publicado: 06/03/2020 00h00, última modificação: 03/04/2020 14h27
Training develops business




Marcia Demensthuk 


It was an atypical day in the hinterland of Paraíba. On the balcony of the house, in Sítio São João, rural area of Pombal, one could hear the drums from the sky. About 20 people were eyewitnesses to the story of Maria da Paz do Nascimento dos Santos e Silva, Dapaz, the woman who led 16 families from sharecroppers to entrepreneurs. 


Heavier clouds were approaching without expelling the heat. Not even the sun would surrender. Izabel [Rufino] da Silva Santos was in a little corner of the veranda, more attentive to the movement on the veranda than to the predictions of torrential rain. It was by observing Dapaz and other experiences that Izabel promoted an ancestral turnaround in the community of origin, the Rufino quilombolas. The two stories under the same roof are born on different banks of the Piranhas River, one on the left and one on the right. Both raise the dignity of people destined to remain on the shore - of development, of digital transformation, of opportunities, of self-love. 


Ceramic production is centenary in PB 


Without delay, it rained. Thick drips soaked the land from where the Rufinos extract the clay and stones for the mixture of the ceramic raw material produced by the community since the times of Mãe Quina, Joaquina Maria da Conceição. At the beginning of the 20th century Mother Quina married Antonio Rufino de Jesus and arrived in Pombal. They bought lots of the São João farm, on the banks of the Piranhas River, and had 13 children. Antonio Rufino was the son of Rufina Maria da Conceição, the former domestic slave, freed by the Golden Law of 1888. The branches of the family pass from 80 nuclei today. At Sítio São João there are a little more than 50 families, but the tradition of handicraft was dying. 


Ceramic craftsmanship didn't make any money. Impossible to support the family. Few artisans insisted on shaping the clay - two or three of the older women. Sell where, to whom? "Tell Madre Izabel to go to that little market to sell!", someone ordered. 


Izabel was working as a maid and faced the new challenge. The first time, around 2015, was to sell the pottery of the Rufinos on the Feast [of Our Lady] of the Rosary, traditional in Pombal and with a special meaning in the religious and folkloric tradition of the Rufinos. Some two years later, at a fair, Izabel set up her "exhibition table" near the stand of the "Bolo das Oliveiras" - production of a community bakery led by women from Várzea Comprida dos Oliveiras, near Pombal. "I watched as they worked and heard conversations about Iacoc's support, coordinated by professor Mônica [Mônica Tejo, from UFCG/Pombal], and it sparked my curiosity," said Izabel. About 2017, at one of the fairs in Cajazeiras, a city near Pombal, I had the moment of formation and teacher Mônica presented Iacoc's work model. It was there that I saw that we had everything to grow. All that was left was to seek support", stressed Izabel. 


Women open fruit pulp industry 


Dapaz's story goes through access to land. The large property where the 16 families lived belonged to one family and the generations of residents were sharecroppers: the harvest was shared with the owner of the land. With the death of the owners, the children put the land for sale. The families associated, assisted by the former Emater [Empaer] and used the Land Credit (former Banco da Terra). But no one was able to pay. Years later, with the rural debt settlement program of Banco do Nordeste, they renegotiated so that each family could pay off the debt and become the owner of the land. It was 2006. On the balcony of his house, amidst thunderstorms, Dapaz spoke with property about cooperativism, solidarity economy, strategic planning, market expansion and inclusion: 

"The men worked the land but we women, the young people, we needed to have an income. We decided to make fruit pulp because nobody offered the product in the region. Our idea was to plant the orchard, harvest and produce. Once again Emater helped: we sent an agro-industry project to Cooperar (project for rural development) and we set up our industry, Fonte do Sabor. We did a fruit plantation, but heavy rain came, and the river took the seedlings. We started buying fruit from family farmers in nearby towns. We closed with the National School Feeding Program (PNAE) to sell to municipal and state schools; we installed solar energy... And I did not stop. I studied agronomy and did postgraduate studies". 


Was the conceptual cycle of the local productive arrangement closed? Not yet, the university was missing from business. 


Training develops business 


Professor Mônica Tejo arrived in the hinterland to teach at the Food Engineering School of the Federal University of Campina Grande in Pombal in 2010. She was worried because she didn't know if she would find in the city a lever by which she could raise her dreams of building a society where life would have more quality, more jobs and development. 


During academic activity, he set up a community bakery, an embryo of the Olive Cake industry, led by women. Believing in innovation and entrepreneurship as a solution for regional development, Monica already worked at IACOC, "an agribusiness incubator that aims to provide support to leverage the potential and promote successful ventures in rural areas of the semi-arid region of Paraíba”. 


The incubator took a breath of fresh air when she joined the Paraíba Technological Park in 2014. Monica was the General Executive Coordinator and encouraged the women of Bolo da Oliveiras to go through the incubation process. 


That's where all the stories in this report converge. The experience of the cake entrepreneurs attracted Izabel, of the Rufinos. The quilombola found support with the teacher Mônica Tejo and, for the ceramics, participated in the edict for incubation at Iacoc, in the Technology Park: 


"It was a turnaround. Before the incubation, around 2017, through a partnership between the City of Pombal and Cemar [Centro de Educação Margarida Pereira] we received a visit from an artisan from Maturéia, Maria José, who taught us this new technique that we use today for mixing clay and new techniques for finishing the pieces. But we sold little. Later, Dapaz warned me about the announcement for Iacoc and we went through all the stages; we have been incubating since last year [2019]. We assembled our strategic planning and all the market axes and worked to put them into practice. We are part of Ecosol, a cooperative of the solidarity economy, and through it we issue invoices. We had no basis to set prices, no market vision to grow; as we learned, we saw all this and the most important thing: the mission to rescue the culture of our family. We created the logo; social networks and I can say that our production increased a lot. Today there are 15 artisans, including young people. They all support themselves and even I stopped working in the family home to take care of the pottery". 

The pulp industry has undergone a similar process. According to Dapaz, Fonte de Sabor had a 70% growth in production and sales after incubation. She met Professor Mônica Tejo at UFCG: 

"Today we have a license to produce 16 pulp, we sell, on average, 3 thousand kg of pulp per month; we serve 35 schools in the regions of Pombal and Catolé do Rocha. The 16 families have an income of at least a thousand reais per month. Our activity has inspired the formation of two other pulp industries and, within the cooperative spirit and the solidarity economy, the three unite to meet larger orders. Our goal is to enter retail, in supermarkets".

Commitment to innovation for growth 


This year, Monica Tejo was appointed Director of the National Institute of Semiarid. Because she was preparing for this new stage of life, it was not possible for us to talk. But the results of her dedication speak more than any testimony she could give! 

This report would not be possible without the help of Thiago Batista Rufino, a family scholar who told us about the origin of the Rufinos; Mr. José Tavares, the Boquinha, who knew the sites; Mr. José Renan, an off road driver; Diego Nóbrega, a reporter and photographer; the receptivity of the pigeons; and the State Secretariat of Science and Technology, committed to regional development through technology, innovation and partnerships.