Adair Meira

Pró-Cerrado Foundation
Year founded: 

Fundação Pró-Cerrado is a pioneer in the struggle against poverty in Brazil, focusing its activities on promoting youth development through environmental education and income-generating initiatives.

Focus: Children and Youth, Environment, Rural Development
Geographic Area of Impact: Brazil
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 17,500 (2009)
Annual Budget: US$ 60 million (2010)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 80%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Brazil, 2001

Youth from vulnerable sectors of society are likely to be involved in violence, delinquency, drugs, prostitution and other social risks. The main reasons are the lack of income and ineffectiveness of public schools to maintain quality education and retain students in the classrooms. During its first years of existence Fundação Pró-Cerrado focused on delivering environmental education programmes to high school students. The experience with this target group led the organization to develop its apprenticeship programme, Jovem Cidadao (Young Citizen), which offers vocational training for disadvantaged youth and prepares them for the formal labour market.

Innovation and Activities
Fundação Pró-Cerrado tackles both unemployment and the destruction of Brazil’s environment by turning unemployed youth (ages 14 to 21) into paid environmental activists. The youth, all of whom must attend school regularly, study environmental preservation and acquire vocational skills like basic administration, mailroom work and computer skills. They are then placed in paid internships with local industries and government where they earn supplemental incomes. After a two-year intensive training programme, many of the apprentices are contracted as staff.

Since 1994 Fundação Pró-Cerrado has placed over 30,000 young people (4,538 in 2009) in the labour market, benefiting over 100,000 people by contributing to their household income. More than introducing youth to the labour market and giving them initial job experience that increases their market competitiveness, Fundação Pró-Cerrado focuses on educating them to be good citizens by teaching them sustainable environmental practices. The aim is to break the vicious cycle that exists between poverty and environmental degradation.

Fundação Pró-Cerrado reaches a national audience in Brazil through the National Conference of Environmental Education. Its methodologies are being observed and adopted by NGOs across the country.

The Entrepreneur
Adair Meira is a businessman and environmentalist who has long been committed to social causes in poor areas of large cities. As a communications professional he was involved in social mobilization campaigns between 1980 and 1990, especially in struggles for children's and adolescents’ rights. In 1994 he founded Fundação Pró-Cerrado, which has become the largest educational and income-generating youth programme in Brazil. With his experience of integrating social sectors into different areas of knowledge, he created a platform that connects the needs of today’s youth with the business world, increasing awareness of the need to support young people in Brazil.