Building Bridges in Fortaleza

Fortaleza, which is located on the Atlantic Coast, offers the opportunity to study water insecurity in Latin America. Unlike the mega-cities like Rio, Fortaleza and the smaller urban areas in the Northeast represent the everyday life far from the glow of Olympic glory or global Carnival. The residents, many of whom are immigrants or from immigrant families, escaping the parched interior, known as the Sertão.  The drought, rather than employment and opportunity, drives many to the city’s  bairros and favelas.  Poor public services and precarious infrastructure also accompany new forms social action and civic engagement in the most surprising places.


I met with students and colleagues at the Universidade Federal do Ceará on the first day, and since then we have been animated by the possibilities of working on different projects, including urban water provision and household water insecurity. My first goal is to begin the process of identifying communities — this can be tricky as the brute reality of Brazilian cities requires careful consideration of safety. But there are many opportunities and this trip is the first step to identify the case communities. I will have this completed during October’s trip. At that time, I will also provide training in Photovoice, research ethics, and survey implemention to studen research assistants.


Next year I will be here on Fulbright Scholarship, and we are already planning the course I will teach and the lectures to prepare for the department at large. My course will be “Justiça Ambiental” with lectures on water security and research methods.


I plan to travel across the North and Northeast. In March, I will visit Bragança in Pará to co-advise a PhD student on an urban water security and climate change project. In addition, the social cartography group works with communities in the Sertão on the border with Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte, where concerns about water security have become a priority as new agro-businesses are moving into the region.