Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of acronyms
 Chapter I: Introduction
 Chapter II: The projeto seringueiro...
 Chapter III: The impact of the...
 Chapter IV: The impact of the projeto...
 Chapter V: Epilog
 Glossary of Portuguese terms
 Biographical sketch

Group Title: The role of a popular education project in mobilizing a rural community : : a case study of the rubber tappers of Acre, Brazil
Title: The role of a popular education project in mobilizing a rural community
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00056229/00001
 Material Information
Title: The role of a popular education project in mobilizing a rural community a case study of the rubber tappers of Acre, Brazil
Physical Description: xi, 132 leaves : ; 29 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Campbell, Constance E
Publication Date: 1990
Subject: Rubber tappers -- Brazil -- Acre   ( lcsh )
Rural development -- Brazil -- Acre   ( lcsh )
Education -- Brazil -- Acre   ( lcsh )
Latin American Studies thesis M.A   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Latin American Studies -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 1990.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 126-131).
Statement of Responsibility: by Constance Elaine Campbell.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
Funding: Electronic resources created as part of a prototype UF Institutional Repository and Faculty Papers project by the University of Florida.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00056229
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001594726
oclc - 23110681
notis - AHL8808

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
    List of acronyms
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
    Chapter I: Introduction
        Page 1
        Objective of the study
            Page 1
            Page 2
            Page 3
            Page 4
            Page 5
            Page 6
            Page 7
            Page 8
        A look at the rubber tappers and socio-economic changes in the state of acre
            Page 9
            Page 10
            Page 11
            Page 12
            Page 13
            Page 14
        Education in the seringal
            Page 15
            Page 16
            Page 17
            Page 18
        Organization of the study
            Page 19
            Page 20
            Page 21
            Page 22
            Page 23
            Page 24
            Page 25
            Page 26
            Page 27
            Page 28
            Page 29
    Chapter II: The projeto seringueiro education project
        Page 30
        History of the Projeto Seringueiro
            Page 30
            Page 31
            Page 32
            Page 33
            Page 34
            Page 35
        The theoretical basis of popular education: The projeto seringueiro's educational materials and the Paulo Freire methodology
            Page 36
            Page 37
            Page 38
            Page 39
            Page 40
            Page 41
            Page 42
            Page 43
            Page 44
            Page 45
            Page 46
            Page 47
            Page 48
        The projeto seringueiro today
            Page 49
            Page 50
            Page 51
            Page 52
            Page 53
            Page 54
            Page 55
            Page 56
            Page 57
            Page 58
            Page 59
            Page 60
            Page 61
            Page 62
            Page 63
            Page 64
            Page 65
            Page 66
        The future for the projeto seringueiro
            Page 67
            Page 68
            Page 69
            Page 70
            Page 71
            Page 72
    Chapter III: The impact of the projeto seringueiro schools on life in the seringal
        Page 73
            Page 73
            Page 74
        Rural to urban migration
            Page 75
            Page 76
            Page 77
            Page 78
            Page 79
        Self-reported literacy skills
            Page 80
            Page 81
            Page 82
            Page 83
        Political participation
            Page 84
            Page 85
            Page 86
            Page 87
        Use of natural resources: Techniques in cutting rubber and hunting
            Page 88
            Page 89
            Page 90
            Page 91
            Page 92
        Marketing tactics
            Page 93
            Page 94
            Page 95
            Page 96
    Chapter IV: The impact of the projeto seringueiro schools at the community level
        Page 97
        General effects of the projeto seringueiro schools
            Page 98
            Page 99
            Page 100
            Page 101
            Page 102
            Page 103
            Page 104
            Page 105
        A comparison of two extractive reserves: Differences in politicization and mobilization between Sao Luis do Remanso and Cachoeira
            Page 106
            Page 107
            Page 108
            Page 109
            Page 110
            Page 111
            Page 112
            Page 113
            Page 114
            Page 115
    Chapter V: Epilog
        Page 116
        Growth of the Projeto Seringueiro
            Page 116
            Page 117
            Page 118
        STR-Xapuri: The death of Chico Mendes
            Page 119
        The projeto seringueiro's role
            Page 120
            Page 121
            Page 122
    Glossary of Portuguese terms
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
    Biographical sketch
        Page 132
Full Text







This thesis is dedicated to the memory of Chico Mendes,
former President of the Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Rurais of
Xapuri, who was killed on December 22, 1988 for defending the
Amazon rainforests and the people who live in them.


I am very grateful to my advisory committee, Drs.

Marianne Schmink, Kent Redford and Linda Miller, for their

critical support throughout all stages of my coursework and

field research. Special thanks are due to Dr. Schmink for

her advice and friendship. The field research for this thesis

was funded by grants from the Amazon Research and Training

Program and the Vining Davis Field Research Grant Program,

both of the Center for Latin American Studies at the

University of Florida.

I also wish to thank my family for their support,

especially my mother, Polly Harris, who provided much-needed

encouragement and humor. Many friends in Gainesville also

deserve my sincere thanks for their companionship and warm

support, especially Pennie Magee, Peggy Lovell, Gay Biery-

Hamilton, Karen Kainer, Jon Dain, Richard Piland and Avecita

Chichon. The Disciples-Presbyterian Student Center provided

friendship and a supportive community for which I am sincerely



In Brazil, many people in Xapuri, Rio Branco and the

serincal were very helpful during my field work. I especially

wish to thank my colleagues at the Federal University of Acre

for their hospitality and support. Friends at the Centro dos

Trabalhadores da Amaz6nia and the Sindicato dos Trabalhadores

Rurais were extremely helpful and generous. Their support was

invaluable and I am grateful for their friendship. Lastly,

I wish to thank the serinaueiros who graciously allowed me to

share their homes and their lives. Their dedication and

enthusiasm for their community was inspiring and I thank them

for sharing that with me.



DEDICATION. . . ...... ... ii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. . . . ....... iii

LIST OF ACRONYMS. . . . . .. vii

ABSTRACT . ... . . . X


I INTRODUCTION. . . .... ... 1

Objective of the Study .. . 1
A Look at the Rubber Tappers and Socio-Economic
Changes in the State of Acre. . . 9
Education in the Seringal . ... 15
Organization of the Study . ... 19
Notes . ... . . .. 28


History of the Projeto Seringueiro. ... 30
The Theoretical Basis of Popular Education
and the Paulo Freire Methodology. . .. 36
The Projeto Seringueiro Today ... ... 49
The Future for the Projeto Seringueiro. 67
Notes . . . . 72


Introduction . . . . 73
Rural to Urban Migration. ... . 75
Self-Reported Literacy Skills . 80
Political Participation . ... .. 84
Use of Natural Resources: Techniques in
Cutting Rubber and Hunting. . ... 88
Marketing Tactics . . . 93
Conclusions ...... . . 95
Notes . . . . 96


General Effects of the Projeto Seringueiro. 98
A Comparison of two Extractive Reserves:
Differences in Politicization and Mobilization
between Sao Luis do Remanso and Cachoeira 106
Conclusions . . . . 114
Notes . . . . 115

V EPILOG. . . . . 116

Growth of the Projeto Seringueiro . 116
STR-Xapuri: The Death of Chico Mendes . 119
The Projeto Seringueiro's Role. . 120
Notes . . . .... 122

GLOSSARY . . . . ... . 123




CEB Comunidade Eclesial de Base
Ecclesiastical Base Community

CEDI Centro Ecumdnico de Documentaqgo e Informagdo
Ecumencial Center for Documentation and

CEDOP-AM Centro de Documentagio e Pesquisa da Amaz6nia
Center for Amazon Documentation and Research

CEE Conselho Estadual de Educagdo
State Education Council

CESI Coordenadoria Ecumenica de Servigos
Ecumenical Service Coordinator

CNS Conselho Nacional dos Seringueiros
National Council of Rubber Tappers

CONTAG Confederacio Nacional dos Trabalhadores da
National Confederation of Agricultural Workers

CPI Comissao Pro-Indio
Pro-Indian Commission

CTA Centro dos Trabalhadores da Amaz6nia
Amazon Workers' Center

DAE Departamento de AlimentacAo Escolar
Department of Educational Food Services

FAE Fundag~o de Assistencia Estudantil
Student Assistance Foundation


FUNTAC Fundagdo de Tecnologia do Estado do Acre
Technological Foundation of the State of Acre

IBDF Instituto Brasileiro de Desenvolvimento Florestal
Brazilian Institute of Forestry Development

IBGE Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica
Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics

IEA Instituto de Estudos Amaz6nicos
Institute for Amazonian Studies

IMAC Instituto de Meio Ambiente do Acre
Environmental Institute of Acre

INCRA Instituto Nacional de Colonizagao e Reforma
National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian

INPA Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Amaz6nicas
National Institute for Amazon Research

MIRAD Ministerio da Reforma e Desenvolvimento Agrario
Minstry of Agrarian Reform and Development

NGO non-governmental organization

PMACI Projeto de Protegio do Meio Ambiente e das
Comunidades Indigenas
Project to Protect the Environment and Indigenous

PNRA Piano Nacional de Reforma Agraria
National Plan of Agrarian Reform

PS Projeto Seringueiro
Project Rubber Tapper

PT Partido dos Trabalhadores
Workers' Party

SEC Secretaria de Educagdo e Cultura
Secretary of Education and Culture

SEPLAN Secretaria de Planejamento e Coordenagao da
Presidencia da Republica
Secretary of Planning and Coordination of the
President of the Republic

STR Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Rurais
Union of Rural Workers


SUCAM Superintendencia de Combate a Malaria
Superintendent for Malaria Control

SUDHEVEA Superintendengia para o Desenvolvimento da Hevea
Superintendent for the Development of Rubber

UDR Uniao Democratica Rural
Rural Democratic Union

UFAC Universidade Federal do Acre
Federal University of Acre

Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts


Constance Elaine Campbell

May, 1990
Chairperson: Dr. Marianne Schmink
Major Department: Latin American Studies

This study compares four communities of extractive

producers or rubber tappers in the the state of Acre in the

Brazilian Amazon to determine the impact of a popular

education project on individuals' lives and on community

mobilization efforts. Each of these four areas has various

access to educational facilities, different experiences in

unionization and community mobilization, and various forms of

land tenure.

Through interviews with families in these four areas,

measurements were made of five variables dependent upon the

presence and type of school in the community. Measurements

indicate that those families with a history of participation

in the popular education project, or those living in the

community where the project is operating, participate more

actively in the union and in local political elections,

receive higher prices for their cash crop (rubber), have fewer

family members residing in the urban centers to study and are

more proficient in literacy and numeracy skills than rubber

tappers in the other three communities. Average prices

received for rubber and the political participation levels of

those families studying at a rural government-sponsored school

(or living in the area served by this school) are no higher

than those of the rubber tappers who have no access to any

education whatsoever.

This study indicates that the popular education project,

Projeto Seringueiro (Project Rubber Tapper), is a key

component in the rubber tappers' efforts to improve the

quality of their lives and defend the rainforest in which they

live. The Projeto provides both the environment and the

practical skills for the community to mobilize for economic,

social and political changes even in the face of violent

opposition. During the course of this study and in large part

due to the impact of the Projeto Seringueiro education

project, the rubber tappers achieved the establishment of

extractive reserves, a new type of agrarian reform which

guarantees extractive rights to rubber tappers and protects

the rainforest from clearing.


Objective of the Study
In this study, I assessed how the popular education

project of the rubber tappers of Acre, Brazil is able to

sustain and strengthen the rubber tappers' community, thereby

empowering that community to affect social changes to preserve

the forest and its livelihood. The people of this community

have been mobilizing since the early 1970s to improve their

lives and their ability to protect the rainforest in which

they live. These extractive producers live in an area of the

Brazilian Amazon where conservation and development interests

are coming into increasing conflict. Social changes in this

state in the western Amazon have been rapid and violent. As

part of these changes, education in the rubber tapping areas

of the rainforest has been a primary component of the rubber

tappers' movement to unionize and protect the forest. This

thesis examines the impact of education on life in the

rainforest by comparing communities with access to different

forms of education.

The rubber tappers' project of popular education, the

Projeto Seringueiro (PS) or Project Rubber Tapper, is one

facet of their efforts to mobilize their community in defense

of their land and way of life. The schools, based on the

popular education methodology of Paulo Freire, not only

provide the tappers (serinqueiros) with the opportunity to

gain literacy and numeracy skills, but also stimulate critical

individual and community reflection on the serinqueiros' way

of life and creative action to improve their lives. It is

this reflection and participation that makes the Projeto

Seringueiro a highlight of the community's efforts.

