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Nova Olinda: respecting the quilombola tradition while creating shared value

3 min.

Nova Olinda: respecting the quilombola tradition while creating shared value

Enel Green Power is deeply committed to the sustainable development of the local communities in the areas where it operates. The Nova Olinda solar power plant in Brazil is a case in point: the surrounding “quilombos” are the subject of a series of projects designed to create shared value (CSV).

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“Quilombos” are the hinterland settlements that were established centuries ago by Brazilian slaves who escaped from the plantations. Since the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888 these villages have managed to retain their ancient traditions, which have been handed down from generation to generation by their inhabitants, the “quilombolas.”

Our Nova Olinda solar plant is located in the state of Piauí in northeastern Brazil. Not only is it one of the largest facilities of its kind in all of South America, it’s also surrounded by several quilombos.

For this reason, when we started working on the design project for a plant, we asked ourselves what we could do to minimise its impact on the local population.

We therefore decided to meet with its representatives. We listened to their stories and learnt about their traditions, and this enabled us to appreciate the importance of the land for the quilombolas.

This dialogue meant that we were able to identify their priorities and requirements. These went on to provide the basis of a series of projects for Creating Shared Value (CSV) and ensuring sustainable development.
 

The soul of the Quilombos

The Nova Olinda power plant is a great example of our CSV approach. Indeed in many ways the plant is a tribute to the 1700 workers who built it. We believe that the training that EGP offered them helped unleash their energy and their spirit of initiative, both of which are evident in the final result, the plant itself.

 

“When we first got here we soon realised that that there weren’t many qualified professionals. And so we set up an intensive training programme for 372 people, and this doubtless contributed to the success of the project.”

– Igor Cunha, Enel Installation Supervisor

 

For the people who were involved in the construction of the plant, Nova Olinda was a great opportunity to play an important role in the life of their communities. It was also part of the economic and social rebirth of the State of Piauí, which happens to be one of the poorest in Brazil.

 

“I was born in this region, and I consider myself a child of its traditional communities. And this is what we believe in: in a project that enables us to talk, not just to the local communities, but also to the social partners and municipal representatives; to everyone, in point of fact.”

– Waldir de Souza (Kina), Administrative Officer

 

In addition to the training courses, EGP also promoted a number of educational programmes. The subject matter didn’t only include solar energy, but also respect for the environment, as well as the quilombolas’ culture and rights.
 

Sustainability through reuse

Estreito and Eliezer are two quilombos located approximately 25 km from the Nova Olinda plant. Dona Maria de Lourdes is the oldest woman in the two villages and is a highly respected – and much loved – member of the community.

But today Dona Maria is also a symbol of hope for the future. That would explain why the new square, which was created as part of the EGP CSV project, is named after her.

The square was  built out of leftover wood that had originally been supplied for the construction of the plant. Some 150 volunteers from EGP and partner companies chipped in, helping to transform pallets and coils into fences, benches and playground equipment. In this way they created a meeting point for members of the two communities, a place where children can play and adults can chat.

 

“We believe that the creation of shared value begins with respect for the culture and identity of the local communities. Now that construction work has been completed, we hope that the community can embrace its new know-how, and that the local area can develop. After all, this is precisely what being sustainable means!”

– Bianca Mazurec, Sustainability Specialist for Enel

 

The project for the square in Estreito and Eliezer has also been successfully replicated in the community of Saco/Curtume.  It’s a great example of how sustainability projects, just like the traditions of the quilombolas, can live on in the heart of the local area.

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