Brazil's Sugarcane Worker Retraining - GloboNews (Sept 2010)

Uploaded by SweeterAlternative on 24.09.2010

The country with the most advanced technology for ethanol production is also the one with the largest ethanol-powered fleet in the world.
There are 12 million flex-fuel vehicles today, about 32% of Brazil's auto fleet.
By 2012, they will represent half of the fleet.
With so many new vehicles coming, there is a growing need for more fuel.
And keeping up the pace are the anonymous hands that harvest lengthy rows of sugarcane.
Today, 160,000 seasonal workers are responsible for half of the harvest. And it is hard work.
One sugarcane cutter can reach 10,000 machete cuts a day.
In average, each worker harvests 10 tons of cane in a 7-hour workday.
REPORTER: How long have you been cutting cane, Rodrigues?
RODRIGUES: I cut for 13 years.
REPORTER: And how was this period for you? Hard?
RODRIGUES: Yes, it was complicated, kind of hard. I suffered, tired, under rain and sun.
But, the cane cutter profession will become extinct with the end of the burning of sugarcane fields for manual harvest.
In the state of Sao Paulo, the world's largest producing region, field burning is set to end in 2017 by law.
The end of cane field burning is widely seen as a requirement for Brazil to export fuel ethanol.
Sugarcane mills entered into an agreement with the State Government to anticipate the deadline by 3 years, to 2014.
As burning ends, large machines are taking over cane fields, replacing manual cutting. Sugarcane cutters will be out of job.
The industry knows that many will lose their only job, and that can have a major impact in some communities.
SERGIO PRADO, UNICA: "In the manual harvest, the industry has about 160,000 people cutting sugarcane
Of these, 75,000 could be hired in other functions within the industry if they can learn new skills
The remaining workers won't be unemployed, but rather will need to be trained to work in other industries
in the the State of Sao Paulo where there are jobs in demand.
The fact that the cane industry no longer has the need for manual labor
does not mean these employees should go without work.
We are committed to develop a serious occupational requalification project to train these workers.
This requalification process has already begun. A partnership among sugarcane mills, machinery manufacturers,
agricultural businesses, SENAI, and the Inter-American Development Bank has resulted in
training courses aimed preparing some to work within the industry as truck drivers, machine operators, mechanics, and electricians and welders.
For those who want to branch out, there are also courses in agriculture, gardening, construction, horticulture, sewing, hospitality and beekeeping.
7,000 students are expected to graduate every year in courses designed to match the labor market needs of the various regions in the state.
In Ribeirao Preto, the second group class sessions are underway.
INSTRUCTOR: Do you remember the main gears? Number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
In five other cities, various others groups of former cane cutters are in classes for skills specific to that labor market.
REPORTER: At first glance, this looks like any shop at your local car dealership
Here we see several different car models, lamps, and detachable panels.
Over here there's a complete brake system, and on the bench there are different types of engines.
But in reality this is not your ordinary mechanic shop but instead a classroom, where the students learn everything they need to fix a car.
They leave with a diploma in hand and the assurance that a job opportunity is out there.
MARIA LUIZA BARBOSA, UNICA: Whether in terms of training for new jobs within the mills or beyond, we focused on the demand of the local market.
The mills told us their specific needs, such as welders, machine operators, electricians, mechanics and so forth.
And where there is no specific need from mills, we are tailoring the courses offered according to the labor market in the neighboring communities.
We are training workers for jobs that local communities need.
It's not as if they are being trained with a skill that is not in demand in the area.
They are getting skills specific to the communities they live in.
REPORTER: The course for mechanics has opened doors and encouraged the rise of new entrepreneurs.
REPORTER: What have you learned already?
RODRIGUES: I already know quite a lot.
I've learned how to take apart the gear box, put it back together again, and some other things.
REPORTER: So, "Waldecir's Mechanic Shop" will be opening soon nearby?
RODRIGUES: Sure thing.
I plan to work in an auto mechanic shop one day, or hopefully be self-employed and run my own shop.
REPORTER: So you're saying goodbye to sugarcane cutting?
RODRIGUES: Yes, goodbye to cane cutting. Now I just have to chase dreams and hope that as an auto mechanic it will help me get there.
REPORTER: There are so many people wishing to change their lives, that even the professor is shocked by the determination of his students.
PROF.: The determination that these students bring from their experience in cane cutting, coupled with the opportunity to take the
courses offered here and elsewhere in life, will allow them to take on leadership positions in their new professions.
While the men are concentrated on nuts and bolts, the women are making the most out of the requalification courses.
Former sugarcane cutters are learning the recipe to change their own lives.
In this course, the students learn how to make bread, sweets, and cakes.
There are women of all ages; some of them so young that you would not imagine they could have worked at a cane field some day.
However, they all have in common the wish to improve their own lives and stay away from the arduous task of cane cutting.
REPORTER: What do you think is better, taking this course or cutting sugarcane?
M. MARGARIDA: Taking this course, of course.
REPORTER: What do you dream of doing?
M. MARGARIDA: I dream of starting my own business.
My dream is to work out of my home making bread for my children, or even me, to sell at bus stations or from door to door.
DEBORAH: I wanted to be ready for the change and when this opportunity presented itself,
I decided to learn to do catering to move up in my career. I have already enrolled this course that will allow me to advance in my new career,
and I know that the possibility for that is out there.
I want to be able to improve my own life and I believe that, in the future,
I will be able to sell my bread to a bakery. By then my children will be older and will be able to help me.
Geano Mirando only sees sugar plantations in this rearview mirror.
The former sugarcane cutter took a driver training course and now he drives the largest truck in the sugar mill.
REPORTER: Do you miss the harvest?
GEANO: Sometimes I do, but I have to strive for better things.
REPORT: How about returning to the fields as a cutter?
GEANO: No, not now.
But there are sugarcane cutters who refuse to leave the plantations.
If they can't compete with the machines, they at least plan to learn how to master them.
REPORTER: Former cane cutters want to leave behind the machete, but not the sugarcane fields.
The majority of them dream to be right here, driving this machine that looks more like a spaceship, with its buttons and air-conditioning.
Being in charge of this machine, which costs about half a million dollars, means a job promotion and more money in the workers pocket.
Oswaldo de Souza doesn't even know how hot the temperature is outside.
As a seasonal worker, he used to work long hours under the scorching sun, but now sits comfortably inside this air-conditioned cabin.
He always wears clean clothes and makes minimal effort to take down sugarcane stalks too numerous to count.
The last time he used a machete, Oswaldo took home a small salary of about $500 for a full month's work.
But today he makes much more than that.
REPORTER: How much more do you make now operating this harvester compared to what you earned doing cutting cane by hand?
OSWALDO: At least three times more.
REPORTER: Is it worth it?
OSWALDO: Oh yeah.
REPORTER: The more you work with the machine, the more you earn?
OSWALDO: Exactly. The more you produce, the more you earn.
The harvester Oswaldo operates does what 100 cutters used to do. It collects 800 tons of sugarcane per day, something no human can match.
SERGIO PRADO, UNICA: If mechanization is inevitable, then there needs to be a serious effort to retrain these workers for other jobs,
whether it is for work within the industry, in other industrial activities, or even outside the sector.