From one-room schoolhouses in the rain forest of Acre,

the success of this education project has had a significant

impact on the serinqueiros and their community's mobilization

to improve the quality of their lives and defend the rain

forest. The rubber tappers who created this education project

as part of their unionization movement have achieved economic,

political and social victories in large part due to their

empowerment as individuals and as a community through these

schools. These victories include rural health posts, a

women's group and a marketing cooperative, as well as the

election of two PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores) candidates to

the local town council in Xapuri. Their most significant

victory is achievement of the keystone of the community's

conservation goals, that of establishing extractive reserves

or federally protected areas of the forest where the

serinqueiros can live without fear of expulsion by land


However, this empowerment has also brought severe defeats

and losses of human life as those opposed to the movement

responded violently to its lay-members and leaders alike. In

July of 1980 Wilson Pinheiro de Souza, the President of the

Brasil4ia Rural Workers' Union, was shot and killed in the

Union office (Grzybowski 1989; Ferreira da Silva 1982). Eight

years later almost to the day, the violence continued unabated

as a 24 year old rural worker, Ivair Higino, who served as a

monitor in an ecclesiastical base community of the Catholic

Church, as a delegate for the Union and as a candidate for

town council on the PT ticket, was ambushed and shot to death

("Sindicalista chacinado de madrugada em Xapuri" June 19,

1988). Ivair's killers are allegedly members of the UDR

(Unido Democrdtica Rural), a union of cattle ranchers and

large landowners ibidd).

On December 22, 1988, Chico Mendes was shot and killed

at his home in Xapuri, allegedly by a member and a hired

gunman of the same ranching family that killed Ivair ("Um tiro

no peito liquid o lider Chico Mendes" 12/23/1988; "Brazilian

who Fought to Protect the Amazon is Killed" 12/24/1988;

"Leading Brazilian Ecologist Murdered at Home" 12/24/1988).

Chico was the President of the Union of Rural Workers as well

as a national and international spokesperson for the rubber

tappers' movement. He was a union organizer and an ecologist

who received international conservation awards from the United

Nations and met with representatives of the Inter-American

Development Bank through his efforts to defend the rainforest

from clearing and to better the serinqueiros' lives ("ONU

condecora seringueiro da Amaz6nia por defesa ecol6gica" July

6, 1987). Chico stated that it was after many years of

mobilizing the rubber tappers that he heard himself referred

to as an ecologist. At the time he did not even know exactly

what an ecologist was'. Without realizing in the early 1970s

that his mobilization efforts would later be recognized by

international conservationists, Chico had begun organizing the

serinqueiros to defend the rainforest from clearing, a task

which later cost him his life.

Wilson Pinheiro, Ivair Higino and Chico Mendes, along

with many others, have been killed in Acre as a result of the

conflict for land between land speculators coming into Acre

and caboclos, or Amazonian peasants, many of whom have lived

in the same tract of forest for generations. This conflict

resulted from the federal government's policy of encouraging

private capital in the Amazon (through tax exemptions and

fiscal incentives) while discouraging political activity by

the rural workers (Martins 1984). Violence against rural

union leaders, priests and others working to promote the

rights of rural workers intensified starting with the federal

government's POLAMAZONIA program in the mid-1970s and still

continues today by those opposed to President Sarney's PNRA

or National Plan for Agrarian Reform of 1985 (Bakx 1987a).

These conflicts will surely increase as the paving of

highway BR-364 which runs from Porto Velho (the capital of

the neighboring state of Rond6nia) to Rio Branco, the capital

of Acre, is completed. ("BID e UniAo garantem o asfaltamento

da BR-364" July 1, 1988). All weather access on this road

will bring greater numbers of land speculators, cattle

ranchers and migrant farmers into the state. With BR-364

paved through Rond6nia and into Acre, farmers forced out of

Brazil's central-south region due to the mechanization of

labor-intensive crops and the expansion of soybeans and wheat,

will migrate into Acre, bringing with them a dramatic rise in

forest clearing (Fearnside 1984).

Plans by the federal and state governments to continue

paving BR-364 and BR-317 to Acre's Peruvian and Bolivian

borders, respectively, will certainly put greater pressure on

Acre's forests. (Both the World Bank and the Inter-American

Development Bank have refused to pay for the paving of BR-

364 to Peru [The Economist 1989]). Accessibility to Pacific

trade routes will increase the demand for timber, beef and

products such as soybeans shipped up from southern Brazil.

Acre's Secretariat for Industry and Commerce is actively

promoting the state's capacity to produce rubber, Brazil nuts,

dairy products, timber and furniture (Secretaria de Inddstria

e Comercio n.d.). In anticipation of growing markets for

beef, Acre is constructing refrigeration facilities in Rio

Branco to process beef destined for the European Common Market

ibidd). With these increases in interstate and international

commerce, Acre will soon experience even more rapid economic

and social change than at present.

In light of these changes, the rubber tappers hope that

they will be able to preserve the rain forest on which they

depend for their livelihood. The serinqueiros in the

municipalities of Xapuri and Brasildia in southeastern Acre

have been mobilizing their communities for over a decade to

defend their right to the land on which they live. They plan

to expand their unionization and mobilization efforts in other

parts of Acre and in Rond6nia. Their strategy includes

pressing for more extractive reserves, as well as for research

to improve their production system. The schools of the

Projeto Seringueiro are one of the key elements needed to

successfully mobilize communities to reach these goals.

The extractive reserves are federally owned and protected

areas of rain forest in which the serinaueiros can continue

to live and work. The idea for extractive reserves was first

officially promoted in 1985 at the first meeting of the

Conselho Nacional dos Seringueiros (CNS) or the National

Rubber Tappers' Council in Brasilia (Bakx 1987a, 1987b; CNS

1985; Lamb 1986). These reserves, designed along the lines

of indigenous reserves, provide an alternative to government-

sponsored colonization projects. The reserves were to be

created in areas where rubber tappers were currently living

(CNS 1985; STR-Xapuri/CUT/CNS 1989).

After two years of intensive lobbying by the rubber

tappers who were supported by national and international

conservation groups, the President of the National Institute

for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) authorized the

creation of extractive reserves for "economically viable and

ecologically sustainable activities by the populations

occupying areas with abundant extractive products" on July

31, 1987 (INCRA 1987; translation mine). Residents of these

areas gain extractive rights by signing a 20-year renewable

contract with INCRA which stipulates that the contract may be

passed on to family members but that the land itself may not

be otherwise transferred without notifying INCRA ibidd). The

contract also states that the area be used for extractive

purposes and implicitly regulates the amount of forest that

can be cleared annually ibidd), thereby reducing the threat

of encroachment into the forest by land speculators or cattle


By September of 1988 the serinqueiros had succeeded in

having four areas designated as reserves in Acre totalling

210,973 hectares and including at least 618 families (IEA

1988). While the tappers see this as a good start, the CNS

and the union hope to have additional extractive reserves

created in Acre and other Amazonian states. At their

municipal meeting in August of 1988, members of the Union of

Rural Workers (STR-Xapuri) declared that they want to have a

sufficient number of such reserves to accommodate the whole

population of rubber tappers presently residing in Acre's

forests. According to 1980 census figures, this entails a

population of 23,813 persons (not including persons under 10

years of age) who indicated that the extraction of rubber was

their main occupation (IBGE 1980a). These people constitute

26% of the state's 1980 economically active population ibidd),

which produced 54% of Brazil's coagulated Hevea latex (IBGE

1980b). As the total size of the state of Acre is 152,589 km2

(IBGE 1981), the four areas designated as reserves constitute

only 1.4% of the state. The families served by these reserves

constitute roughly 10% of the 1980 population engaged in

extractive activities (using an average of four economically

active persons per household). The designation of these four

reserves was due to the persistent efforts of the rubber

tappers' union and the CNS which were strengthened by support

from national and international conservation interests. All

of these groups will have to intensify their efforts if in

fact they intend to establish reserves large enough in number

and size to serve Acre's population of rubber tappers.

Towards this end, the CNS and STR are striving to

mobilize serinqueiros in other parts of Acre and to strengthen

the existing union in Xapuri and Brasildia. A key aspect of

such mobilization efforts is the schools of the Projeto

Seringueiro. The Projeto is a community-initiated and

sustained literacy and numeracy project which is now in its

seventh year and serves 600 students. In order to assess the

role of this education project in mobilizing the rubber

tappers, I spent four months in Acre during the summer of

1988. I worked closely with the serinqueiros in Xapuri,

exploring the history of the union and the education project.

I compared various communities with access to Projeto schools

and state-sponsored rural schools. By interviewing families,

teachers and community leaders, attending community meetings

and traveling to different schools and the serincueiros' homes

in the rain forest, I studied the impact of this popular

education project on life in the rain forest and on the

community as a whole.

A Look at the Rubber Tappers and Socio-Economic Changes in
the State of Acre

In order to better understand the daily reality of the

rubber tappers' lives and the socio-political environment in

which they operate, I present here a synopsis of the history,

unionization and production system of the Acrean rubber

tappers as well as a brief look at the federal government's

Amazon policy.

The rubber tappers live in the forest from which they

extract the latex from wild rubber trees (Hevea spp.) and

gather Brazil nuts (Bertholettia excelsa). Within the forest,

the location and density of the 500-600 rubber trees tapped

by each family dictate the site of the family's home or

colocacao. Tappers cut between 3-7 looping trails or estradas

in the forest starting and ending at their home. The

serinqueiro walks the trails to get to the rubber trees and

makes a small incision (corte) in the bark of the tree to

extract the latex. The serinqueiro affixes a collecting cup

(tigela) or a Brazil nut husk to the tree to hold the dripping

latex. Collection of the latex requires another round trip

on the trail. Each round trip takes from 2-4 hours.

After processing the latex, the tappers sell the

resulting rubber and the Brazil nuts for cash with which they

purchase necessary dry goods. In addition to hunting and

fishing, each family has a small agricultural plot (rocado)

for cultivation of subsistence crops, obviating the need to

purchase many foodstuffs. Since only a small part of the

forest is cleared for agriculture and the rubber trees can be

tapped throughout their adult life, the serinaueiros can live

in and work the same tract of land for many generations.

It was in part due to the fabled richness of Acre's

forests that the ancestors of many of the state's current

rubber tappers migrated to the area. Understanding the

history of the serinqueiros of Acre is essential to realizing

the significance of their mobilization. I present here a very

brief synopsis of the extractive economy of rubber in Acre and

the social relations in which the serinqueiros have been

involved. [Barbara Weinstein, Warren Dean and Pedro

Martinello provide comprehensive studies of the migration of

workers to the rubber estates of Acre during the boom of 1850-

1912 and again in World War II (see Dean 1987, Martinello

1988, and Weinstein 1983).]

The economy and social relations surrounding the

extraction of latex in the Amazon has traditionally involved

a system of debt-peonage or aviamento. Aviamento was a

vertical line of credit which extended from the serinqueiro

in the forest through a number of intermediaries to the export

houses in Belem and Manaus and from there on to international

sources of capital (Coelho 1982; Dean 1987; Weinstein 1983).

Within the aviamento system, a patron (or seringalista) would

provide a serincueiro with foodstuffs and supplies on credit.

The serinqueiro would then be obliged to sell his harvest of

rubber to the patron who, through price manipulation, would

keep the serinqueiro "captive" by insuring that the rubber

tapper was always in debt. Due to the serinqueiro's isolation

in the forest, illiteracy and his initial debt which kept

growing, he was literally under the control of the patron and

had little or no recourse of escaping the aviamento system

(see Coelho 1982 and Weinstein 1983 for a more thorough

discussion of aviamento).

After 1964, with changes in federal policy and economic

objectives, the seringalistas no longer had easy access to

credit from the banks to finance their aviamento relations

and subsequently lost "control" over the serinqueiros (Duarte

1987). This coincided with falling rubber prices which,

combined with a lack of credit, forced many of the rubber


barons to abandon their serinqais (the rubber tapping areas

they controlled), leaving rubber tappers under the control of

local traders or marreteiros.

Changes in federal policy at this time encouraged

investment in large scale agricultural enterprises in the

Amazon (mostly in the form of cattle ranches) (Duarte 1987;

Pompermayer 1984) which resulted in large scale clearing of

the forest and expulsion of the small-scale farmers and

serincueiros who had been working the land.

In Acre, the aviamento system began deteriorating in the

micro-region of the Purus river which is the southeast portion

of the state (Bakx 1987a). As the construction of roads

allowed access to markets previously denied to the tappers,

the serinqueiros in this area slowly began gaining

independence from their former patrons (Bakx 1987a). By the

time cattle ranchers from southern Brazil came into Acre in

the early 1970's at the invitation of then state Governor

Wanderlei Dantas, tappers in southeastern Acre were autonomous

ibidd) and in a position to organize, at least in a loose

fashion, against the clearing of their lands.

The serinqueiros' movement received support from the

Catholic church's recognition of the tappers' struggle and

assistance from CONTAG (the Brazilian Confederation of

Agricultural Workers) ibidd). In 1975, a municipal branch of

the Union of Rural Workers or Sindicato dos Trabalhadores

Rurais (STR) was formed in Brasildia (Bakx 1987b). The

serinqueiros themselves became the leaders in the STR,

defending workers' rights and mobilizing the membership for

political and social change, including the defense of the rain

forest on which their livelihoods depended.

The empate or stand-off was one of the first mobilization

efforts of the 1970's (Bakx 1987). At these non-violent

demonstrations, the goal is to stop forest clearing and

evictions of serincueiros by cattle ranchers seeking to claim

land. Unarmed tappers, oftentimes with their wives and

children, confront the ranchers' workers who are operating

chainsaws and bulldozers (Schwartzman 1987). The tappers

appeal to the class solidarity of the laborers ibidd) and

their common dependence on the preservation of the forest.

