Agroecology is changing people’s lives in a poor region of Minas Gerais’s capital city 

Initiative combats food insecurity through a collective and sustainable approach 

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | Belo Horizonte (MG) |
Cevae Serra Verde, in the Venda Nova region, has over 20,000 square meters and is open to people living in neighboring communities.  - Foto: flickr/ CMBH

Belo Horizonte, the capital city of Minas Gerais state, has five Agroecological Experience Centers (Cevae, in Portuguese), which are managed by Belo Horizonte City Hall and aim at contributing to the development of the communities where they are located through a collective and sustainable approach. 

Among Cevae’s main guidelines, are environmental education practices, improving residents’ food, putting people at the center of decision-making processes, generating income and preserving the environment. 

The centers can be found in some of the city’s poor neighborhoods: Taquaril, Serra Verde, Morro das Pedras, Coqueiros and Capitan Eduardo, where food insecurity rates are high. 

Cevae Serra Verde, located in the Venda Nova region, has over 20,000 square meters. Its facilities can be used by anyone from neighboring communities. Fábio Silveira Cruz, the center’s manager, explains the place was created in 1996 to support the population living from family farming. 

Currently, it has 20 families registered, who can use the area from Monday to Friday (7 a.m.-5 p.m.) for growing food. 

“We observed that the population increased without areas to plant, both for themselves or to sell. That’s one of the uses for Cevae in Belo Horizonte. Farmers are registered and can start their vegetable gardens here. They do their activities here, planting vegetables and fruits,” he says.

To Fábio, the centers are an opportunity for big cities to have some contact with healthy food. 

“In the big cities, one almost doesn’t see vegetables consumption. We are in Belo Horizonte, where there is almost no place to start a vegetable garden. Today, there are only buildings and closed houses,” he said. 

Maria Neves, 76, is one of the producers who use the area to grow food. She has gone to Cevae Serra Verde since its beginning. She explains that the place is where she grows many vegetables.

“It’s great. Everybody here is nice, and I have no complaints about all the years I have been here. I grow my plants, such as kale, almeirão (a king of chicory), beets and okra. I plant whatever I manage to.”

The region where Cevae Serra Verde is located has a population whose vast majority comes from rural areas. Therefore, they have a deep relationship with the land.

Júlia Costa, the center’s coordinator, explains that this characteristic, coupled with the residents’ low income, makes Cevae a place even more necessary for the communities. 

She says that, apart from presenting a healthy life through food, the place also presents a set of workshops and has partnerships with the Health Center of the region.

“Here, we develop some projects. One of them aims at agroecology and compost production. Also, we work with a group of women combining medicinal plants and natural gynecology. We also have weekly activities for the elderly in partnership with the Health Center. And there is also Art of Health, which is aimed at children in the neighborhood,” she said.

Cevae Serra Verde is located in Sebastião Gomes Pereira Street, 140, Serra Verde neighborhood.

Edited by: Larissa Costa