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Schools in the Forest
How Grassroots Education Brought Political Empowerment to the Brazilian Amazon
Beginning in the 1960s, the Brazilian government aggressively developed the Amazon, opening the rainforests up to ranchers and loggers who began clear-cutting at a rapid pace. The indigenous subsistence farmers already living in these areas either fled to the city or found themselves beholden to rich speculators bent on destroying the very foundation of their livelihoods. From these circumstances arose Projeto Seringueiro (Project Rubber Tapper), a radical educational experiment based on the ideas of Paulo Freire that was initially designed to simply bring literacy to the rubber tappers, but grew into much more by helping them claim their political rights, preserve their cultural heritage and defend their forest habitat.Schools in the Forest narrates the history of Projeto Seringueiro and gives voice to its principal actors. It explains how the rubber tappers and their allies managed to succeed despite ferocious opposition, and the new set of challenges the organization faced after that success. Though the Projeto Seringueiro experience was a unique response to specific circumstances, many of its features were adopted in other parts of the world. The rubber tappers story shows that threatened communities can organize, form alliances and advocate on their own behalf. In the trajectory of empowerment, no tool has been more important than that of literacy.
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