Along with defending the forest through the empates, the

rubber tappers also wanted to improve the quality of their

lives by getting better prices for their rubber and Brazil

nuts and by learning to read and write. With help from non-

governmental organizations and the STR, the serincueiros built

schools and health posts in the rain forest and established


After ten years of local unionization, rubber tappers

from four states met in Brasilia in 1985 at the first National

Meeting of Amazonian Rubber Tappers at which time they created

the National Rubber Tapper's Council (CNS). The CNS proposed

the appropriation of native rubber tapping areas for the

establishment of extractive reserves to be set up where rubber

tappers and other rural workers were already living and to

guarantee usufruct rights to these people (Bakx 1987b; CNS

1985; Lamb 1986; STR-Xapuri/CUT/CNS 1989). There are now four

such areas in Acre designated to be extractive reserves (IEA

1988). I included the extractive reserve of S&o Luis do

Remanso in my study.

FUNTAC, the Acrean State Agency of Technology, is

responsible for overall management of the extractive reserves.

Funding for these reserves comes in large part from the Inter-

American Development Bank (IDB) as part of the environmental

protection plan (PMACI) that is to accompany the paving of

highway BR-364 as mentioned earlier. PMACI is the Projeto de

Protegio do Meio Ambiente e das Comunidades Indigenas or the

Project for Protection of the Environment and Indigenous


Disputes over the nature and implementation of PMACI have

plagued the Project since its inception when the Inter-

American Development Bank (IDB) first approved financing of

the BR-364 into Acre. After the Brazilian government failed

to implement the environmental protection measures in the

PMACI as the road construction got underway, protests from

the rubber tappers, indigenous groups and environmental

organizations prompted the Bank to temporarily halt

disbursements on the loan in 1987 (The IDB 1989).

For the serinqueiros, a key component of the PMACI is

the extractive reserves. The CNS' proposal to add the

reserves to the Project (CNS 1987) was greatly strengthened

through the lobbying of one of the serinqueiros' leaders,

Chico Mendes, the former President of the STR-Xapuri. Chico

Mendes traveled to Miami to participate in the Bank's annual

conference (Jornal do Brasil July 6, 1987), lobbying for

extractive reserves and the protection of indigenous

communities. The final version of the PMACI calls for the

establishment of four extractive reserves in Acre


PMACI is important to the Projeto Seringueiro in that it

calls for the construction of six schools in the Remanso

seringal (SEPLAN/MT/BID 1988) which I included in this study.

While the Secretary of Education will be directly responsible

for the schools ibidd), FUNTAC is working closely with STR-

Xapuri and CNS representatives in Remanso to ensure that the

schools are community-based along the lines of the Projeto

Seringueiro2. The Projeto Seringueiro and FUNTAC are

designing a new curriculum to be used in the reserve schools

and in the existing Projeto schools3

Education in the Serinqal
Historically, the serinqueiros have lived in isolation

in the rain forest as dictated by their patron in the

aviamento (debt-peonage) system and by the production system

itself because of the need to access the scattered native

rubber trees (Weinstein 1983). The tappers therefore had no

access to education, especially since their patrons saw

literacy as a threat to their domination over the tappers

(Allegretti 1979; 1981). Illiterate and innumerate

serinqueiros posed no threat to the patron who controlled the

transactions in his accounting book which determined the debt

he held over the tappers. A serinqueiro explained the

tappers' inability to challenge the accuracy of these

transactions to Mary Allegretti in 1979 as follows:

If the serincueiro knew how to read, he would stop
dealing with the patron because all the
serinqueiros figured out that they're being
cheated; they've known it all along. Then the
patron would see that he wouldn't be able to
deceive the serinqueiro, see? This is why they
(the patrons) like the seringal. Its because they
gain a lot. It's difficult to find one (a
serinqueiro) who can even recognize his own name
(when it's written down). It's hard. Everyone's
illiterate. (Allegretti 1979:125) [translation

Although the serincueiros in my study are autonomous in

that they are not strictly under the control of such a patron,

their physical isolation and the severely inadequate

educational services offered by the Secretary of Education

and Culture (SEC) in the rural areas still deny them access

to schooling. The SEC's mandate in the rural areas is to

accompany the establishment of community-built rural schools

with pedagogic and administrative support including teacher

selection, training and evaluation and providing supplies4.

This mandate originates from the Brazilian Constitution of

1946 that declared education to be a right of all citizens,

that the state is to provide such education and that all

citizens are obligated to attend primary school (Teixeira


However, in 1987, less than a third of the primary

school-aged children (up to the age of 15) in the rural areas

of the municipality of Xapuri were enrolled in school (SEPLAN

1988). Even those students enrolled in school often do not

move up to continue studying at the next grade level. For

1987, the breakdown by grade levels of the 1037 students aged

7-15 enrolled in Xapuri's rural schools was as follows: 1

serie-670; 2 serie-184; 3 serie-120; 4 serie-63 ibidd). These

data indicate that less than 11% of the children enrolling in

the first series (equivalent to first grade in the U.S.

system) will likely go on to enroll in the fourth series.

There are many reasons for the low enrollments and high

drop-out rates. At one government-sponsored school that I

visited in a seringal two hours from Xapuri, the teacher

showed me the attendance book which was filled with black X's

indicating absentees. All of her students were children of

serinqueiros. Their parents kept the children out of school

for months or even a year at a time, mainly so that the

children could work at home. The teacher stated that the

parents do not value education and therefore don't always

encourage their children to study.


Another reason for absenteeism is a lack of merenda, the

meal provided by the SEC's Departamento de Alimentagio Escolar

(DAE). The Coordinator of Rural Education called the lack of

infrastructure, especially transportation for delivering the

merenda, the biggest problem for Acre's rural schools4. As

mentioned in Chapter II, merenda is a necessity for students

who oftentimes must walk over an hour to school and it also

serves to attract students who otherwise might go without a

mid-day meal.

Lastly, the sheer lack of rural schools makes it very

difficult for the serinaueiros and rural farmers to gain

access to education. In 1987, there were only 42 first grade

schools in the rural areas of the municipality of Xapuri

(SEPLAN 1988). The number of school-aged children (7-15

years old) in these areas was 3,665 for the same year ibidd).

This means that each of the 42 schools (almost all of which

are one-room schoolhouses) would have to serve over 87

students (assuming the students could get to the schools) in

order to achieve full enrollment.

The SEC is strapped for resources and has found it very

difficult to accompany increases in the demand for rural

schools without adequate infrastructure, especially

transportation. Therefore, the SEC relies on community

initiative and labor in setting up rural schools. The

Coordinator for Rural Education of the SEC in Acre explained

to me that if a rural community wants a school in its locale,

community members must construct the school using wood from

the forest in the mutirao (community work day) fashion. SEC

representatives then go to the area and conduct a survey to

select the most qualified community member to serve as a

teacher (although the community usually has already selected

someone). The SEC then provides the necessary books,

chalkboards, merenda and other supplies.

In spite of these factors that make access to education

in the seringal very difficult, the rubber tappers have

indicated throughout their unionization movement that

education is one of their primary goals (Allegretti 1981;

Sorensen 1989). The serinqueiros see education as one of the

key factors in improving their lives and strengthening their

unionization movement. According to the former President of

the Xapuri chapter of the Rural Workers' Union, the link

between literacy and the serinqueiros' struggle to preserve

the forest has been crucial to the rubber tappers' efforts'.

Organization of the Study
This link between the rubber tappers' education project

and their unionization and conservation movement is the focus

of this study. In this thesis I present the results of my

fieldwork which measured the impact of the Projeto schools and

government schools on life in the seringal. Using

questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, I examined the

dependency of the following five variables on the presence and

type of each school in the four serinqais: (1) rural-urban

migration, (2) self-reported literacy skills, (3) political

participation, (4) natural resource use [techniques used in

cutting rubber and hunting], and, (5) marketing tactics.

I selected these five variables because they indicate the

relationships between the rubber tappers' mobilization,

education and conservation efforts. They also reflect the

goals of the Projeto Seringueiro education project which are

to improve the quality of life of the rubber tappers and to

help create a politically active community dedicated to

preserving the rain forest. To achieve these goals, the

Projeto uses the pedagogy techniques of the Brazilian educator

Paulo Freire. In Freire's way of teaching, the participants

learn to read and write using words and images that are part

of their environment. Through discussions about these words

and images the participants critically reflect on who they are

while learning how they might go about improving their lives.

Using the tools of literacy and numeracy combined with this

critical reflection, the serinaueiros reinforce their

mobilization efforts by encouraging community participation

to affect social change. While the schools are not the sole

agent of change in the four serinqais where I conducted my

study, the variables I selected assess the impact of the

schools on life in the rain forest.

Along with the results of my interviews with the

serinqueiros, I present historical information about the union

and the Projeto Seringueiro. I devote this first chapter to

a brief synopsis of who the rubber tappers of Acre are and how

and why they have been mobilizing their community for over a


In Chapter II, I describe the foundation and rapid growth

of the Projeto Seringueiro (PS) education project as well as

the project's current status and scope of activities. Also

in this chapter I explore the basic tenets of the popular

education theory and methodology that the PS employs in its


The third chapter reports the results of my interviews

with 24 rubber tapper families. In this chapter I study five

aspects of the tappers' daily lives in communities with PS

schools, with a government school and with no educational

facilities at all.

Chapter IV is a continued exploration of the impact of

the schools but on a more macro-level. Here I look at the

effect of the PS on community mobilization and how such

mobilization sways national and international policies

including agrarian reform and development projects. I also

present a summary of my findings and some recommendations as

to how this popular education project might best continue to

serve its current participants and address the needs of other

communities in the future.

I conclude this thesis with a brief epilog which relates

how the Projeto Seringueiro has changed since the end of

September, 1988. I visited Acre during the summer of 1989 for

six weeks and conducted interviews with PS staff concerning

the growth of the Project and the impact of the death of Chico

Mendes (the Xapuri union president who was killed in December

of 1988) on the unionization movement.


I carried out the field research for this study during

the months of June through September, 1988. From June 20 to

July 2, I participated in a course in Rio Branco entitled

"Research and Extension in Agroforestry Systems" offered by

the University of Florida and the Federal University of Acre

(UFAC). The course content, especially the three days of

field interviews with rubber tappers, was very helpful in

orienting me to the seringal. The 27 Brazilian participants

from various governmental and non-governmental institutions

whom I met during the course were very supportive as I later

carried out my own research.

I divided my research time between the urban areas of
Rio Branco and the town of Xapuri and the seringais. In Rio

Branco I visited the offices of the following institutions

to interview staff members and to gather documentation: IMAC,


the List of Acronyms for a description of these institutions).

I also attended meetings with STR and FUNTAC personnel at the

FUNTAC and INCRA/MIRAD offices. The library and personnel at

UFAC were also a valuable source of information. In the town

of Xapuri, I interviewed staff members of SEC, PT, CTA, the

STR-Xapuri and the local hospital. I also attended the

convention of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) on July 31,

the municipal meeting of the STR-Xapuri (August 1-2) and three

meetings of the women's group sponsored by CTA throughout the


On my first visit to the town of Xapuri, I selected

initial interview sites with assistance from Dr. Marianne

Schmink and representatives of STR-Xapuri, the Conselho

Nacional dos Seringueiros (CNS) and the Centro dos

Trabalhadores da Amaz6nia (CTA). We chose interview sites to

include both governmental and Projeto Seringueiro schools.

The sites varied in their history of union activity but were

chosen to control as much as possible for differences in

distance to the nearest town, duration of the school in the

communities, and the length of residence of the tappers. The

serinaal's trails, while well known to the rubber tappers, are

very difficult for a stranger to negotiate. Other

difficulties made it unsafe for me to travel alone so we chose

interview sites such that I could find someone well known to

the union personnel to accompany me, and a reliable host

family with whom to stay.

Using SUCAM maps and the knowledge of the STR and CTA

personnel of each family in the serinaal, I selected two

colocac6es or family areas in Xapuri: one within the seringal

Floresta and the other in Boa Vista for my interviews with

Projeto Seringueiro communities. These combine to comprise

the first of my four study areas. My host family in each area

was my base from which I went out to interview neighbors who

lived at a one-way distance ranging from five minutes to a

three and a half hour walk. On these interview trips, I

usually was accompanied by a teenage companion or my female

host who introduced me to the neighboring family and assisted

me as necessary when difficulties in Portuguese arose. Since

I had earlier participated in union meetings in Xapuri, most

of the informants knew of my presence and were fully

cooperative in the interviews. I stayed at each base home for

a total of one to two weeks. This gave me the opportunity to

participate in family life and to observe the typical daily

work routine of the females of the household.

After later consultation with FUNTAC administrators and

researchers and with the encouragement of STR officials, I

modified my site selection to include interviews with families

in the newly created extractive reserve of Sao Luis do Remanso

and neighboring areas. With the assistance of FUNTAC and STR,

one community of Remanso was beginning construction of a

school while another was holding meetings to decide on a

school site. Since FUNTAC does not have any social scientists

on its staff, the President of FUNTAC and the research

technicians encouraged me to conduct part of my own research

in Remanso and to assist FUNTAC staff in their work with the

community. With the inclusion of Remanso and another location

in the surrounding forest, I had a total of four study areas.

