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ProHope’s initial project proposes to foster hope in an oft-ignored region of Brazil called the Sertão. Its semi-arid climate, notorious inequality of land ownership, and onerous poverty define the region.

Major characteristics:

  • The Sertão is a semi-arid region covering major portions of eight states, 982,566 km2 (379,371 sq. miles), an area about one and a half times the size of Texas in the USA.

  • There are 1,135 municipalities (cities and towns) scattered throughout the Sertão, many of which have several smaller dependent villages.

  • More than 23.8 million people live in the region, 14.75 million of them in rural areas of the Sertão. Our focus is on the rural municipalities and their people.

  • Approximately 10 million boys and girls under the age of 15 live in the Sertão.  

  • Almost six in ten (59%) of Brazil’s poor live in this region. Although schools exist in most municipalities, over one quarter of the adult population is illiterate and those ten years of age and older have an average of only 4.3 years of schooling.

  • Because of the climactic conditions, growing fresh produce is almost impossible and is an important contributor to the nutritional deficit of people in the region.


  • Darcy Ribeiro, one of Brazil’s foremost anthropologists, emphasizes that the residents of the Sertão, known as Sertanejos, have a distinct subculture stemming from the drought-like conditions, centuries of exploitation by large landowners, and almost total political neglect.

  • Fanatical religiosity characterized by votive worship of Catholic saints, participation in pilgrimages and fearfulness are typical aspects of the Sertanejo worldview. They also share similar characteristics of other peoples trapped in the culture of poverty, such as fatalism and hopelessness.

Promoting Hope in the Sertão


Personal observations and interviews with people who live in Lagoa Nova and Manoel Domingos, Sertão communities, have persuaded Promoting Hope that communities in the Sertão are especially worthy of our initial efforts. Introducing resources into these communities that offer better nutrition, job creation, and the prospect of personal or family businesses will change people’s lives. Families and communities will also benefit as people recognize their potential, adopt healthy patterns, and establish systems that will bring additional resources into their lives.

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