Last December, partners and local beneficiaries from the Fishing with 3G Nets program gathered in Santa Cruz Cabrália, Brazil to celebrate the fifth anniversary and to mark its transition from being a Qualcomm Wireless Reach—and Telefônica Vivo Foundation—funded program to one that is sustained locally.
It was extremely rewarding for me to hear expressions of gratitude and thanks from community members—ranging from fishermen, women entrepreneurs, youth and local government officials—for the multitude of opportunities gained from this program, many of which weren’t originally anticipated.
The program’s original goal was to provide mobile devices with customized apps to improve the local fishermen’s trade. After the first year, with support from the local municipality, the program expanded to provide technology and entrepreneurship training to the community’s youth and women.
Claudio “Xepa” Mendes, the Superintendent of Fishing at the Municipality of Santa Cruz Cabrália described how Fishing with 3G Nets enabled them to provide resources never before made available to this rural community. The locals are very proud of what’s been accomplished and feel that this program is their legacy to future generations.
The municipality is excited to assume the responsibilities of our program and promised to maintain it, including continuing to offer educational programs using technology to local youth through the Center for Education and Technology Innovation, which was established in March 2013.
The most beautiful transformation I witnessed was the empowerment of women who participated in Fishing with 3G Nets.
Through this program, we created an oyster farm to teach locals alternative economic activities to traditional fishing, contributing to job creation and income generation for families in the region. Most people who became mariculturists (oyster farmers) were women. They were provided 3G-connected tablets and a customized mobile app to monitor water conditions and enable the growing of healthy oysters.
Francisco Soares, senior director for Qualcomm, with Salvelina Gonҫalves Bezerra and Girlândia Pires Pereira, two mariculturists at Santa Cruz Cabralia.
Girlândia Pires Pereira was the spokesperson for the women mariculturists at the event. She shared that as a result of this program the women are more confident using technology, feel motivated to start their own businesses and are willing to take business risks. She also said that they use what they’ve learned about growing oysters to teach other community members about the importance of keeping the environment free of pollution.
However, the most captivating part of Girlândia’s speech was when she told the story of how, in 2015, she and a group of women who were very successful in growing healthy oysters decided to put the intense entrepreneurship training they received into practice. Today, they are running their own small enterprise they named Sabor Fino (roughly translates to “Refined Taste”). They have deals to supply oysters to five local businesses and are working on establishing a contract with the local hotel association. I am very proud of these women as I was able to witness their transformation from program beneficiaries to the independent business owners they are today!
Isabel Gonҫalves de Jesus, a mariculturists from the women-owned Sabor Fino enterprise, serving fresh oysters at a local restaurant.
Luena do Santos, who received the 2015 National Business Woman Award from SEBRAE (Brazil’s Small Business Agency) also spoke at the event. Luena is a leader from the Pataxó indigenous community and the manager of the Fish Processing House established in Coroa Vermelha (a community in Santa Cruz Cabrália) as part of the Fishing with 3G Nets program. Luena explained that the program contributed to her success since it provided her with new opportunities, entrepreneurial training, and innovative approaches for conducting business. She said it increased her leadership capabilities and vision as well as her overall confidence. She is currently applying for a small business loan to grow the operations at the Fish Processing House. Having met Luena through this project and knowing her personal story of perseverance, I wholeheartedly agree that she’s very deserving of this award!
I’m enormously thankful to all of our partners who had a hand in its success. And, while I’m thrilled that this program has achieved an important goal—sustainability—I am also saddened to say “goodbye.” Or, as they say in Brazil, “tchau!”