photo credit: TechnoServe

Improving Livelihoods Through Entrepreneurship Training and Support

In 2018, the three women heard about the AGIR program and decided to join. There, they received important training that would have a direct impact on their business, including the following knowledge:

  1. Good manufacturing practices and standard operating protocols: The Talento do Campo founders learned the correct way to clean raw materials and the work environment. Included in this module was the use of personal protective equipment.

  2. Soil improvements: With the TechnoServe team’s support, the Talento do Campo women performed a soil analysis on their garlic fields. Using this information, they improved their soil quality by applying limestone and macro-nutrients. The group also learned how to control the level of humidity in the soil by applying plant remains, which reduce the growth of weeds, saving time and money.

  3. Irrigation control: TechnoServe taught the group different ways to improve irrigation on the farm, such as when to water the crops for maximum water retention.

  4. Organic fertilization: The entrepreneurs were also trained in how to maximize soil fertility by adding organic matter, such as cow manure, to fields in a proportion suitable for garlic cultivation.

The three founders also learned essential business skills.

“After we received the training from TechnoServe, we were able to register and analyze our cash flow and understand the business’s costs and expenses. Moreover, today, we have greater autonomy in negotiating with the market due to the experiences that we have gone through. Currently, we plant [our garlic] with concrete knowledge of the quantity and quality.”

— Patricia Cristina da Silva

Since joining the program, Talento do Campo has increased its profits by 232%. The group has also expanded its garlic cultivation area by 56% and has increased its yields by over 13% since 2019.

Photo credit: TechnoServe

A New Partnership Strengthens Business and Improves Livelihoods

However, perhaps one of the most exciting developments for Patricia, Lenice, and Emília has been the new partnership they recently signed with the supermarket chain Carrefour. The agreement was part of an initiative to strengthen small businesses in the area through partnerships with large supermarket chains.

TechnoServe helped Talento do Campo analyze and interpret the contract, develop barcodes and QR codes, analyze best delivery routes, evaluate supply and demand, and develop a brand identity. This partnership is strategic for the group and paves the way for the brand’s consolidation in the condiment market. “I’m proud of having managed to supply a large network of supermarkets like Carrefour,” says Lenice.

Patricia, Lenice, and Emília plan to continue investing in their business. They hired two people to help on the farm and hired a sales representative to distribute their products. “We’ve been able to purchase equipment for the business and pay for the necessary maintenance,” Patricia says. “But the main benefit was the knowledge we acquired. My dream is to finish my degree in business administration and expand the business.”

This article was originally published by TechnoServe.