The ASA Project, One Million Cisterns – Brazil

Building Citizenry in Brazil’s Semiarid Northeast

Brazil’s Northeast, a semiarid region, home to 22 million inhabitants, spans a surface area of  974.752 square km. Climate change there is leading to a water shortage crisis that could trigger an exodus, as experienced in Africa’s Sahel region. Here however, the Articulação no Semi-Árido Brasileiro (ASA) an umbrella organization for 1,000 groups, has prevented this potential humanitarian disaster..

Considering it to be a megaproject that would ruin a river for the profit of large landowners in the agro-food business, ASA has been fighting against the São Francisco  River water transfer. Yet at the same time, by basing itself on the recognition of drinking water as a human right, the ASA is promoting the One Million Cisterns Project to ensure quality water for five million people.

More than 377,000 of these cisterns have already been built in more than one thousand municipalities and over 1,885,000 people have been trained in water management based on the rainwater harvesting system that ensures they will have the water they need.

This example proves that the key often does not lie in expensive and unsustainable mega-infrastructure, but rather in developing simple, wise technology with a proper strategy and citizen participation.

Text by Pedro Arrojo Agudo

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