Visiting Kids at Agri-School: What Is, "Kudu" in Portuguese? (Brazil) January 27 2016, 0 Comments
I spent four days of joy in the beautiful district of Ilopolis in Southern Brazil. Hidden from the modern world, the pretty town with cobble streets is nestled in a lush forested valley and inhabited by happy folk who looked after me like family. According to my host, Clovis (Head of local Dept. Agriculture), Ilopolis is out-and-out a yerba mate economy. He said that 196 out the 200 commercial farmers in the district grow yerba mate and the non-farmers specialise in some other function within the yerba mate economy anyway. A true yerba mate wonderland, I thought.
Ariana (head of culture and tourism) arranged for me to visit some schools in the region. I was given a warm welcoming at all of the schools and got to meet the most important citizens of the town, the children. At one school (an agriculture school outside of town), I was led into a classroom of about 40 kids. The teachers introduced me to the class and handed over the stage to me in a slightly more formal way than the previous school had done. Well... I hadn't prepared anything, so my first thought was to tell them about our wild animals in South Africa. It was a great idea, but the delivery required some improvisation. I discovered too late I that I did not know many of the names of our animals in Portuguese. Instinctively, I changed tactics to get the message across by imitating sounds, movements and making descriptions. It turned out to be a great ice-breaker, and I think the kids had a lot of fun guessing which animal the African man was playing at. Next, it was their turn to show me what they learned at school. The group of them led me outside to near the lake where the school nursery, test plantations and livestock coups were. Surrounded by awe-inspiring ancient forest, I enjoyed every second of the tour. There were hundreds of young yerba mate saplings in their nursery. All were managed by the scholars I might add. The children could even tell me which indigenous companion trees (like the Aruacária, or Brazilian pine) to plant that would favour good quality yerba mate. Nursing the young plants to maturity and raising livestock were part of their formal schooling career - the kind of education I would wish for all children. I asked one of the boys what his dream job was and he said that it was to farm yerba mate like his dad. The teachers told me that the parents of the majority of the kids were yerba mate farmers which left me with an overwhelming sense of confidence for the future of high quality yerba mate production in this region of Brazil.
a truck loaded with freshly harvested wild yerba mate - Jovald Henriksen
a selfie with my hosts, Clovis (left), Ariana (middle) and her family - Jovald Henriksen
the town of Ilopolis, Brazil with yerba mate factories giving off steam - Jovald Henriksen
yerba mate saplings at the agriculture school in Ilopolis, Brazil - Jovald Henriksen
Schoolboy at agriculture school in Ilopolis, Brazil with Aruacária sapling that he planted himself - Jovald Henrkisen
Me with a class of school kids at the agriculture school of Ilopolis, Brazil