Saúde e Alegria supports participatory, integrated and sustainable community development in the Amazon.
Focus: Communications/Media, Education, Environment, Health, Rural Development, Water
Geographic Area of Impact: Brazil
Model: Leveraged Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 30,000
Recognition: Schwab Fellow of the World Economic Forum; SEOY, Brazil, 2005
The Amazon is the largest remaining tropical forest in the world, and home to about 20 million people, including over five million caboclos (traditional forest dwellers). Their remote communities survive by fishing, hunting and sustainable use of the forest, but their way of life is threatened by destruction of the Amazon from logging, land conversion and other activities. Protection and conservation of the forest requires supporting and empowering these communities, and adapting development models capable of preserving the environment and local cultural identity. Development and production are accelerating, creating pressure on resources and the Amazon forest. Despite governmental action to reduce deforestation, new models and practices are needed to ensure sustainable development in the region.
Innovation and Activities
Eugenio Scannavino and his brother Caetano created Saúde e Alegría to reach isolated communities living along the Amazon rivers in western areas of Santarém, Belterra and Aveiro in the state of Pará. The objective was to support participatory processes for sustained community development. Its strategy is based on community organization and self-governance, respect for people and their culture, and belief in their ability to contribute to economic and social development. Saúde e Alegría supports communities that undertake this process by forming cooperatives, identifying market-oriented activities, educating the community on conservation, and developing partnerships with the public and private sectors. This is done through: securing land use through protected areas; health and sanitation interventions; educational and income generation programmes focused on community empowerment and individual emancipation, with attention to minorities like women and children. The methodology takes a playful approach using circus, radio, TV and other activities where youngsters can use these technologies to create educational campaigns within their own communities.
The result of Saúde e Alegría’s healthcare activities show: 100% of families have sanitation; 98% of children are immunized; and infant mortality has dropped to 18:1,000 (from 48:1,000 in communities where Saúde e Alegría is not active). Through its education and communication programme, illiteracy rates have decreased and young people are taking part the Mocorongo Communication Network, which runs community radio stations and produces and distributes newspapers, videos and television programmes.
The north of Brazil remains a major health access challenge, specially in rural areas. Traveling requires long distances, sometimes only by river; public sewage investment is very costly and low; transportation and communication infrastructures are poor and a hindrance to any action in the region. In 2006 Saúde e Alegria started a “boat-hospital” in the Tapajós basin using a development programme focused on family health. It reached 73 communities and provided services to about 2,800 families with 15,000 beneficiaries.
The Saude e Alegria model of “river family health” as public policy was adopted in 2010, when the Health Ministry passed a bill allowing municipalities to acquire “hospital-boats” of the Saúde e Alegria model. A second hospital-boat will start operating in the Arapiuns basin as a pilot provision of this public policy.
Eugenio Scannavino Neto graduated from medical school in Sao Paulo, with a specialization in tropical medicine. In 1984, he worked as a rural doctor in the remote Amazon. Here he organized communities around health issues, which developed into Saúde e Alegría. Neto has been recognized as an Ashoka Fellow, World Citizen from Bahai International, and Pioneer of the 21st Century by 2000 World Media. Saúde e Alegría has received the Milton Santos Health and Environment Award, the World Bank Citizenship Award, and the Telemar Digital Inclusion Award for NGOs in the north and northeastern regions of Brazil.