In Sdo Luis do Remanso, I made the colocac6es

Encrusilhada/Centro Virgem my base for study Area II. It was

in this locale that the rubber tappers were constructing a

school and planned to build a health post with FUNTAC and STR-

Xapuri assistance. There had been a government school in

existence since 1984 in this area, however, the residents were

dissatisfied with the quality of the teacher, the books and

the building itself. They were participating in the

construction of a new school which would be supplied with

better materials and would have better trained community

members serving as teachers. This area is divided between the

municipalities of Xapuri and Rio Branco.

Also within Remanso, I interviewed families in the

southern section of the reserve where the FUNTAC technicians

and STR representatives were just beginning their work

centered around the colocacgo Encrenca. This area is study

site three. There was no history of a school in this area.

Accompanied by a FUNTAC researcher, I also visited

families living just outside the reserve who had no access to

a school. Some of these families lived on land owned by

Alcobras, a state-subsidized producer of sugar cane alcohol,

with whom they had verbal agreements that their rubber trails

would not be cleared for cane planting. This was the fourth

and final study area.

In the serincais, I interviewed 24 rubber tappers and

their families using a questionnaire. I also attended union

meetings and church gatherings held in the schools. In the

serinqal Floresta (study area I), I helped community members

paint the newly constructed school building and observed the

children's classes which started up while I was there.

Although the PMACI mandates the construction of only six

schools in Remanso (SEPLAN/MT/BID 1988:113), FUNTAC plans to

construct a total of 15 within the reserve and in surrounding

areas (FUNTAC 1988). In providing infrastructural support

such as schools and health posts as well as extending its

research efforts to areas adjacent to Remanso, FUNTAC hopes

to be able to convince policy makers to extend the reserve

boundaries to include these areas. My fourth study site is

one of these areas beyond the borders of the official reserve.

To summarize the groupings of the interviews done in

these five sites: Area I comprises the colocac6es served by

Projeto Seringueiro schools and the new cooperative. Both

the Xapuri union and the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Worker's

Party) are very active here. Area II is within the Remanso

reserve which currently has a government school. The Rio

Branco union has not been active here although the Xapuri

union, the Projeto Seringueiro and FUNTAC have begun community

mobilization and school construction. Area III consists of

the interviews done with families in Remanso with no access

to a school and no history of union activity. Families living

in Sdo Luis do Remanso (Areas II and III) can sign a renewable

20 year contract for extractive rights with INCRA, the

governmental land reform agency (INCRA 1987). Area IV includes

the families outside the extractive reserve.

With these groupings, I have covered different school

histories (Projeto Seringueiro vs. governmental vs. no

school), different forms of land tenure (union-supported

posseiro or squatter rights in Area I, a 20 year renewable

contract for extractive rights in Areas II and III, and in

Area IV, no secure land tenure), and various experiences with

unionization and politicization (see Table 1-1).

Table 1-1: Description of Interview Sites

(no. of years/ (type/no.
municipality) of years)

/////////////11 ////11111/111//11////1111/11111
I Floresta 11 PS / 5 Yes
& Boa Vista Xapuri




II Remanso 1 govt / 5 No 20 year
Rio Branco contract

III Remanso 1 None No 20 year
Xapuri contract

IV Alcobras 0 None No Posseiro
Rio Branco rights


1 Field interviews with the President of the Sindicato dos
Trabalhadores Rurais Xapuri. Xapuri, Acre.

2 Field interviews with the Research Director of FUNTAC.
Rio Branco, Acre.

3 Field interviews with Projeto Seringueiro staff. Rio
Branco and Xapuri, Acre.

4 Field interview with the Coordinator of Education for
the Rural Zone; Secretary of Education and Culture. Rio
Branco, Acre.


History of the Projeto Serinqueiro

The Projeto Seringueiro grew out of the rubber tappers'

recognition of their need for literacy and numeracy training

as a means of working collectively to improve their production

and their quality of life (Allegretti 1981). As explained by

Chico Mendes, the former President of the Rural Workers' Union

(STR) in Xapuri, the Projeto's schools came to be one of the

most successful mobilization tactics of the union.

When we began this fight against the destruction of the
forest in 1975, we began a struggle that faced a lot of
difficulties because the rubber tappers never learned to
read and write. So it was a real challenge to raise the
consciousness of the workers, principally the rubber
tappers. And the union in Xapuri, facing particularly
tough challenges because of the very tense situation,
felt it was the right path for us to take advancing the
fight in some way. It was at the beginning of 1980 when
we started thinking of ways to advance our struggle. And
one of the ways we discovered was to create schools for
the serinqueiros. What one saw and witnessed was that
as the serinqueiros began to study they discovered the
importance of the fight to defend the forest.1
[translation mine]

On August 1, 1981, sixteen families in the seringal

Nazare in Xapuri met with union representatives and Mary

Allegretti (a Brazilian anthropologist who had done her


History of the Projeto Serinqueiro

The Projeto Seringueiro grew out of the rubber tappers'

recognition of their need for literacy and numeracy training

as a means of working collectively to improve their production

and their quality of life (Allegretti 1981). As explained by

Chico Mendes, the former President of the Rural Workers' Union

(STR) in Xapuri, the Projeto's schools came to be one of the

most successful mobilization tactics of the union.

When we began this fight against the destruction of the
forest in 1975, we began a struggle that faced a lot of
difficulties because the rubber tappers never learned to
read and write. So it was a real challenge to raise the
consciousness of the workers, principally the rubber
tappers. And the union in Xapuri, facing particularly
tough challenges because of the very tense situation,
felt it was the right path for us to take advancing the
fight in some way. It was at the beginning of 1980 when
we started thinking of ways to advance our struggle. And
one of the ways we discovered was to create schools for
the serinqueiros. What one saw and witnessed was that
as the serinqueiros began to study they discovered the
importance of the fight to defend the forest.1
[translation mine]

On August 1, 1981, sixteen families in the seringal

Nazare in Xapuri met with union representatives and Mary

Allegretti (a Brazilian anthropologist who had done her

master's research with rubber tappers) to discuss ways to

improve the tappers' production system. Out of this meeting

emerged the beginnings of the Projeto Seringueiro (Allegretti

1981), a grass roots effort to assist extractive producers in

the municipality of Xapuri in the state of Acre.

Originally the Projeto had three objectives (cooperative

marketing, education and health), all jointly designed to

improve the living conditions and production of these

families. In order to bypass the marreteiros, or middlemen,

to whom they sold their rubber and Brazil nuts, the tappers

wanted to form a marketing cooperative which would give them

more price-negotiating power both when selling their products

and buying dry goods in bulk. The serincueiros were to manage

the cooperative, although none of them had the literacy,

numeracy or managerial skills for such a task ibidd).

The rubber tappers therefore recognized that education

was one of their most immediate needs. They made plans to

construct a school in the seringal, designed specifically for

their way of life, where they could gain these skills. Not

only would literacy and numeracy training help them increase

their economic gain since they would be able to check the

credit and debit sheets of the traders, but they also would

gain access to printed information about the union and their

legal rights as workers. All of the families in this group

of sixteen were active union participants and were therefore

increasingly aware of the importance of mobilization and of


their rights under workers' legislation. However, illiteracy

still remained a major impediment to them both in terms of

controlling market transactions and being able to critically

learn more about their rights and responsibilities as rural

workers and union members ibidd).

The families of these rural workers were physically

isolated from educational facilities and health services.

The nearest clinic and hospital are in the town of Xapuri, a

two day walk from Nazare. Nazare rubber tappers therefore

also planned to later construct a health post to be staffed

by a trained member of the community (Allegretti 1981) where

they could receive basic medical attention.

Following this meeting, CEDOP-AM (Centro de Documentacdo

e Pesquisa da Amaz6nia), a local non-governmental

organization, took action on its mandate from the tappers to

seek funding and technical assistance for the school and the

cooperative (Allegretti 1981; Bakx 1986). CEDOP-AM is now

defunct but in effect has been replaced by the CTA (Centro dos

Trabalhadores da Amaz6nia), a non-governmental organization

with offices in Xapuri and Rio Branco. The Projeto

Seringueiro is one of the CTA's projects along with a women's

group, an oral history project and a marketing/consumer


Marketing Cooperatives

CEDOP-AM personnel obtained financial support from Oxfam-

UK for the initial cooperative in Nazare and for others that

were later established in other serinaais (Bakx 1986; Oxfam

1986), as well as assistance from a European church

organization which paid for a mule in the Floresta cooperative

(Schwartzman & Allegretti n.d.). For the first few years,

these cooperatives functioned well (Oxfam 1986; Schwartzman

& Allegretti n.d.). However, by 1984 all of these initial

cooperative efforts had failed due to lack of capital

(Schwartzman & Allegretti n.d.) and poor management2. When

CTA and STR-Xapuri personnel began the initial steps toward

creating a new cooperative, they encountered strong resistance

from many of the rubber tappers who were reluctant to join in

such efforts after the failure of the first cooperatives in

the early 1980s. After more than a year of strenuous work,

holding meetings in the seringal and in town to catalyze

commitment to the cooperative, the manager of the CTA

cooperative had 15 members who had paid their initial dues of

50 kilos of rubber or the equivalent in another crop. On June

30, 1988 he negotiated the coop's first sale which paid

members 17% above the going market rate per kilo of rubber.

The cooperative also sold dry goods which it had purchased in

bulk at lower than market prices. By September of 1988 the

cooperative had more than doubled its membership and was in

the process of electing members to serve as officers.


A very important characteristic of this cooperative is

that it began with no external financial assistance2. The

cooperatives initially formed with CEDOP's support in the

early 1980s were possible only through low (or zero) interest

financial assistance and technical support (Bakx 1986). While

CTA staff were necessary to stimulate interest and provide

initial management for the present attempt at cooperativeness,

the rubber tappers put up their own resources to provide the

initial capital.

The manager of the cooperative stated that the schools

of the Projeto Seringueiro were vital to the success of this

effort in that they provide the literacy and numeracy skills

necessary for the cooperative members. Aside from this the

schools sustain the community by providing a forum for

communication and leadership development, both of which were

critical in garnering the support for this most recent

cooperative effort2

The First Schools

At that first meeting in August of 1981, the tappers made

it clear that they wanted a school designed specifically for

their way of life in terms of location, construction, schedule

and thematic orientation of the classes (Allegretti 1981).

When describing the success of the first school in Nazare,

Mendes stated, "The most important aspect of this school that

helped us strengthen our cause is that we did not accept a

school with the political orientation of the official

[educational] system. We looked for people that really had

a base in popular education that was different from what one

usually sees in this country".' Tailoring the school

physically and ideologically to the reality of the rubber

tappers' culture and environment was their primary goal

(Allegretti 1981). The tappers themselves took care of

locating the building in an easily accessible part of the

seringal, constructing the school of local materials in the

traditional design and arranging class times to match their

production schedules. CEDOP-AM staff requested assistance

from CEDI (Centro de Documentagdo e Informaq&o) in Sao Paulo

to design the educational materials (Araripe 1988; CEDI 1984;

Oxfam 1986). Oxfam-UK provided financial support for the

first school in the form of school supplies and materials

needed for the Projeto staff who served as the first monitors

or teachers (Bakx 1986; Oxfam 1986).

While CEDOP-AM personnel were securing the funding for

the cooperative and the school, the tappers started

constructing the school building in the colocacao Deserto

within the seringal Nazare. Using a local palm called paxiuba

(Socratea exhorrhiza) for the floor and walls and ouricuri

(Attalea excelsa) for the thatch roof, members of the

community drew from their experience of communal work days

(mutirdo) and labor exchanges between neighbors to build the

Projeto's first school. By using these forest products, the

serinqueiros gave value to and reproduced the local culture


and indigenous knowledge (Projeto Seringueiro 1987) while at

the same time strengthening community ties. As the

school was being built by the tappers, CEDI's popular

education staff members worked closely with a CEDOP-AM

representative to ensure that the materials they developed for

the Projeto Seringueiro would fit into the cultural context

of the rubber tappers' with its oral tradition and limited

exposure to printed materials (CEDI 1984). They began their

work late in 1981 and, by June, 1982, CEDI and CEDOP-AM were

testing the first versions of the material, entitled PORONGA,

in the colocacao "Ja com Fome" (Already Hungry) in Nazare

ibidd). By the first semester of 1983, CEDI had created and

revised the three Projeto Seringueiro notebooks (Portuguese,

mathematics and the monitor's manual) which were now ready for

use in the schools ibidd).

CEDI personnel applied the methodology of the Brazilian

educator Paulo Freire in creating the PORONGA workbooks. The

basic ideas behind Freire's popular education and liberation

theology approach and how CEDI incorporated these into PORONGA

are explained in the next section.

The Theoretical Basis of Popular Education: The Projeto
Serinqueiro's Educational Materials and the Paulo Freire

When the rubber tappers first started talking about

creating schools in the seringal in 1980, they explicitly

wanted an experience different from that of the state school.

