Pixore, in the Northeast region of Brazil, is a community of about 300 people scattered over a rock-strewn plateau about three and half hours inland from the City of Natal, the capital city of the State of Rio Grande do Norte. Like Pixore, similar communities in the area face extremely dry conditions most of the year. Most families have few domestic animals, which if it does not rain, they must feed the fibrous core of a certain type of cactus. Some years, people may also have to supplement their diet with various types of cactus.
This is the Sertão where it rains from January to March, if it does at all. Here, cactus of many varieties provide most of the greenery in the landscape, an area known as caatinga, where small thorny brush and cactus are the dominant characteristics of this particular biomass, found only in Brazil. Various grasses, that turn green after the rains, are barely visible, otherwise, it is bleak, dry, uninviting.
Pixore was featured in a recent article of Santidade, the official publication of the Church of the Nazarene in Brazil. The difficulties faced by the people of this Sertão community were noted, notably, the lack of potable water, and for much of the year, the lack of any water at all! Only when tanker trucks come by are people able to buy sufficient water for drinking or cooking. Bathrooms, of course, do not exist!
Recently, Rev. Damasio, from the Church of the Nazarene in Natal discovered this community of about 70 families. When the church realized how critical the community’s needs were, they provided and filled cisterns for several families, set up a clothing bazaar in a local school, and took other actions to restore hope in this community. In December, an artesian well was drilled that may afford sufficient potable water for drinking and kitchen use, the walls of an 8 x 25-meter (26’x82’) chapel have been erected that will also serve as a community center, with roof, classrooms, and other facilities to follow. Already a weekly church service is held in the local school. Several families have also committed to become followers of Jesus.
Jose and Rosa explained how when there is insufficient rainfall during the three-month rainy season to provide enough forage for their animals, they burn off the needles of one variety of cacti, the xiquexique, so that the animals can survive on the fibrous core. Growing in such a sparse setting, even on rocks, it is easy to see why little nutrition is available in this plant.
When the rains come, most families plant beans and corn in hopes that there will be rainfall sufficient for a harvest that will provide enough food to last until the following rainy season, hopefully, within another nine months.
Xiquexique, (Pilocereus gounellei), also called sodoro by residents of the Sertão, is found throughout Brazil’s Northeast. It may grow to 12 feet in height and produces a small fruit, usually consumed by birds. While limited, the nutritional value of the fibrous inner core is sufficient to provide sustenance during severe droughts.
Another cactus, known to residents as “pelo” (hair), has a small fruit that is also edible, once the “hair” is removed.
Visiting with the people in Pixore was a reminder that Promoting Hope can lead to shalom in that community. The chapel/community center under construction will provide an excellent facility for teaching life-skills, entrepreneurship, and enabling the community to develop micro-enterprises that will help sustain them, especially during the dry spells when traditional means of support are threatened. Now, with a reliable source of water, a sizable aquaponic system is being considered so that vegetables and fish can supplement the limited diet of families in the area.
We continue to pray and seek resources to establish the aquaponic system and fund micro loans so that micro-enterprises may be established in such a challenging area. If you would like to help provide Hope in Pixore, please click on the Get Involved link and make your contribution there.