Localized Economy Helping 800 Island Residents
A bakery, a tourism operation and even a community radio station are among the latest developments on a small coastal island where Dow has helped build a localized economy to raise living standards.
Working with partners including the Federal University of Bahia, the State departments of Labor and Culture and the National Office for Financial Solidarity, Dow helped launch the Ecosmar project in 2007 on the island of Matarandiba in west-central Brazil. Ecosmar has helped the island’s 800 residents start local businesses, encourage collaboration and preserve their unique culture.
Ecosmar has worked in part through creation of Ilhamar Community Bank and a local currency called the “concha.” The currency, including colorful bills with pictures of a conch shell on one side, can be used to purchase goods and services on the island, thus promoting the local economy.
“We try to educate traders that the competition is not internal, but external, and seek to have the participation of the residents to strengthen local consumption,” explains José Mário, coordinator of Ilhamar Community Bank.
The radio station known as "The Voice of the Earth" recently went on the air, after personnel received theory classes on the history of radio and social communications, as well as practical workshops with experienced radio industry professionals.
Local food production has also been a priority. Thanks to Ecosmar, a local oyster farm now thrives, producing up to 4,000 oysters per month. More recently, the Sonho Real Bakery has started operations, giving Matarandiba residents the ability to eat locally produced breads and related foods, while keeping the money in the community. In addition to being a key supporter of Ecosmar, Dow regularly purchases food from the bakery for consumption at the brine mining facility it has operated on Matarandiba for more than 35 years.
Since 2014, the tourism operation has attracted more than 600 visitors. And Ecosmar has pioneered several other important initiatives, including a community association, a cultural association, and a computer center, where information technology training and Internet access are offered to community residents.
The success of Ecosmar was recently recognized by the Brazilian National Institute on Historical and Cultural Heritage with its Good Practices for Safeguarding Intangible Heritage award.
“Ecosmar has rescued and affirmed the cultural legacy and traditions of the community while strengthening Matarandiba’s self-organizing process, enabling people’s empowerment to manage their own affairs,” said Diego Arango, Dow site leader. “We’ve seen a major change in the Matarandiba people. Before the Ecosmar project, many people were leaving the island. Now they have hope for better lives, belief in improvement of their community, and people are actually coming back to live there.”