Their primary goal was learning to read and write so that they

could manage their new cooperative (Allegretti 1981), so they

wanted a school that would teach them practical skills based

in the reality of their daily lives. An educational program

that addressed social problems by combining literacy and

numeracy training with practical applications was therefore

expected to be more effective than the traditional, formal

school approach (La Belle 1984). The union hoped that with the

development of a literate serinqueiro community, the unions'

members could more easily register to vote, read local

newspapers and union flyers, negotiate with traders and the

barracdo (the patron's trading post), manage cooperatives and,

most importantly, reflect on their collective situation and

critically evaluate their options to improve their lives.

Along with the union, the other non-governmental organizations

contributing to this project were concerned with the rights

of the rubber tappers; they believed that community

development projects such as this one were a viable means of

empowering individuals and the community to successfully

exercise those rights. By applying Paulo Freire's ideology

in this education project, the rubber tappers and their

supporting organizations were striving to redress the

illiteracy and lack of critical experience in political

participation of the community, a process which Freire saw as

an inevitable component of democratization (Freire 1983a).

As mentioned earlier, the title of the three notebooks

created by CEDI and CEDOP-AM was PORONGA, after the kerosene

head lamp of the same name that the tappers use when cutting

rubber before daybreak. CEDI and CEDOP-AM designed the

PORONGA materials to literally "light the way" for the rubber

tappers, who would be exploring different ways of thinking and

seeing the world with their new skills (Araripe 1988; CEDI


In creating these workbooks for the Projeto Seringueiro,

the staff from CEDI's popular education program combined their

own experience in working with ecclesiastical base communities

(CEBs) of the Catholic church and other rural and urban

popular education movements with the adult education

methodology designed by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire

(CEDI 1984). Freire based his methodology on the theory that

education is never neutral; it is a dialog between the

educator and the learner (CECUP n.d.). For this reason he

rejected the use of cartilhas or primer textbooks. In his

view such books are "pre-fabricated" and easily allow the

instructor to direct the thinking of the student, thereby also

enabling the instructor to influence the political

consciousness of the student (Brandao 1986:22).

Instead, Freire advocated the use of sixteen to twenty-

three palavras geradoras or key vocabulary words which are

commonly used and which collectively reflect the social

reality of the school's community (Brandao 1986:30-31; Freire

1983b). He also encouraged the use of photographs or drawings

that depict the participant's environment (LaBelle 1974). In

order to discover which words and pictures are most

appropriate for each community, researchers must delve into

the spoken universe of the culture.

With the assistance of a representative from CEDOP-AM,

CEDI's personnel did this by studying previous research done

with the rubber tappers (i.e. Allegretti 1979), listening to

taped interviews, and meeting with the Xapuriense rubber

tappers to learn about their production and marketing systems

and their way of life (CEDI 1984). Based on these

experiences, they selected the key vocabulary words and a

combination of photographs and drawings to be used in the

educational materials. The resulting palavras aeradoras which

they selected for the PORONGA portuguese notebook are shown

in Table 2-1.

The seringueiro community, CEDI and CEDOP-AM designed

the PORONGA workbooks for adults since the original objective

of the PS schools was literacy training of the rubber tappers

for cooperative management (Araripe 1988). However, children

became intrigued when they saw their parents studying3 and

they too began attending classes. For lack of an alternative,

the PS began teaching the children with the PORONGA books,

even though some of the vocabulary words, such as posse, were

not appropriate for the younger children2. Although Projeto

staff intended to create new materials for the children along


the lines of PORONGA as well as more advanced books for the

adults, changes in personnel and restructuring of the Projeto

prevented the development of these books4

Once students attained basic literacy skills using the

PORONGA, the Projeto lacked more advanced materials to

continue the education program. Instead of disbanding their

classes, they decided to use government textbooks both for

their more advanced and younger students4. Beginning in May,

1988, they introduced A Cartilha da Mimi (Mimi's Primer) in

the children's classes. FAE (Funda&Ao de Assistdncia da

Educaqio), supplied these books free of charge. Mimi and

other government-produced textbooks are geared for students

at particular educational levels and were therefore useful to

a degree in the PS schools. However, unlike the PORONGA

materials, they do not reflect the serinqueiros' environment

and culture. Instead, they offer an animated and romanticized

image of urban living an image that is contrary to the goal

of the rubber tappers' movement which is to reinforce a

positive viewpoint of the tappers' forest existence4

At a training session held in April of 1988 to introduce

monitors to Mimi, Projeto staff worked with the monitors to

help them take some ideas from Mimi and re-interpret them in

the serinqueiro's context. However, some of the monitors had

difficulty in modifying the ideas when teaching the children.

Table 2-1: Key Vocabulary Words in Projeto Seringueiro's
PORONGA Portuguese Notebook








Aqouti paca, a game animal
rubber tapper's house
window-shelf used for washing
dishes and preparing food
a local palm
trading post operated by the local
the cut made in the rubber tree to
extract latex
rubber from the latex of the Hevea

community demonstration to stop
clearing of the forest by cattle
claiming a property through occupancy
squatters' rights
manioc flour (Mandioca esculenta), a
staple in the rubber tapper's

a local palm (Socratea exhorrhiza)
rubber tapper

Source: CEDI and CEDOP-AM. 1982.
Portuauds. Sao Paulo: CEDI.

PORONGA: Caderno de


A Comparative Look at the Government Textbooks

One of the monitors explained how difficult it was to

temper Mimi to make it applicable to the children: "It's very

difficult to work with the government textbooks because the

palavras qeradoras like grape, lion and airplane are unknown

in the seringal. Rubber tappers never see these things up

close" (Araripe 1988:39 [translation mine]). In referring to

another government textbook, one monitor commented, "In terms

of the content, I confess that I have a lot of difficulty,

even though it is getting easier. My biggest complaint is

that the book talks about things that even I don't understand.

And how am I going to teach what I don't know?" (Projeto

Seringueiro 1987b [translation mine]). Some of the words

used in a spelling exercise in Cartilha da Mimi shown in Table

2-2 illustrate this problem. While most of the words are quite

appropriate to the lives of the serinqueiros, they are

presented in a fashion quite alien to the tappers' situation.

For example, in looking at the graphics used to depict

the word "duck", one of the words common to both PORONGA and

A Cartilha da Mimi, one can see why the monitors and Projeto

staff are dissatisfied with the government texts. PORONGA

shows the animal in flight with its flock (CEDI and CEDOP-AM

1982:8), a sight that the tappers are likely to see and can

easily relate to. In A Cartilha da Mimi, the bird is dressed

in a floppy-brimmed hat, wearing a beaded necklace and

carrying a purse. By treating the animal more as a cartoon


than as a living creature, the lesson has little applicability

or meaning to the children once they learn how to spell and

read the word because there is no reference point for such a

fantasized depiction in their own lives.

In PORONGA, the same animal is shown as part of the

tappers' environment. Therefore learning to spell and read

this particular word is more applicable to their reality.

From this word the monitors may generate a class discussion

about the different animals the tappers hunt or tame and the

importance of preserving the forest which is home to the

serinaueiros and these animals.

The Projeto Seringueiro does not intend to shelter the

serinqueiro from the reality of urban life and other

lifestyles outside of the seringal. As pointed out by Thomas

LaBelle, one variation of Freire's methodology uses images

from the mass media as an object of discussion and reflection

in a "pedagogy of communication" (LaBelle 1984:85). The

Projeto Seringueiro is in the process of developing new

materials (to be discussed later in more detail) which

introduce urban concepts and lifestyles to the rubber tappers

in a context of discussion about their relation to the

serinqueiro's lives. However, the concern of the Projeto

staff is that Mimi presents these mass media and urban images

without a contextual pedagogical setting (or monitors able to

create this setting) which would facilitate the rubber

tappers' reflection and interpretation of such concepts.

Table 2-2: Spelling Words in
A Cartilha da Mimi



Source: Sissi Duarte. no date. A Cartilha da Mimi.
Paulo: Instituto Brasileira de Ediq6es Pedag6gicas.


Discussion Themes Generated by PORONGA

Reflection and discussion by the participants about such

images and ideas are key components of Freire's methodology.

This applicability or pragmatism is one of three criteria used

in the selection of the key words. While the other two

criteria, syntax and meaning (semantics), are usually found

in other approaches to literacy training, the additional

requirement of pragmatism is unique to Freire's methodology

(Brand&o 1986). During the lesson, the monitor uses each of

the key words to catalyze a discussion in the direction of

a particular tema gerador or theme generated by the word

itself (Brandao 1986). These debates and discussions are a

critical component of what Freire termed "functional literacy"

(ibid:36). This type of learning involves not only mastery

of basic literacy and numeracy skills, but also develops the

capacity to reflect upon and critically discuss these themes

with one's peers, thereby enabling the individual and the

community to evaluate options and choose actions to better

their lives (Freire 1983a; 1983b).

Discussions about these themes provide the participants

with the opportunity to explore and debate the ideas and

questions generated by the key words. In the case of the

rubber tappers in Xapuri, discussions held on Sunday

afternoons in the first schools revolved around the management

and purpose of the cooperative (Oxfam 1986).


A valid criticism of some of the educational programs

which use this methodology is that they rely too heavily on

the individual participant's initiative to put into action

what he [sic] has learned and enact social change (LaBelle

1984). LaBelle argues that while the educational program

makes the peasant aware of his/her reality it may not take

the next step so that the peasant participant "has not been

given any tools with which he can change his environment and

he has not been informed of alternative channels to which he

can direct his energies" (LaBelle 1984:87).

However, the Projeto Seringueiro project does provide

that direction and those channels through its links with other

organizations. The mutualistic relationships of the Projeto

with the CEBs of the Catholic church, the CTA's other projects

(including the cooperative, the women's group and oral history

projects), FUNTAC, Instituto de Estudos Amazonicos or IEA (a

research and conservation NGO in Curitiba directed by Mary

Allegretti), and the Partido dos Trabalhadores all provide the

"tools" that the rubber tappers can use to exercise their

rights and preserve the forest in which they live. As will

be shown in Chapter III, rubber tappers who attended the

Projeto Seringueiro schools are more conscious of their

potential to affect change through community and individual

actions and are empowering themselves to do so, more so than

their counterparts with no education or with only government

school experience.


Both the curriculum and the schedule of the Projeto

Seringueiro classes are geared toward this formative process

in which the participant learns about his/her capabilities to

enact social change. Table 2-3 outlines the key words of

PORONGA and the discussion themes that they generate. The

schedule of the first schools (created in the early 1980s)

was such that classes were held on Saturday afternoons and

evenings and on Sunday mornings, leaving Sunday afternoons

free for discussions about the cooperative and the union

(Oxfam 1986).

Not only do discussions surrounding these topics help

the individual and his/her community to self-empowerment, but

they also increase communication within the community. Such

dialog is essential for resolving conflicts which are certain

to appear in any community-based activity. When deciding

whether to stage an empate or selecting leaders for the new

cooperative, these negotiating and communication skills are

invaluable for a community such as the rubber tappers' which

requires cohesion for successful action.

The role of the monitor in the Freire methodology is to

actively participate in such debates and discussions, not as

a teacher but as a peer engaged in dialog (Brandao 1986; CECUP

n.d.; LaBelle 1984). This harkens back to Freire's basic

contention that no one educates any one else and no one

Table 2-3: Discussion Themes Generated by the Key Words
in Projeto Seringueiro's PORONGA




1 mata pato the importance of the
paca comida forest in the lives of
the rubber tappers

2 morada jirau the transformation of
jarinha rede nature by people

3 barracAo corte the traditional
borracha system of rubber

4 cooperative the struggle for new
empate working conditions

5 escola the right to education

6 caca farinha the right to food and
querosene febre health

7 paxiuba trabalho poverty and wealth
riqueza governor


the life of the rubber
tapper and the Projeto

Source: CEDI and CEDOP-AM. 1982.
Portuaurs. Sao Paulo: CEDI.

PORONGA: Caderno de

learns alone (Brandao 1986; CECUP n.d). The monitor or

animador is present to encourage his/her illiterate peers,

catalyze discussions and also to learn and explore just as the

other participants are doing.

For this reason, Freire rejects the terms sala de aula

(classroom) and turma de alunos (class of students) in favor

of circulo de cultural or cultural circle (Brandao 1986:42).

This phrase creates an image of a more horizontal and

egalitarian educational process than the traditional

arrangement of a teacher imparting a store of knowledge to a

group of students (CECUP n.d; LaBelle 1984). In Freire's

approach, the monitor learns right along with the other


The Projeto Serinaueiro Today

The rubber tappers in Nazare have since re-constructed

the Projeto's first school with more durable wood from a dead

Brazil nut tree (Bertholettia excelsa). On December 12, 1987,

they dedicated their new school in the name of Wilson da Souza

Pinheiro, the President of the Brasileia chapter of the union

who was murdered in July of 1980. Tappers in eight other

serinaais in Xapuri have since built their own schools,

several of which are now in a second-generation building

similar to the Pinheiro school at Nazare. As of September,

1988, the total number of Projeto schools stood at 194. An

additional two schools were in the initial stages of meeting


at a monitor's home4. By May of 1989, the Projeto had a

reported total of 25 schools (Araripe 1989).

How a Community Creates and Maintains a Projeto School

As with the first school in Nazare, all of these Projeto

Seringueiro schools originate within the community. The

rubber tappers meet in the seringal to discuss the need for

a school (the number and ages of potential students), the

location most accessible to families in the area, and

community members with the interest and potential to serve as

monitors. Meetings are usually held on Sunday mornings.

