This post follows up on WMB’s eight-month campaign to raise awareness for the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In this post, we reflect on MDG #7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability. The following is an interview with Silvio Rocha Sant’Ana, president of the Esquel Group


World Moms Blog:  What are some examples of how the Esquel Group supports environmental sustainability?

SRS: We have been working with other civil society organizations (CSOs) and governmental institutions in the fields of adapting to climate change, combating desertification (in Northeast Brazil), designing proposals for public policies on these matters, and dialoguing directly with financial agencies (public and private) in order to make them more adjusted to sustainability criteria.

How can mothers help support your organization in achieving MDG #7?

SRS: It is a new question for me. Thinking aloud: mothers have a fine sense of survival and can operate in adverse conditions much better than men. We work with a lot of very poor mothers (especially at the Pastoral da Criança and the microfinancing project). The way they think (and act), their relationship to the environment, the ability to allocate resources in the difficult social conditions they live in – all of this is a continuous lesson we can learn from. In fact, it would be interesting to have an environment that would enable us to maximize their teachings and contributions.

What countries does the Esquel Group mainly work in?

Silvio Rocha Sant’Ana: Esquel is currently active in the USA, Ecuador and Brazil. Each organization is independent, and defines its own agenda; we have common concerns and themes.

How does Esquel Group bridge the gap of joining people in economic development?

SRS: We have developed many activities in different fields. In Brazil we have focused in the Northeast region (where there are severe environmental and social restrictions), on children aged 0-6 years in Brazil, and in the field of technical support. We also work closely with the Pastoral da Criança, including microfinancing for employment and income generation (mainly for women).

What is the Esquel Task Force?

SRS: The Esquel Task force is an initiative from the USA Esquel Group and fosters dialogue, advocacy and lobbying among American and Latin American organizations.

Is there a specific example in Brazil where Esquel made a big impact when it came to the environment?

SRS: There is a very famous Project in Brazil called “1 million cisterns” – tanks to collect rain water in the semi-arid region of Brazil. Esquel has had a leading role in building up this project and the related public policies. It is considered an extraordinary and successful case of public-private cooperation and has mobilized, to date, more than US$200 million. It is a project managed entirely by CSOs and its main goal is to create a new pattern of social wellbeing in the semi-arid region, with full respect to environmental conditions.

What would you say are the greatest environmental issues facing Brazil today?

SRS: Adaptation to climate changes and associated cultural adjustments within an “economic and social environment”, which favors “economic growth” above all things (including social and environmental welfare).

What is the unifying theme of all Esquel’s activities worldwide?

SRS: The unifying theme of Esquel’s activities is the strengthening of civil society, specifically citizen organizations that further democracy.

This is an original interview post for World Moms Blog by our writer in Brazil, EcoZiva.

For more about the Esquel Group, visit their website at

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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