Employees from Alcoa’s Itapissuma location plant a community vegetable garden.
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An H2O Circuit event in the Muruaí community near São Luís engages local citizens.
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Brazil - 2013
Mobilizing Citizens to Create Sustainable Societies in Brazil
From teaching children how to create an organic garden to training approximately 300 volunteer environmental agents, Instituto Alcoa's Community Environmental Education Program (ECOA) is mobilizing the citizens of 15 Brazilian communities to take responsibility for creating a sustainable society.
Instituto Alcoa created the ECOA program in partnership with the Integrated Center for Sustainable Development Studies and Programs following an in-depth analysis of the 52 Brazilian municipalities located near one of Alcoa’s 10 locations in the country. The analysis identified a common threat to water resources due to improper waste disposal and the lack of basic sanitation in the communities surveyed. There was also a gap in environmental awareness and action in the communities, where local governments typically have limited human and capital resources.
The ECOA program is coordinated at the local level through 10 Sustainability Centers that reach 15 municipalities in nine Brazilian states. While full-time staff members at each center provide training and guidance, the drivers of the program are volunteer environmental agents. These volunteers attend 14 weeks of training on a variety of topics, including community and environmental education, sanitation, solid waste, and biodiversity.
Following completion of their training, the environmental agents are responsible for identifying their community’s environmental issues and opportunities for improvement and creating an action plan. In 2012, the first year of the program, approximately 300 local volunteers were certified as environmental agents.
In addition to training the agents, the Sustainability Centers carried out almost 200 location-specific activities, including educational activities, environmental workshops, training courses, and themed events, that engaged around 24,000 people and some 160 organizations in 2012. Examples of the various activities include:
- The cleaning and restoring of public areas and the planting of native trees and community vegetable gardens;
- Workshops on solid waste, seedlings and organic gardens, and conscientious consumption;
- Courses on educational communications, ecological jewelry making, and food resourcefulness;
- Community events marking World Water Day and World Environment Day, including the “H2O” caravan that toured 14 communities near São Luís and mobilized more than 600 people.
“The way in which ECOA has been operating is very important for sustainable development and for society,” said Adélio Spanholi, mayor of Piratuba. “The program exercises the concept of sustainability in its entirety, from the environmental to the social and cultural issues, and contributes to municipal development. It was a pleasant surprise and a successful project.”