Oftentimes whole families travel up to 2-3 hours to attend.

Discussions are open to anyone; women and young adults who

tend to hang back are encouraged to voice their opinions. All

of the decisions made at these meetings rest with the

community, not with the Projeto Seringueiro staff or union

representatives, although these people are usually in

attendance. Sometimes the initial impetus for building a

school comes out of the serinqueiros' community experiences

of CEB participation.

The monitors in the Projeto Seringueiro are community

members selected by their peers for these positions. Monitors

are usually people who are working either with the church or

the union and are therefore already community leaders of

sorts. If such a person is not available in the community,

the community member with the highest degree of literacy


skills may be selected to serve as a monitor even though these

skills may not be more than basic literacy4. The tappers

and their families also decide when changes need to be made

in the school. If problems arise with the monitorss, the

building itself or the administration of the school by the

Projeto, the community meets to discuss possible solutions.

The dedicatory names of the schools, as shown in Table 2-4,

reflect the community's interests and oftentimes serve to

commemorate leaders of the church or the rubber tappers'


The community maintains the school building while the

Projeto Seringueiro staff provide the necessary books and

materials. Aside from the PORONGA workbooks, all other

textbooks and equipment including pencils and notebooks are

provided by the Secretary of Education and Culture (SEC)3'4'5.

The SEC also supplies the merenda, a snack which the Secretary

receives from the Student Assistance Foundation (FAE)45'6.

The Secretary's Departamento de AlimentagAo Escolar (DAE)

distributes the merenda to the prefeituras (municipal

governments) who turn it over to the Projeto Seringueiro for

distribution to the schools' monitors6

Political interests and alliances come into play at the

prefeitura level which controls actual distribution. Although

political control of the merenda distribution does sometimes

keep it from the Projeto schools4, low merenda supplies and

Table 2-4: Projeto Seringueiro School Names



Wilson Pinheiro da Souza

Ivair de Almeida

Nossa Senhora das Dores

Jesus Matias

Esperanga do Povo

Novo Esperanga

Centro Escolar de

S&o Jorge


9 de Dezembro

Fe em Deus

Chico Mendes
December 22,

President of STR-Brasileia;
killed by cattle ranchers
July, 1980

Monitor for the Catholic
Church; killed by ranchers'
gunmen June, 1988

Our Lady of Suffering

A union leader killed in

in Xapuri

Hope of the People

New Hope

Scholastic Center for

Saint George


Ninth of December the date
the school's dedication

Faith in God

President of STR-Xapuri;
by cattle ranchers


wit ro et eringuero sta; Projeto Seringueiro tles;
for Jesus Matias school: Araripe 1989; for Chico Mendes
School: Kent Redford, personal communication 1989.
[translation mine]


' @ ..

-' --

poor transportation are often to blame for empty shelves in

all of the rural schools6. In the fall of 1988, the Projeto

and SEC negotiated a new agreement wherein the PS merenda

would go directly to the Projeto for distribution4.

Merenda is a very important component of the rural school

service and serves in many cases to attract students who

otherwise would not attend school. Especially in the remote

areas where students walk up to 2-3 hours one way to school,

it is physically very difficult to concentrate in class on an

empty stomach and then to find the energy to make the return


The Student Population

The success and popularity of the schools have been such

that the Projeto's 19 schools today serve approximately 600

students, 60% of whom are children (ages 15 and younger). The

overall student population is fairly evenly split along gender

lines with 53% male students and 47% female. Monitors and

Projeto Seringueiro staff interviewed during this study

indicated that the adult student population is more heavily

dominated by males. Classes meet for an average of 21.75

hours per week (n=10; range 15-35) divided into weekday

sessions. Daily class sessions last an average of 4.35 hours

(n=10; range 3-7). While the children's lessons are usually

held on a daily basis, the adults prefer evening or weekend

classes, depending on the location of the school and the

availability of generators to provide light. When generators


are not available, as is often the case, the tappers study by

small kerosene lamps or their porongas. The one school with

weekend classes for which information was available holds

sessions for eight hours, spread between late Saturday

afternoon and Sunday morning. Students travel an average of

1.1 hours each way to school (n=26; range 0-3). All students

and monitors travel by foot to their classes. This travel

time ranges from having class right at home to a one-way three

hour walk every day. One group of students attending weekend

classes at the "Jesus Matias" school has a trip that usually

lasts up to four hours as they make side trips to pick up

younger students who cannot walk alone and whose parents

cannot leave the house to escort them. This trip also

involves carrying food for the weekend as well as a hammock

to sleep in at the school. This group of students is

preparing to construct a school in their own colocacdo so that

they can have daily classes. For the monitors, the average

travel time to school is 50 minutes one way (n=25; range 0-

2.5 hours)

Women's Participation in the Schools

As mentioned earlier, the current overall student

population is fairly evenly split along gender lines.

However, the monitors and PS staff indicated that the number

of adult women participating in the schools is fairly low.

When an Oxfam-UK representative visited one of the Projeto

schools in 1982, he noted that women were not participating

because of work that required them to stay at home and "social

convention" (Oxfam 1986:3). To address this problem, Oxfam

provided a rice huller at one of the schools to give women

more free time and a communal meeting place ibidd). Today,

quite a few of the monitors for CEBs in the seringal are

female as are roughly a third of the Projeto monitors. Still,

women in the seringal have few role models or examples of

occasions when literacy and numeracy skills would be of use

to them and adult female participation in the schools remains

quite low.

Several of the women whom I interviewed during this study

said that they had no reason to read and write or that they

were too old to learn. They justified this by saying that in

the serinaal it is usually the eldest male in the family who

makes the monthly trip into town to do the market transactions

and perform other business such as visiting the sindicato

office or dealing with the prefeito's office for

documentation. It has also been customary that if the eldest

male in a household is a member of the sindicato or of a

political party, then his vote or participation counts for the

whole family. In addition, it is oftentimes the males in the

family who market the family's cash crops of rubber and Brazil

nuts (although there are many exceptions). The women

therefore saw little need to learn numeracy skills since they

are principally involved in the crops consumed at home (rice,

manioc and beans) which, when infrequently marketed, are

handled by the men. Since many women seldom go into town,

they don't consider themselves in need of cash for their own

purposes. For these reasons, many women may not see any

immediate need or practical application for literacy or

numeracy skills for themselves.

Another factor which inhibits women's participation in

the schools and meetings is child care and domestic work

combined with the class meeting times. Each community decides

on its class meeting times depending on its students'

responsibilities at home and their travel times to and from

school. In terms of the students' duties, the three strongest

determining factors considered when planning class meeting

times are the time demands (daily and seasonal) for rubber

tapping, clearing and preparation of the rocado (small

agricultural plot) and gathering Brazil nuts. All three of

these activities are traditionally performed by men.

Therefore the schedules which the communities design allow for

maximum participation of the males and children, since it is

their activities which are taken into account during


In spite of these difficulties, adult women are

participating in the Projeto Seringueiro classes in growing

numbers, due largely to an increasing recognition by union

officials of the importance of women in the serinqueiro

movement and to an expanding women's group created by the CTA.

The union in Xapuri is working with CTA staff to incorporate

women into the union membership with benefits specifically for

women. The CTA's women's group is also influential in

enlightening women about their role in the rubber tappers'

movement and the need to participate in the schools and other

activities. At the municipal meeting of the STR-Xapuri in

August of 1988, several of the rubber tappers (both male and

female) took the floor to remind those gathered that women and

children have always been a key component of the empates

against clearing in the rain forest. Several speakers also

noted that although it will be difficult for some men to

reconcile themselves to having women playing stronger roles

in the union, such changes are necessary for women, for the

success of the movement and the defense of the forest.

Some of the women are somewhat embarrassed about taking

on the role of a "student". Yet many other women actively

participate in classes and/or meetings, strongly voicing their

opinions and encouraging other women to do so. To increase

women's participation and confidence, the CTA's women's group

plans to strengthen its rural health education efforts and to

set up a cooperative to market handicrafts and foods while

passing this "traditional" knowledge on to their daughters.

The Relationship of the Schools to the Household Division of
Labor and the Production System

Just as domestic work keeps some adult women from

participating in the school, the other students also have

other duties to fulfill. Outside of the time spent in class,

all of the students have duties at home which average 5.5

hours per day (n=10; range 3-8) according to the monitors of

ten Projeto schools who were surveyed as part of this study.

These duties, when combined with travel and class time, make

for a very long and strenuous day for those attending school.

Many parents commented that although their children's

absence(s) from the household labor force puts an extra burden

on other family members, the benefits gained through

participation in school more than compensated for their lost

work time.

In the serinaal, the younger children (10 years old or

younger) often are responsible for assisting with chores

around the house. These chores include feeding the domestic

animals, hulling rice, shelling beans, cleaning the house and

fetching water and fuelwood. Since all of these duties are

almost exclusively under the traditional domain of the female,

it is the female head of the household or other adult or young

adult females who have to pick up the slack when the younger

children are in school and cannot perform these duties. This

situation also makes it especially difficult for the adult

females to attend classes since there is a extra amount of

work they would leave behind.

The older children usually are responsible for helping

their same-sex parent with his/her duties. Older boys either

tap rubber or go out on the trail later in the day to gather

the latex that has collected in the tigela (a small cup

anchored on the tree to collect the dripping latex). They

also are heavily involved in the clearing and burning for the

rocado. Teenage or young adult females are responsible for

a large part of the domestic chores.

For those persons who tap the rubber trees and/or later

collect the latex, the manner in which they process the latex

can determine the number of hours and the time of day that

they may attend class. Once a serinqueiro has cut the exocarp

of the tree, the milky latex will drip into a plastic or metal

cup (tiqela) or an empty Brazil nut pod for several hours.

There are several different ways by which the rubber tapper

can process the latex before marketing, each with varying time

requirements. Most tappers in Xapuri use the prensa technique

which allows them to let the latex coagulate in the tigela so

that they do not necessarily have to make two trips on the

same estrada (rubber trail) in one day. After letting the

latex coagulate into biscuit-shaped lumps in the ticela, the

rubber tapper then presses these "biscuits" together in a bale

shape which goes directly to market. The key point regarding

the prensa method is that one person has to walk the estrada

in the morning to cut the trees but the latex collection can

be put off a day or two since the latex is just allowed to

coagulate naturally. This means that either the rubber tapper

and/or his/her children are free in the afternoon for other

work or classes.

The second most common method of processing the latex is

by forming a pela (a smoked ball of rubber). This process

requires that the latex be collected from the tigela before

it coagulates. This means that either the tapper or his/her

children have to walk the same estrada three to four hours

after the cuts are made in the trees. The liquid latex is

then brought back to be smoked. The latex is poured over a

form or an already existing yet incomplete pela which is

turned over a smoking fire. With the heat and smoke, the

latex coagulates and eventually forms a complete Dela as more

latex is poured on. The serinqueiro must smoke the latex each

afternoon that the trees are cut, otherwise the latex will

coagulate naturally. For the Projeto, this means that older

children and/or serinqueiros cannot attend afternoon classes

because they are either out on the estrada collecting the

latex or at the colocacao smoking the rubber to form the pela.

There is a third processing method which may become

significant for the Projeto's classes. This is the folha

fumada (smoked sheet), a high quality product that the

serinqueiros produce cooperatively at a mini-usina (small

factory). FUNTAC is encouraging the formation of cooperatives

in the extractive reserves (FUNTAC 1988) which they hope will

opt to set up these mini-usinas so that rubber tappers will

have a high quality product which they can sell directly to

industrial buyers'. During the 1985 Encontro Nacional dos

Seringueiros (National Rubber Tapper's Meeting), the


serinqueiros of Amazonia resolved to support the formation of

cooperatives and that mini-usinas be administered solely by

rubber tappers with technical assistance from SUDHEVEA, the

now defunct National Superintendency for the Development of

Rubber (CNS 1985). This means that production of the folha

fumada will most likely become more prevalent. The

implications of this for the Projeto Seringueiro are described


As with the Dela, production of the folha fumada also

requires liquid latex which is then smoked. To delay

coagulation of the latex until the serinqueiro goes to the

mini-usina (approximately every five days), he/she adds

ammonia to the liquid latex. At the mini-usina, the rubber

tappers add acid to coagulate the latex and then press the

resultant coagulated solution to remove most of the water.

[At this point, it may be possible to use tucupi, an acidic

extract of the manioc plant (Manihot esculenta Crantz),

thereby eliminating the cost of purchasing acid (EMBRAPA

1985).] Next, the sheet is smoked in an enclosed structure

which relieves the serinqueiro of having to sit over a smokey

fire as he/she must do while forming a Dela. The sheet is

translucent so that any impurities may be cut out, thereby

enabling the tappers to command a higher price than they can

for the pela or the prensa rubber. While the mini-usina can

be constructed with forest materials, the processing equipment

and chemical costs for the folha fumada require the latex


tapped by 20-30 serinqueiros to be cost-effective (EMBRAPA

1983; SUDHEVEA n.d. (a); SUDHEVEA n.d.(b)). In order to

purchase the equipment, a cooperative of serinqueiros would

have to borrow the money which could be paid back within two

years out of their coop's profits.

