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The Brazilian Northeast region is marked by a history of struggle against poverty, social inequalities and the fight against drought.

86.48 per cent of the region has a semi-arid climate, where it doesn’t rain (at all) in nine out of twelve months. In the remaining three months, the region has a high rate of rainfall. However, given the soil and climate conditions, the uptake of water tends to be very low.

Historically, the problem of drought and poverty were associated. The weather conditions hamper crop production. This critical condition is intensified due to lack of social policies. As a result, the Semi-Arid region, was marked by a strong migration to urban centers in the Northeast and other regions of Brazil. Common sense would seem to suggest the Semi-Arid to be a place where it is hard to live in dignity. According to current studies on the future global climate, the semi-arid land would pass through a process of aridization, making it even more difficult to live there.

Founded in 1999, the Coalition in the Brazilian Semi-Arid, from the Portuguese Articulação no Semi-Árido Brasileiro (ASA), arises from the desire to construct a new common understanding of the Brazilian Semi-Arid, in contrast to the above. A number of initiatives were launched in several states in the region, based on the agroecology, food and nutritional security, contextualized education, combating desertification, access to land and water and the promotion of gender equality.

 Through these initiatives, ASA started a process of deconstruction of the common perception of the Brazilian Semi-Arid, reported by the media, that usually emphasises the serious consequences of drought. Through the Declaration of Semi-Arid, ASA reinforces the perception that it is possible to live under the conditions of the semi-arid climate, in particular, with droughts. 

According to ASA, federal government spending on the actions of "combating the effects of drought" was always based on short-term solutions, like the distribution of food baskets. In contrast, for ASA, the region needs another type of support, which allows the coexistence in the semi-arid in the long term, and doesn’t reinforce an eternal dependence on assistance.

For that reason, they promote a series of techniques developed by farmers, many of them passed down through generations. One example of this is the cistern, a very simple and low cost construction, adaptable to any region. The rain water is collected through gutters installed on rooftops. The reservoir has a capacity to store up to 16,000 litres of water, enough for a family of five people drinking and cooking, during a period of six to eight months - the dry season in the region. The cistern is one more example of techniques developed by the experiences and knowledge of farmers and promoted by social movements, such as the agro-ecological movement. All are usually low cost compared with the techniques and solutions that are often promoted as the right solutions to overcome climate change problems. 

This is the message I would like to leave here, since from November 28th to December 9th world leaders are gathering at the 17th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The market solutions usually placed at the negotiating table by the great leaders are not attentive to the real demands of the poor people who will be hit hardest by climate change. Instead of listening to these false promises, I'd rather stay and disseminate simple solutions claimed by the people.

It seems we all know what the real solutions to these problems are: We need to mobilize and ensure that there is political will to implement it.

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