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Social Entrepreneurs

A region transformed by the sisal plant - Ismael Ferreira from Bahia, Brazil

Robust and profitable it is, the sisal plant, and in the semi-arid region of Bahia one of the few plants growing well on barren grounds.

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The Sertao in the Brazilian state of Bahia is a barren, semi-arid region. In Bahia, over 50 percent of the population live below the poverty line. Those who are able, tend to move elsewhere.

Ismael Ferreira is one of those who decided to stay in his home town of Valente. The son of a farmer, he opted to study Agriculture. Then, more than 20 years ago, he started to recultivate sisal, a plant that no one wanted to grow anymore. And yet nothing grows as well in this semi-arid region as sisal, able to survive with very little water.

Ismael Ferreira set up a kind of cooperative, which today is the biggest employer in and around Valente. The company also has a factory where sisal fibers are used to make carpets. A lot of the company's output is exported abroad. And that is where this company in a small town in Brazil is feeling the effects of globalization. For quite some time now, the factory has been fighting to survive because of currency fluctuations, in particular because of the weak dollar. For months, wages have not been paid in full. But Ferreira has not given up and has come up with some ideas for weathering the crisis. We paid him a visit in Valente.

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