What’s unique about the initiative?

CaSanAT (an abbreviation of ‘house’ and ‘nature’ in Portuguese) in Porto Alegre, Brazil, is a space for social activists and volunteers to come together for community discussions and action on socio-environmental issues. As such, it is fighting hunger, the pandemic and repression by the Bolsonaro government. Today, as a space for social organization and education in thinking about city, it is working to strengthen communities and act as a hub for the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most outstanding results

Construction of the CaSanAT centre started in around 2004, when a derelict building was converted using solar and other clean technologies. The walls are plastered with lime and not cement, almost all the bricks, frames and doors were recycled, and the plants in the backyard provide food and shelter on hot days. The patio has bananas all year round, along with passion fruit, herbs and avocado.  CaSanAT has established a local fairtrade farmers’ market, and a library containing a collection of more than 3,000 cataloged publications on the environment and documents containing the history of the gaúcho people and Brazilian environmental movements. The centre has also enabled people to reclaim their right to the centre of the city and has reached out to the wider community and various indigenous communities in the hope that – as a model – it might be replicated elsewhere.

The centre has this year been targeted for closure by the Bolsonaro government – a move that the centre challenged in court, and from which it has won a temporary reprieve. The battle did not deter the centre from running its operation to help people struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic. By distributing food and hygiene products to thousands of families, the centre has been plugging gaps left by the Bolsonaro government’s handling of the pandemic.

Covid-19 outbreak impact

Since March of 2020, CaSanAT has acted as a repository for fairly traded food and hygiene products bought through donations. The involvement of different political actors and social movements and the solidarity shown during Covid19 has united local, working class communities in the face of the pandemic and the oppression by the Bolsonaro government.

Quote from the evaluation committee

“From a change in power relations through the advancement of local control and participatory democracy, the participants in this project have already generated an economy to promote sustainable societies, without exploitation of the working class or livelihoods, and they seek to develop based on environmental, social, economic and gender justice and on the sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples.”
–  Isadora Hastings

Read more

To know more, read this in-depth article on Friends of the Earth International. Also, you can scroll down to download the application form filled by this initiative to take part in the Transformative Cities award.