But in 2009 principal and teacher Marcia Novakc da Silva decided to join forces with others in her community to make a change. They started to collect rainwater, running pipes along the school’s roof that funneled runoff to be stored in a cistern that holds 100,000 liters. The community rainwater project was led by the organization Incra and supported by WWF through the Pantanal Pact in Defense of the Headwaters of the Pantanal — which implements several projects for the recovery of the springs and water supply in region.
Since then, the school has never gone without fresh water. While drinking water still has to be piped in from a well in another community nearly seven miles away, the rainwater collected in the tank allows the staff to keep the school clean and the students to care for the garden, providing them with healthy meals and vegetables that otherwise would have been out of reach.
The high school set up a similar system and was able to open its doors in 2014. Its 350 students also look after their own garden.
Silva hopes their work can serve as an example for the rest of the community and that rainwater can be collected for homes too.
School principals also participate in the NGOs and municipalities to create environmental education resources for the schools in region, ensuring the future resilience of the communities and the Pantanal.
“This has changed everything for us 100%,” she said. “And there’s still so much more for us to do. Without water we’re nothing.”