Posts tagged eco lifestyle
Vale Encantado, a tranquil favela located in the heart of the Tijuca Forest, has developed a creative solution to ensure the historic community’s future development in light of limited public investments: residents are working to create a model of sustainability for favelas across Rio and beyond.
Vale Encantado has been a model in sustainability for many years, and their efforts are always expanding. The community grows much of their own food, and has installed solar panels in one home with the hopes of expanding the project throughout the community. The Vale Encantado Cooperative, headed by Otávio Barros, runs an eco-tourism business, taking advantage of their unique location amidst the beautiful scenery of the Tijuca Forest.
In addition to their long-standing sustainable features, Vale Encantado has several new initiatives to further develop their community as a model in living in harmony with the natural environment.
Another initiative is the community’s annual Festival Encantado, a music, food and fashion festival which started in 2012 and this year was headlined by internationally famous Brazilian soul and rap singer Criolo. The festival, which helps raise awareness of Vale Encantado’s initiatives, is decorated with recycled materials and uses collective transportation for guests to arrive at the festival, reducing its carbon footprint.
The community is also developing ways to recycle glass, preventing large quantities of glass from being thrown away by turning “scrap” glass into products such as jewelry and dishware that can be sold. Not only good for the environment, this initiative would also create fair job opportunities for community residents.
Future projects include the construction of a headquarters for the association of residents, with plans to construct the building largely using recycled materials.
For many years, as part of their work to become a sustainable model, Vale Encantado has been working to find a way to improve their sewage system by using eco-friendly techniques. Like many favelas, Vale Encantado lacks a formal sanitation system, which has been cited as one of the community’s most pressing problems. In 2009, the community started looking into implementing a biodigester, which captures the gas generated from sewage and food waste and turns it into usable energy, which would help filter and clean wastewater and sewage before it drains into the nearby Lagoa da Tijuca.
In 2011, with the support of the NGO Instituto Ventura, EcoFocus, an environmental consulting firm, conducted a study looking at ways to address the community’s sanitation needs. Their recommendations also included implementing a biodigestor to naturally deal with sewage and food waste in Vale Encantado.
“My idea was always to have Vale Encantado as a model that could be replicated in other areas or regions,” states Otávio. Although the community has wanted to improve their sewerage system and build a biodigester for several years, lack of financial resources has been the major barrier.
This month, the community received some exciting news about the possibility of implementing a biodigester in Vale Encantado. Solar Cities Solutions, a U.S. NGO focusing on sustainable infrastructure solutions, came to Rio de Janeiro with plans to implement biodigesters in communities in Rio de Janeiro and ideally throughout Brazil.
“I think this initiative will bring more tourists to the Valley, and I will be able to offer the possibility to tourists of swimming in the waterfall in the valley, which is impossible today [given the current amount of untreated sewage draining into the water bodies].”
While the community has an ethical interest in being sustainable, Otávio hopes that serving as a model of sustainability will have the added benefit of combating the threats of removal that have been made against communities in the the Alto de Boa Vista area of the Tijuca Forest for years.
Rarely are rights and obligations emphasized as two sides of the same coin as is systematically done by Associação da Conscientizção dos Direitos e Deveres das Comunidades do Estado no Rio de Janeiro (ACONDEC), an association dedicated to youth inclusion and community development.
Founded by Cristina Costa in 2005, ACONDEC aims to improve the lives of residents in Complexo da Penha through community development. Complexo da Penha, referred to simply as Penha, is located in Rio’s dramatically underserved North Zone. Like many communities in Rio, Penha faces challenges of access, government support and equal opportunity. But, as Cristina puts it, in Penha one of the biggest challenges is that most government support, or social programs, invested in that area of the city are going towards Complexo do Alemão: Penha’s bigger and more infamous neighbor. Alemão was notorious for drug trafficking and therefore has been in the limelight, both locally and internationally, for the past few years. This has brought a Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) to Alemão, along with other investments. But neighboring communities, Penha being a prime example, have been overlooked.
