Youth in Rural Brazil are Finding Jobs and Building a Better Future
Young people in Brazil often struggle to find employment opportunities, particularly in rural areas. TechnoServe, Anglo American, and the Inter-American Development Bank are helping people like Mariana dos Santos Pinho gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence they need to find meaningful employment and take charge of their lives.
18-year-old Mariana dos Santos Pinho lives in Córrego dos Machados, a predominantly rural mining community in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state. After graduating from high school in a nearby city, she moved back to her parents’ small farm.
“I was indecisive about my future,” she recalls. “I wanted to live in the country, but I didn’t really know what I was going to do here.” Mariana was not alone in her uncertainty. In 2019, 28% of Brazil’s youth, ages 15-24, were unemployed. Lack of opportunity beyond the mining sector has driven young people to seek employment in urban areas, further diminishing prospects for rural economic growth.
New Opportunities for Rural Youth
Since 2016, TechnoServe, Anglo American, and the Inter-American Development Bank have collaborated on a regional public-private partnership to catalyze locally adapted economic development for communities surrounding Anglo American’s mining operations in Brazil, Chile, and Peru. In Brazil, the Crescer program is working to diversify local economies in the areas surrounding the Minas-Rio mine.
When Mariana first heard about the program last year, she was going through a difficult transitional period. “According to my family, staying on the farm was to waste my opportunities,” she shares, recalling how conflicted she was at that moment. “My parents supported me, but they were afraid I was making the wrong choice because of my uncertainties.”
An important aspect of the Crescer program is youth empowerment. In normal times, young people join in-person group training sessions focused on self-awareness, personal effectiveness, and professional effectiveness.
One of the best things the course showed me was that we can dream and we can realize our dreams.”
— Mariana dos Santos Pinho
Through these sessions, they often discover that many of the other young people in the course face similar insecurities and fears. They also gain professional skills that help them access new job opportunities and develop connections with potential employers.
However, when Brazil confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Latin America in late February, TechnoServe’s program team had to adapt quickly to continue safely supporting these young people.
Supporting Youth During COVID-19
Mariana and 25 other young people had just started training with TechnoServe when the pandemic hit Brazil. In a rural area with limited internet access, switching to remote learning came with significant challenges. The team had to pause training temporarily, eventually resuming in-person training with strict health and safety guidelines in place, including the use of hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, and a reduction in class size.
Even before the pandemic, I saw youth facing torrential rains capable of knocking their bikes down still coming to class…knowing and sharing knowledge with young people like this brings me an unquenchable joy.”
— Lourenni Superbi, TechnoServe’s youth program coordinator
“I feel pride because when the course returned, none of the students gave up,” says Lourenni Superbi, TechnoServe’s youth program coordinator. “Not even three brothers and a cousin who had to walk nine kilometers per day to participate in the program.”
Despite the unexpected challenges of COVID-19, these youth successfully graduated from the program in July. “Even before the pandemic, I saw youth facing torrential rains capable of knocking their bikes down still coming to class,” Lourenni says. “More than once, we had to use cell phone lanterns to finish the evening’s activities, yet none of the students gave up. I confess to you that tears began to fall at this moment, but not because of sadness. I was crying of happiness because knowing and sharing knowledge with young people like this brings me an unquenchable joy.”
In August, the program started a 100% virtual class focusing on high school students. Although there are still difficulties with reliable internet access, both the project team and the students are committed to making the necessary adaptations to complete the course work.
Through the program, Mariana learned the skills she needed to help her mother with their business. She has already put her new skills to use, practicing new recipes, developing business plans, and making other changes to the business.
“The Crescer program really changed my life, expanded my knowledge, and gave me more conviction about my choices,” Mariana says. “It has contributed a lot to my personal change and made me see everything we have here at the farm with other eyes. Today, when I say that I’m staying here, people see confidence. One of the best things the course showed me was that we can dream and we can realize our dreams.”