L o a d i n g . . .

09/05/2024

With representatives from the states of the Semiarid region and partners, ASA advances in the construction of an innovative program on rural sanitation.

Article published on the website of the Regional Institute of Appropriate Small Agriculture.

“Treating water and then reusing it, irrigating crops in the backyard. Whether for human consumption [fruit trees], or for fodder for animals. This is agroecological production, the result of rural sanitation.”

This excerpt from a poem by the artist and family farmer Dedé Sabino, from São Miguel (RN), highlights the importance of domestic wastewater treatment technologies with agricultural water reuse and emphasizes the mission of the Brazilian Semiarid Articulation (ASA) in building a Rural Sanitation Program that can contribute to the development and implementation of public policies.

Dedé presented these verses during a cultural experience in the Retiro Community, located high in the Serra do Camará, municipality of São Miguel/RN. The moment was part of the agenda of the Rural Sanitation and Water Reuse Seminar, organized by ASA on April 11 and 12, in Pau dos Ferros (RN), in the Alto Oeste Potiguar region.

The first day of the event began with the testimony of two peasant women who live in the Pau dos Ferros region, with accounts of the transformation that occurred in their lives following the implementation of water reuse. These testimonies marked an important point highlighted during the seminar: the role of women in the use of social technologies.

Soon after, there was a panel discussion summarizing all previous discussions in activities promoted by ASA’s Rural Sanitation Working Group, with the participation of various partner entities. In addition to reviewing the discussions, the importance of drafting the program and the challenges it presents were also shared.

The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), one of the institutions that contributed to the constructions, was represented at the panel by Alexandre Pessoa. Among the highlights of his speech, Alexandre emphasized the need for institutionalization of the National Rural Sanitation Program (PNSR) and that Fiocruz issued a technical note on the subject. The document, among other topics, recommends the “immediate institutionalization of the PNSR to ensure the effectiveness of sanitation interventions in rural areas and promote significant restructuring in the rural sanitation sector of the country and the corresponding institutions. Therefore, it is urgent to establish the management forum and the executive forum of the PNSR.”

In this regard, Alexandre called on ASA organizations and other entities to join in this demand and strengthen the claim. He also emphasized the need for “unity of the academy with social movements, demanding the institutionalization of the program.” “It is the responsibility of the federal government to institutionalize it, to decentralize it from top to bottom. It has to reach the territory, it has to reach the states and municipalities,” he pointed out.

Additionally, the researcher commented on the urgency of this issue, considering the climate emergency and the country’s political landscape, which has a budget but needs institutionalization. However, processes must take into account the accumulated knowledge of the entities.

“In my opinion, Rural Sanitation for the populations of the countryside, forest, and waters will only be implemented, to start concretely in these four years, if the movement from above [government] joins with the movement from below [the grassroots, organized civil society] and these two forces come together, then the Rural Sanitation Program advances, water reuse advances. And then, [the projects that are carried out] must recognize the effort, knowledge, and wisdom that have already been made by the various entities that make up ASA,” highlighted the Fiocruz member.

Still on the first day, in the afternoon, during the visit to the Retiro community, rural area of São Miguel, just over 50 km from Pau dos Ferros, the participants of the Seminar visited the productive area of the family of Francineide Gonçalves and Luiz Gonçalves, who have, for example, a water reuse technology, biodigester, first and second water cisterns, and solar dryer. This activity demonstrated the importance of integrating public policies and social technologies.

The family, assisted by the Support Service for Alternative Community Projects (Seapac), emphasized that social technologies have changed their lives, allowing the enhancement of production with reused water, from a “Decant-digester” that has a filter that performs anaerobic treatment of gray water. “Before this system, it was impossible to stay here in my backyard, the bad smell and the insects that were in the sewage, here at the door of the house, bothered my family. Not anymore, that sewage turned into water. Now I can produce food for my family and still sell,” emphasized Mr. Luiz.

One of the results, besides the environmental and disease prevention aspects, was a significant increase in forage and fruit production. Just from cherries, around 800 kilos are harvested per harvest, which occurs four times a year. In addition, the other social technologies provide the peasant family with a guarantee of water and food security.