There is another processing technique which produces the

placa bruta (a cruder form of the folha fumada) that has been

proposed to the serinqueiros by SUDHEVEA. The placa can be

produced by each serinqueiro at his/her home using a process

very similar to that of the mini-usina. Instead of purchasing

ammonia and acid, the tapper can use the extracts of other

trees (gamileira or caximquba and aqua de limbo) However,

the placa bruta is an untested product and the tappers are

wary of adopting this technology even though SUDHEVEA had

"promised" them the same market price for the placa bruta as

the higher quality folha fumada'.

Adoption of the folha fumada is therefore a very real

possibility for the tappers in existing and future extractive

reserves and for the Xapuriense tappers. These techniques

will more than likely put the burden of latex collection on

the older male children in the seringal. One Projeto monitor

pointed out that the communities will have to shuffle their

schedules to allow for this daily time constraint in the

production system (collecting the latex from one trail may

take up to four hours) or the children with this

responsibility may have to miss class.

Research underway by FUNTAC and a University of Acre

project team to concentrate the rubber trees nearer the

serinqueiro's house or rocado and thereby reduce the time

involved in tapping and collecting latex could contribute to

the resolution of this problem, however such a project would

require years for the trees to grow to tapping age (eight to

ten years).

The Projeto Serinqueiro's Monitors

As with the students, the Projeto Seringueiro's monitors

also have duties other than those at the school. By September

of 1988, the Projeto had a total of 33 monitors who led the

classes and discussions. In September of 1988, the Projeto

conducted a survey of its 33 monitors, twenty-five of which

were available during my time in Acre. The 25 available

responses to that survey indicate that 68% of the monitors are

male. Of these, 67% are single, while only 13% of the female

monitors are unmarried. According to the Projeto's survey,

the number of children for the monitors' families was 2.5

while for my overall study population it was six per family.

While eleven of the 33 monitors receive a contractual

salary from the Secretary of Education and Culture4'5 (Araripe

1989), the other monitors are working on a volunteer basis.

Some monitors are able to serve in the school only because

they live with or near relatives who can help them with their

familial responsibilities.


Many of the monitors have dual or triple roles as

community leaders. Of 22 monitors surveyed, all participate

in the STR-Xapuri in some capacity. While 77% are members of

the STR, 23% are local delegates who represent their community

in the municipal meetings. Additionally, 22% (n=5) of 23

survey respondents serve as monitors in the base community of

the Catholic church in their community. These five monitors

have triple roles of church monitor, Projeto monitor and STR

delegate. They therefore have many obligations both in town

and in the seringal. Their Projeto Seringueiro duties include

not only travel time (an average of 50 minutes one way), but

also time preparing for class, attending Projeto training

Sessions and meetings or dealing with transporting or

preparing the merenda.

The Projeto Seringueiro is evaluating its operations,

re-training its monitors and creating new workbooks for its

younger students. As part of this process, PS personnel hope

to increase the capacity of the monitors and the number of

monitors receiving a contractual SEC salary, although local

politics unfavorable to the rubber tappers' movement hamper

the awarding of new contracts4. According to Araripe, the

number of monitors had risen to 54 by May of 1989 (Araripe

1989). This is a result of various communities constructing

a school and choosing a monitor, oftentimes without

accompaniment by the Projeto Seringueiro, as the demand for

schools outstripped the Projeto's resources. Therefore,


before negotiating new SEC salaries, the Projeto wants to make

sure that the monitors are properly trained and that they are

the best candidates from their respective communities for the


Monitor Training

SEC offers supplemental training for teachers in the

rural and urban areas through its LOGOS program. This program

gives rural teachers the opportunity to complete their first

or second grade certification by taking LOGOS courses during

semester breaks. (First grade in Brazil is roughly equivalent

to completion of middle or intermediate school [8th grade] in

the U.S. system. Second grade is roughly equivalent to high

school completion.) Participants receive a grant to cover

their costs of moving to town for the months of January and

February. The SEC supplies all the necessary books and

materials and awards a certificate to the teacher upon course

completion6. Additionally, the SEC has monthly "Pedagogy

Meetings" for rural teachers and a new training course for

teachers of classes with more than one grade level.

Since only a third of the Projeto Seringueiro monitors

have ever participated in the LOGOS courses, Projeto

Seringueiro staff encouraged all the monitors to enroll in

the January-February 1989 LOGOS so that they would get the

state certificate and therefore be eligible for higher

contract salaries. However, after several meetings, the


monitors decided not to participate in the LOGOS course. They

preferred to have a very intensive Projeto Seringueiro

training session instead. The monitors asked to have a two-

month session consisting of day and evening classes to prepare

them in the critical thinking skills with which they could

more effectively participate in next year's LOGOS course4

Almost all of the PS monitors have participated in at

least one of the Projeto's training sessions. According to

the Xapuri coordinator for the Projeto, the staff designs the

sessions to be symbiotic experiences wherein everyone learns.

The sessions do not function on what Freire calls the "banking

system" in which the trainers hold a store of knowledge which

they impart to the monitors. Rather, the trainers teach and

learn at the same time.

These training sessions usually consist of two

activities. The first subject is the Projeto Seringueiro and

how it grew out of the rubber tapper movement. The trainers

and the monitors who have participated in previous training

sessions explore the concept of the Projeto schools with the

new monitors. Together they discuss questions such as the

differences between Projeto Seringueiro and government schools

and how the Projeto schools fit into the whole movement of

unionization, mobilization and conservation. The key is the

development of a critical sense of the rubber tappers and of

the community. Through the use of literacy and application

of this critical sense, the community and the rubber tappers

reinforce their own movement by encouraging participation in

the union and other activities4.

From there the training moves into the actual content of

the PORONGA books. Now the monitors learn to master the

materials and the didactic techniques of how to teach4

Sometimes a representative from CEDI is invited to attend

these sessions and offer assistance to the monitors (Projeto

Seringueiro 1986).

Since 1983, three training sessions have been held in

the urban centers of Rio Branco and Xapuri1. In 1987, Projeto

Seringueiro staff visited all of the newer schools for 7-15

days each, working with the monitors, observing the activities

and holding training sessions in the seringal3 (Projeto

Seringueiro 1987b). In October of 1987, eleven monitors met

with Projeto Seringueiro, CTA and CNS representatives to

evaluate the schools and their relations to the community and

to the rubber tapper movement. A 40-day training session for

the Projeto's 54 monitors was held in May of 1989 in Rio

Branco (Araripe 1989).

The Future for the Proieto Serinqueiro

The serinqueiros' demands for new schools combined with

the burden of administering the existing schools on slim

financial resources placed an almost unmanageable stress on

the Projeto's three staff members by the fall of 1988. At

that time, Projeto staff members identified a three-pronged


agenda for the future of their program. I discuss each of

these in turn.

Improving the Community Level of Organization

Due in part to the immensely rapid growth of the Projeto,

there have been many problems with the relation of the PS to

the communities in the serincal. While the communities of

serinqueiros have a legitimate desire to create a Projeto

school in their locale, the Projeto staff is concerned with

maintaining the quality of instruction as the number of

schools expands. There are sufficient government textbooks

to supply the new schools that the tappers are almost

spontaneously building, but the resources to train new

monitors and create educational materials are already strained

at the current operating level.

Monitor selection and the quality of monitor training is

a key element in assuring that the schools continue to be

actively involved in the rubber tappers' movement. Monitors

must walk a fine line between being a teacher and being a

militant or activist in the unionization. Students,

community members and fellow monitors often complained about

classes being cancelled or a lack of community meetings in the

seringal because the monitor was too busy in town with the

church, the Partido dos Trabalhadores or the union. On the

other hand, complaints arise from the same sectors when

monitors fail to participate in empates or other union events.

One monitor complained that when one of her peers goes into

Xapuri to pick up his SEC paycheck, he doesn't even go by the

union or CTA offices, which are the "heart" of the movement.

The Xapuri coordinator of the Projeto stated,

Suddenly the schools of the Projeto and the monitors are
beginning to assimilate to decontextualize out of the
movement, away from the fight, the struggle to preserve
the forest and the serinaal. Some [monitors] are
starting to identify with the "professor" of the city.

The monitors in the Projeto Seringueiro can't look for
employment as a teacher only. It's a service to the
community to join in the fight and for some monitors,
especially the new ones, the first thing they want to
know is what they are going to receive, what will they
gain. It takes away from the spirit of the movement -
from the mutirdo of the community.4 [translation mine]

To address this problem in part, the monitors have

formed a council to deal with the relationship between

the school and the community. On the council are five

monitors elected by their peers, a Conselho Nacional dos

Seringueiros (CNS) representative and a STR-Xapuri

representative. Council members are responsible for

making regular and independent visits to the schools to

determine any difficulties in the use of the educational

materials and to determine the relations of the community

to the school. The council will establish criteria for

the schools and meet with the Projeto staff.

Problems in Pedagoqy and Materials Development

According to the Xapuri coordinator of the Projeto,

the largest and most urgent challenge facing the Projeto


is the lack of personnel trained in pedagogy4. The

Projeto urgently wants educational materials designed for

children which will take them up through the fourth

series (roughly equivalent to sixth grade in the U.S.

educational system) In October of 1988, a five member

team began researching the Projeto and designing new

educational materials. The team will also define

standards for monitor selection and training as well as

evaluation criteria3. The design for the integrated

educational materials to be created by the team will go

into a proposal for the SEC and CEE (Conselho Estadual

de Educagao). This curriculum will introduce the

serinaueiros to other lifestyles while at the same time

positively reinforcing the tappers' way of life2. FUNTAC

and the SEC are supporting the teams' salaries and plan

to use the new curriculum in the schools of the

extractive reserves. The Projeto Seringueiro will employ

these materials in all of its schools, both within and

outside of the extractive reserves.

Organization of the Projeto and Financial Support

One of the many reasons that the Projeto staff

members have been unable to develop these new materials

on their own was a lack of training in pedagogy. In

September of 1988, none of the three staff members had

such training. Their main goals are to make the Projeto

more professional in part by hiring staff specialists in

pedagogy. This of course takes money, which is sorely

lacking. While secretarial support will be available

starting in 1989, the financial and personnel resources

of the Projeto in the fall of 1988 were grossly

inadequate to manage the project and maintain the quality

of its first schools. With the financial and

institutional interests of FUNTAC and SEC via the

extractive reserves, combined with potential assistance

from the Canadian embassy, Oxfam-UK and CESE, it appears

that the Projeto Seringueiro may be able to gain the

resources it needs to sustain and improve its educational


I will discuss the subject of the Projeto

Seringueiro's collaboration with FUNTAC and the Projeto's

role in the extractive reserves in more detail in Chapter



1 Field interview with the President of the Sindicato
dos Trabalhadores Rurais-Xapuri. Xapuri, Acre.

2 Field interview with CTA staff. Xapuri, Acre.

3 Field interview with CTA staff. Rio Branco, Acre.

4 Field interview with the Xapuri coordinator of the
Projeto Seringueiro. Xapuri, Acre.
5 Field interview with the Educational Inspector of
Xapuri; Secretary of Education and Culture. Xapuri,

6 Field interview with the Coordinator of Education
for the Rural Zone; Secretary of Education and
Culture. Rio Branco, Acre.

7 Field interview with the Research Director; FUNTAC.
Rio Branco, Acre.

8 Field interview with staff of the Secretary of
Education and Culture. Rio Branco, Acre.



In this chapter I discuss the results of my interviews

with rubber tapping families in the seringal. I interviewed

24 families in four different study areas in order to measure

the impact of the Projeto Seringueiro and government schools

on life in the rain forest. Through questionnaires and semi-

structured interviews, I examined the impact of the presence

and type of school on the following five variables : (1)

rural-urban migration (2) self-reported literacy skills, (3)

political participation, (4) natural resource use [techniques

used in cutting rubber and hunting], and, (5) marketing

tactics. Each of these five variables in part indicates the

Projeto's objectives in establishing its schools (Allegretti

1981; PS 1987a). The holistic approach of the Projeto

Seringueiro reflects the rubber tappers' desire to create a

learning environment which would expose them to opportunities

to gain much more than basic literacy skills. They wanted to

give value to the rubber tappers' way of life and create a



In this chapter I discuss the results of my interviews

with rubber tapping families in the seringal. I interviewed

24 families in four different study areas in order to measure

the impact of the Projeto Seringueiro and government schools

on life in the rain forest. Through questionnaires and semi-

structured interviews, I examined the impact of the presence

and type of school on the following five variables : (1)

rural-urban migration (2) self-reported literacy skills, (3)

political participation, (4) natural resource use [techniques

used in cutting rubber and hunting], and, (5) marketing

tactics. Each of these five variables in part indicates the

Projeto's objectives in establishing its schools (Allegretti

1981; PS 1987a). The holistic approach of the Projeto

Seringueiro reflects the rubber tappers' desire to create a

learning environment which would expose them to opportunities

to gain much more than basic literacy skills. They wanted to

give value to the rubber tappers' way of life and create a

politically active community dedicated to preserving its

culture and its environment (PS 1987a). I selected my five

variables based on these goals of the Projeto not only to

allow me to assess the impact of the Projeto's program, but

also to carry out research that would be of use and interest

to the Projeto and the serinaueiros.

