By Lisa Molinari and Melissa Rossi, Contributing Reporters
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – While global attention convenes on the Rio+20 UN Conference, the Government of the State of Rio de Janeiro has organized a calendar of activities related to sustainable development practices in many favela communities. The goal is to raise awareness of the difficult economic conditions while trying to stimulate social inclusion and dialogue through programs like organic gardening, craft fairs, and the use of public transportation.
The hosting of events within these communities is paramount for Rio because they represent such a large part of the population. Rio has an estimated 1.3 million citizens living in favelas, around 22 percent of the total population of the city.
Their inclusion, as well as a focus on sustainable development within the areas of residence, is fundamental for a green future in Rio and the progress towards economic equality.
Last weekend the Rio+20 parallel events included a visit to Rocinha, Rio’s largest favela, where visitors could witness how much the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC) has accomplished in terms of public services and housing. However the purpose is also to acknowledge how much still needs to improve in some areas, which lack adequate sewage and water systems.
Experts of agronomy, food science and green economy also held lectures during last week’s community meetings in Rocinha, including the progress of the Rio Mais Verde pilot garden. As a joint action of NGO Rocinha Mundo da Arte and Green My Favela (GMF) the lectures encouraged Rocinha residents to transform areas into gardens where organic vegetable and fruits can be planted.
“Listening to feedback from these meetings, and in talking with other potential partners, GMF has identified community needs, and will now begin building new projects with other community partners that include roof gardens, gardens for schools, and community gardens” explains GMF founder Lea Rekow.
Not too far from Rocinha in Rio’s Cantagalo and Pavão/Pavãozinho communities, presentations by local artists, musicians and NGO’s, including an arts fair with traditional crafts, food and pottery from the Northeastern region of the country were held at the beginning of the week.
In Zona Norte (North Zone), in another of Rio’s major favela communities, Complexo do Alemão, local institutions gathered to talk about sustainability at Campo do Sargento and at the favela’s new gondola cable-car stations.
Outside of official Rio+20 events, the non-profit organization (NGO) Catalytic Communities, CatComm, also offers visitors the chance to join one of their Educational Community Visits with a special focus related on Rio+20; it is a unique opportunity to get a detailed and first-hand understanding of Rio’s changing dynamics.
For those who want to get involved in upcoming Rio+20 activity within these communities, there is still time to participate in the “Socio-environmental education journey” in the Cidade de Deus and Complexo do Maré communities that will last until June 23rd.