During the visit, the ways of using and maintaining the reuse system were explained. The diversity of the productive backyard was also presented, which includes: cherries, bananas, passion fruit, palm trees, margaridão, and gliricidia. “Before, I didn’t have any fruit. For two years now, I’ve had this reuse system, and I don’t buy any fruit anymore. I have everything here because when there’s no fruit, I have the pulp,” added Luiz, excited about the transformation. Another 33 families, in six municipalities in the region, have the same technology and also receive assistance from Seapac.

The moment in the Retiro community ended under a cashew tree, which “embraced” the participants, with a snack produced with ingredients grown in the family’s backyard and using biogas generated by the biodigester. Early in the evening, there was a peasant dinner, with the rhythm of forró music and poems produced by other families from nearby communities.

Construction of the Rural Sanitation Program

For 25 years, ASA has been discussing and working on Coexistence with the Semiarid actions, and one of its central themes is the right to water and water security. Understanding that this process cannot be disconnected from discussions on rural sanitation, in recent years the network has been collectively building with partner institutions a Rural Sanitation Program. In this sense, the agenda of the last day was dedicated to drafting the initial text of this document.

The coordination advisor of ASA’s P1+2 program, Giovanne Xenofonte, who assumed the rapporteurship of the Sanitation WG in this specific construction, highlighted that the Seminar allowed for “adjustments throughout the document that composes the program.” “The organizations that make up ASA, much earlier, held seminars and events. So, all of this leads us today to present to ASA’s executive committee a proposal,” he explained.

The document was collectively elaborated by the WG, based on discussions and consensus built in various moments, through state and national seminars, and was concluded with the contributions of debates in the latest technical-scientific workshops. The components follow the model of the Cisterns Program, with seven topics ranging from criteria for family selection to training work and characteristics of the indicated technologies.

Among the details of the topics that needed adjustments and that were defined are, for example, families with per capita income from CadÚnico and training by modules before, during, and after the implementation of water reuse technologies.

“We structured the program with the ideas, thoughts, and various facets that encompass what we understand as sanitation. It’s not just basic sanitation because it’s very comprehensive. So, we say it’s ecological, environmental sanitation that promotes life, that includes, that protects nature as a whole,” pointed out Giovanne.

In addition to this understanding, the member of the territorial coordination of the sertão, from the Sabiá Center and also a member of ASA’s Sanitation WG, Rivaneide Almeida, emphasized that it is not just “sanitation for sanitation.” “We think of other perspectives that are related to these technologies, such as discussing fair division of domestic work, this issue of thinking about the role of women and how we will progress in this debate on a better distribution of domestic work in families,” she highlighted.

Considering the next steps, which will be the appreciation of ASA’s Executive Coordination and presentation at the X National Meeting of ASA (Enconasa), Riva, as she is known, also highlighted that “this seminar, of course, is not conclusive, it is important, a historic moment. But this construction will continue, it is not enclosed in a box, and I think that this participation of all states in the Semiarid, this diversity of organizations is very important to ensure the richness of this debate.”

At various times during the event, one point was highlighted in many interventions: the defense that rural sanitation, with domestic wastewater treatment and water reuse for fruit and fodder irrigation, thus ensuring food production, is a path of no return and is essential to provide even more dignified life to the people of the Semiarid.

“This is a dimension that complements and adds to all the processes that have been thought out by organizations that have action in the Semiarid. It adds to the first water, which is drinking and cooking water, it adds to production water, and we need to think about using water and returning it to nature cleaner, and not just returning it cleaner, but producing food from the use of that water,” concluded Riva.

The activities took place in the auditorium of the Campus of the State University of Rio Grande do Norte (UERN). In total, 54 people, members of 40 organizations from the ten states of the Semiarid, participated. The event was organized by the entity Seapac and supported by Word-Transforming Technologies (WTT), Fiocruz, Federal Rural University of Pernambuco (UFRPE), and the National Semi-Arid Institute (Insa).

Text: Education and Communication Axis of Irpaa, Caio Barbosa/SECOM-SEAPAC and ASACom

Photos: Education and Communication Axis of Irpaa