I will discuss each of these five variables in turn in

the following sections. To facilitate the reader's

recollection of the four study areas described in Chapter I,

I have summarized their main characteristics in Table 3-1.

Table 3-1: Description of Interview Sites

(no. of years/ (type/no.
municipality) of years)

I Floresta 11 PS / 5 Yes Posseiro
& Boa Vista Xapuri rights

II Remanso 1 govt / 5 No 20 year
Rio Branco contract

III Remanso 1 None No 20 year
Xapuri contract

IV Alcobras 0 None No Posseiro
Rio Branco rights

Rural to Urban Migration

In the present study, families averaged eight members

and had lived on the same tract within the serinqal for an

average of 10.2 years. The total population of these 24

families was 194 people. Over 98% of the study population

was born in Acre and 94% was born in the seringal. The only

people surveyed who were not born in Acre migrated from their

birthplace of Ceara 25 years ago.

MIRAD technicians surveyed the entire seringal of Sao

Luis do Remanso in 1987 in preparation for making this area

a colonization project. I will refer to their data which

FUNTAC is using as it designs its research and community

development programs for the Remanso extractive reserve. The

MIRAD data indicate that fot the Remanso seringal (which

includes my study Areas II ahd III), 82% of the population

was Acrean, 6% came from the state of Amazonas, 2% from the

state of Ceara and the remaining 7% are from various other

Brazilian states (FUNTAC 1988).

Rural to urban migration within the state of Acre has

intensified since the early 1970s as ranching enterprises

moved into the state, forcing extractive workers to move to

Rio Branco because of land concentration and unemployment

(Bakx 1986; Bakx 1987a; Nunes da Silva 1986). However, I

found in my study that while migration internal to the

seringal is fairly common (families trading colocac6es or

teenagers-young adults residing with neighbors), cases of


migration from the seringal to the urban areas were infrequent

in the four study areas.

Only two families in the survey population had ever left

the seringal and moved to Rio Branco. One family returned to

the seringal after living in the city for one year. They had

found it very difficult to secure sufficient employment,

especially since they were hindered by poor literacy skills.

With assistance from the STR-Xapuri and fellow serinqueiros,

they moved back to the seringal. Union leaders made clear

mention of this family's situation at community meetings as

an example of the hard realities of life in the city. After

several months back in the serinaal, this family stated that

they were much better off than they had been in the city due

to the supportive community, the Projeto school, the

cooperative and the health post near their colocacao.

The other family in my study survey with rural-urban

experiences had lived in Rio Branco for 19 years and then

returned to the seringal Remanso (Study Area II). The father

of the family stated, "I did construction work. We had a

house, running water, everything. But we made barely enough

to eat. So I decided to move back to the seringal." While

this family also stated that they were better off in the

seringal than in Rio Branco, they did not have all the

community benefits of the family mentioned above. This family

lived in the Remanso extractive reserve and was assisting in

the construction of a new school. The father was quite


interested in joining the STR-Xapuri (even though they resided

in the municipality of Rio Branco). At the time of my visit

with them, this family's eldest daughter was currently

residing in Xapuri to attend school. She had left the

serinaal after becoming frustrated with the low level of

instruction and the lack of materials at the government school

near their home. Both she and her family looked forward to

having a new school so that she could return to live with her

family while continuing to study.

Although only two families in my study had moved to urban

areas, there were many cases of individuals residing

temporarily in the local towns and villages, primarily to

attend school. While the average household size in the study

population was 7.7 persons, the average number of people

actually residing at the house was 6.1 persons due to some

family members living in the urban areas or in other parts of

the seringal. Family members living outside of the home were

either studying or working in the urban areas or working on

another colocacAo or cattle ranch.

Education was the primary motive for temporary migration

to the urban areas while employment was secondary. A total

of five families in my study was supporting 16 children and

adults who had moved either to the village of Capixaba, Xapuri

or Rio Branco to study. In other words, 21% of the families

interviewed had offspring temporarily residing in urban areas

to gain access to education. These urban students constitute


10% of the survey population. The remainder of the population

living outside of the family home consisted of 14 persons from

seven families working in the urban areas (or residing there

to take care of their children while they studied) and 12

persons working elsewhere as rubber tappers. One family

stated that they had "lost" their eldest son. He was employed

as a laborer on a nearby cattle ranch.

The Projeto Seringueiro created its schools in part to

provide infrastructure which would deter rural to urban

migration from the serincal (PS 1987a). Through my interviews

I found that the schools are doing just that, although it at

first appears that the PS school and the government school are

similar in this regard. The families in Area I (served by the

Projeto) had a total of two students attending urban classes

while Area II had only one. While it may seem that each

school is equally effective in keeping students in the

seringal, the fact is that participation levels are

significantly different. Since they were frustrated with the

teachers' low level of training and the poor quality of

textbooks and the schoolbuilding at the government school,

children and adults in Area II simply chose not to study

rather than move to the urban areas to do'so.


At the first meeting called in Area II (Remanso) by

FUNTAC and STR-Xapuri to discuss the location of the new

school (which would take the place of the existing SEC-

sponsored school), the serinqueiros took a head count of all

potential students living within walking distance of the

future school site. The serinqueiros counted 24 school-age

children and 28 adults living within an hour and a half walk

of the proposed site. The school could therefore

theoretically serve 52 students from the nearby population.

However, the current enrollment at the existing government

school was only seven children.

Both the Projeto schools in Area I and this government

school were accessible to similar numbers of families.

However, an average of 25 adult and children students

participated in each Projeto school compared with the seven

young students who were attending the government school in

Area II. This school had previously offered adult classes

but they lasted only a year. According to the teacher, the

adult students found it too difficult to study in the evenings

after working all day. According to the community members,

most of the adult students stopped attending after becoming

frustrated with the teacher's inadequate training. O n e

reason why the residents of Area II who chose not to

participate in the school did not move either temporarily or

permanently to an urban area to gain access to education was

the fact that a new school was soon to be constructed in the


seringal. These people had heard of the Projeto Seringueiro

schools in the Xapuri area, so when their seringal was

declared an extractive reserve, the community's first request

to FUNTAC was for a new school and textbooks such as those of

the Projeto.

In Area III (which lacked any type of school), thirteen

people were residing in the urban areas to study. Rubber

tappers in this area had started meeting with FUNTAC and STR-

Xapuri representatives in the summer of 1988 to discuss the

construction of a school. Several community members indicated

that they had refrained from attending the urban schools since

plans were underway to construct a new facility in the

seringal. In all three of these areas, the presence of a

Projeto Seringueiro school or the anticipation of having such

a school in the community deterred residents from moving to

the urban areas to seek educational opportunities.

Self-Reported Literacy Skills

The Projeto schools now serve a total of 600 students,

roughly 60% of whom are 15 years old or younger While some

of the schools can offer instruction up to the 4th series

level (depending on the monitor's level of training and

education) others are prepared to only offer basic literacy

skills. As was discussed in Chapter II, the Projeto is

working with FUNTAC and the SEC to develop a new materials

for those advanced students who have already mastered the

PORONGA notebook.

Not only do the Projeto schools have difficulty in

addressing the needs of the seringueiros, but rural schools

on the whole are strapped for resources including adequate

teacher training. While most rural teachers contracted by

the state have passed first grade2, many others have just

gained basic literacy skills themselves and are now trying to

teach others how to read and write3. Inadequate training,

combined with having up to 45 students at different

educational levels in one room, make for an extremely

difficult situation for rural teachers3

Due to the informality of the educational schedule in

both the Projeto and SEC rural schools (students are not

instructed at specific grade levels), I chose not to measure

the seringueiros' literacy and numeracy skills based on the

number of years an informant had attended school. Instead,

I inquired in a more pragmatic fashion, using the following

categories of informants' skills: (1) no literacy skills, (2)

able to write their name, (3) able to read and write a little

(basic literacy) and, (4) able to confidently read a newspaper

and write a simple letter.

Math skills were a specialization in the seringal. Very

few of the informants (only those who gave response #4 on the

literacy question) indicated that they could perform addition

and subtraction with confidence.

Illiteracy rates for the study areas are shown in Table

3-2. The illiteracy rate for the study population was 55%

for persons over 15 years of age. By gender, illiteracy rates

were 52% for adult males and 59% for adult females. A

previous study in the serinqais of Acre found an adult

literacy rate of 31% (Sorensen 1989). These figures compare

to national literacy rates in 1985 of 80% and 78% for adult

males and females respectively (Medici 1987).

Although Areas I and II each have had a school for the

same length of time, the adult literacy skill levels vary

greatly, especially among the male population as shown in

Table 3.2.

Table 3-2: Adult
Illiteracy Rates

Illiteracy Rates (%)

Area Male Female

I 20 50
II 75 40
III 83 80
IV 87 100


As I discussed in Chapter II, the female participation

level was very low in the Projeto schools. Almost invariably,

the women in Areas I and II who had studied in a school

indicated that they had done so when they were teenagers and

had lived either in Xapuri or Rio Branco to study. This

accounts for the similar illiteracy rates for these women.

Although these women did not study in the seringal, their

experience with education may have played a significant role

in stimulating the creation of a school in their respective

serincais. Note that the illiteracy rate for the adult

females in Areas III and IV is much higher and that there has

never been a school in these areas. This suggests that a

community's interest in building a school in the serinaal is

catalyzed by the educational experiences of its members.

Note that in Area I the male adult illiteracy level is

20% while in Area II it is 75%. While both communities

constructed their schools with the intention of having adult

classes, the Projeto specifically designed its curriculum,

schedule and other community-supported activities to ensure

that adults would actively participate and retain their

interest in the school. As mentioned earlier, the government

school in Area II was only able to maintain adult classes for

a short while due to a lack of interest. The textbooks and

the teacher's training proved to be inadequate for the task

of adult education and the students stopped attending the



Area III and possibly Area IV (which hopefully will be

included within the service area of the Remanso reserve) are

soon to have their own schools, built by the community with

assistance from FUNTAC and STR-Xapuri.

Political Participation

Aside from sustaining the initial cooperatives with adult

literacy and numeracy training, another of the Projeto's

objectives in its popular education program was to strengthen

the seringueiros' mobilization by reinforcing the value of the

rubber tappers' culture and their role as extractive producers

within the community (Projeto Seringueiro 1987). Through

discussions of the importance of the natural environment and

its conservation, during class sessions and meeting times, the

Projeto hoped to create an atmosphere in which the rubber

tappers could critically explore their role in political

organizations that could further their conservation efforts.

The vocabulary words of the PORONGA notebook stimulate

such discussions. The students not only learn how to read

and write words relating to the sindicato (union) and the

cooperative (cooperative) but at the same time explore with

their peers the rights that they have to participate in such

organizations. The school also provides practical assistance

for the tappers during election time by helping serinqueiros

who encounter difficulties in registering to vote either

because of literacy or documentation problems.


In order to measure the impact of the Projeto on the

serinqueiros' political participation, I asked the rubber

tappers in each area whether or not they were members in the

local chapter of the STR or in a political party. As would be

expected, union membership was highest in Area I where the

STR-Xapuri has been actively mobilizing the community for over

a decade. Over 80% of the households in this area had a union

member. The average union membership by household in the

other three study areas was 50%. The MIRAD team found that

35% of the Remanso population were union members in 1987

(FUNTAC 1988).

Membership in the STR-Xapuri union is bound to increase

in Areas II and III where the union representatives are

working closely with FUNTAC to initially mobilize these

communities for school construction. At the meetings held

during the summer of 1988, many of the serinqueiros in both

communities expressed a strong desire to join the union.

Those tappers whose colocac6es lay within the municipality of

Rio Branco inquired as to whether they could join the Xapuri

chapter even though as residents of Rio Branco they would

normally have joined that municipality's chapter. Due to the

mobilization work that the STR-Xapuri and CNS representatives

did in Remanso to turn the plans for the area from a

colonization project to an extractive reserve, the


serincueiros in Areas II and III indicated that they wanted

to increase their participation (and receive the additional

benefits) as union members.

While the difference between an 80% membership level in

Area I and an average 50% level in the other three areas is

significant, one also sees a clear distinction between the

active participation of members in their respective unions.

Areas II and IV are all within the Rio Branco municipality

and only a few of the colocac6es of Area III are Xapuriense.

Those tappers in these three areas who hold union membership

are in the STR-Rio Branco which operates quite differently

from its Xapuri counterpart. According to the serinqueiros,

the STR-Rio Branco representatives only come into the serincal

at election time and to collect dues. They offer no services

or support for their members. One tapper commented that he

had been an STR-Rio Branco member for six years. He finally

stopped paying dues a year and a half ago because the union

had never even had a meeting in the seringal and he saw no

benefit from his dues payment.

As discussed in Chapter II, the serinqueiros in Areas II

and III were very active and consistent participants in the

meetings and work days scheduled by the STR-Xapuri and FUNTAC.

The important factor between the membership levels in Area I

versus those of the other three areas lies not in membership

per se but rather in active participation. Since there were

no STR-Rio Branco meetings that the tappers could have

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