Keeping this in mind, Cristina has made a home for ACONDEC and its various projects in Complexo da Penha. Currently the grassroots organization is working to establish the idea of rights and obligations in the mindset of residents. ACONDEC offers classes in mathematics, health, formal portuguese, and most recently, recycling. Through these Cristina and her organization have empowered community members, not only by educating them about their rights, but also how their actions and responsibilities as citizens can affect and help transform Penha into a cleaner and more sustainable community.
Today ACONDEC is focusing attention on tackling waste. Like most favelas in Rio, trash collection is a recurring and central issue, mainly due to lack of regular government collection services. In Penha however, ACONDEC has taken to the streets with their Caminhada Ecologica, or Eco-walk, and used this project as an initiative to educate residents about the importance of recycling and trash collection. The organization is motivating community members to be more conscious about how they separate their trash and to reduce the quantity overall, as well as use recyclable materials. This new emphasis on sustainability is being taught in a way that emphasizes the obligations residents have, as part of the community of Penha, to care for it and improve it together for future generations.
Cristina notes she already sees change in the community, like young people picking garbage off the street and putting it in the proper container, even when they think no one is looking. This new sense of pride is what ACONDEC hopes to continue building.
With a menu that proudly announces the inclusion of orange peel, watercress stems and pumpkin skin, Sunday’s Favela Orgânica taster event was an exciting introduction to an innovative food project for the favela and beyond.
In the Babilônia resident’s association building in the pacified community overlooking Leme, Regina Tchelly and her team served up a range of gourmet dishes made with ingredients commonly regarded as trash. The full vegetarian feijoada with watercress root farofa, watermelon peel risotto and pumpkin peel dessert may sound like unreasonably experimental cooking but in fact are delicious, satisfying dishes that maximize the nutritious and economical value of the ingredients.
Regina Tchelly founded Favela Orgânica with R$140 out of her home in Babilonia. She explains: “I’m from Paraiba in the Northeast. There we manage to get much more out of the food than in an immense city like Rio where there’s an absurd amount of waste.”
“The idea is that people with low incomes and high incomes alike learn how to use all the food they bring to their homes and produce delicious meals like we’re serving today. It’s low cost, healthier and more economical in the home.”
Regina is a smiley one woman superforce of passion and energy, out of which her vision to help people create new, healthier and more economical food habits has taken form and grown.
With Favela Orgânica she has trained her current team of sixteen women, offering workshops in nutrition, consumption and waste, and gastronomy and the total utilization of foods. She says: “When we say we utilize everything, people make the connection with trash but it’s not trash, it’s food. People throw vitamins away.”
At Sunday’s event, where for just R$10 people could enjoy a full meal of truly tasty and filling dishes, refreshing fresh juices and a richly delicious chocolate and orange peel dessert, there were a lot of fresh converts to the Favela Orgânica way of thinking.
Juliana Beltrame, a carioca diner at the event, says: “I’ve never had a meal with a vegetable peel base before. It was really delicious and I’m going to try to do something like this at home.”
Fellow diner Sebastião Junior from Petrópolis was also impressed, saying: “We should really start to value this type of food.”
Sunday’s event is just the first in a series of monthly taster events with the goal of raising funds to buy machines such as blenders to make the food preparation easier and help Regina achieve the dream of a Favela Orgânica canteen in the community. “My imagination runs wild adapting chic dishes using the whole of the ingredients. When we have the canteen I’ll be able to follow through with all my ideas.”
Although the project is growing, with workshops in Complexo de Alemão and Gávea and providing outside buffet catering, Regina is still unable to devote all her time to Favela Orgânica. She says: “As a maid I earn a lot more than working like this at the moment. I still can’t sustain myself with the project but I want the plans for the future to come to fruition quickly so that I can dedicate myself.”
Smiling broadly she says: “If the project’s like this while I’m still working as a maid, imagine what it’s going to be like in the future.”
View the slideshow of this event and the community: