Agência de Desenvolvimento Econômico Local (ADEL) Local Economic Development Agency - Brazil

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Agência de Desenvolvimento Econômico Local (ADEL) Local Economic Development Agency - Brazil

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

ADEL is a social business created by youth from rural communities of the semi-arid region who went to university and returned to support local rural development. ADEL believes in the potential of small agricultural producers for the socioeconomic development of the semi-arid region. The organization believes that through the creation of social capital and a new outlook on entrepreneurship and cooperation, farmers will improve production and commercialization and increase their profitability. ADEL operates with three pillars: (1) structuring of production chains and local cooperatives, (2) social-productive inclusion and youth entrepreneurship (3) creation of local networks.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

ADEL is currently working in about 100 rural communities in four counties within Curu Valley (Vale do Curu), in northern Ceara: Pentecoste, Tejuçuoca, Apuiarés and General Sampaio. They are communities of small family farmers who live with the challenges of the semiarid climate and dry vegetation, and are facing advancing desertification. Farmers use antiquated techniques and few efficiencies in their production, and their products are delivered to middlemen (commercial intermediaries) for prices far below the market. They compete between themselves as they sell individually to the same middlemen. The producers frequently end up defaulting on the credit they requested. There are currently no appropriate services for training and technical assistance to farmers. Farmers use loans to purchase equipment and modern inputs, which they do not know how to use properly. The machines end up depreciating in sheds and warehouses. Structures and equipment that could be used collectively are acquired in the same territory by various producers, causing saturation. Likewise, without coordination, the producers follow the same strategies for production and end up reducing the price of their work. Finally, family farmers work at the first stages of production and supply chains - those that have the lowest value and generate fewer jobs. They are unable to occupy the processing stages in the same way as they do not drive their products to the region’s profitable markets. ADEL provides training and technical and managerial support for these small producers, using a strategy of local development to strengthen the family farm. The approach is facilitated by the fact that the farmers know the young technicians of ADEL, who recognize the codes and symbols of local culture. A big difference is that these young people, being from the communities they serve, identify opportunities for potential combinations between traditional knowledge passed down from generation to generation with knowledge and modern practices they learned in university. ADEL operates in the production chains of caprinovinocultura (breeding goats and sheep), beekeeping, horticulture (vegetables) and fruit farming. All through the perspective of agroecology. Young people and women are strategic stakeholders in this scenario because they represent talent and potential to add value to processes and local production arrangements. They are qualified human resources to support the processing stages and improvement in production chains: honey production (beekeeping), meat processing and leather (caprinovinocultura), production of jams (fruit), among others. Young people still have a desire to act in key areas for development, such as management and commercialization to transform properties into enterprises with a sustainable rural business perspective. ADEL operates on the assumption that local development is only sustainable when it is based on an endogenous process of capital formation. Young people also have a key role in strengthening the organization of small producers through the forums, regional networks, cooperatives and associations. Essentially, to improve the processes of local governance. ADEL has worked for the rejuvenation of local associations with greater youth participation in meetings and assemblies - which includes the formation of forums and special associations of young farmers and rural entrepreneurs.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

ADEL is a social organization created, comprised and managed solely by young people between the ages of 18 and 29, who come from rural communities in the semiarid region and had the opportunity to attend college in areas such as economics, animal science, agronomy and engineering. They made a choice to return to their hometowns to invest in knowledge and practices that further local sustainable socioeconomic development. In terms of its organization, ADEL is an innovation in Brazil - both for being a development agency for civil society itself, as well as for being run entirely by young people. The second point of innovation is the focus on socioproductive inclusion of young people in the semiarid northeast, going against the myths of popular Brazilian imagination that associate the semiarid region with poverty, hunger and violence. ADEL innovates to promote the development of rural entrepreneurship, which views the field as land of opportunity based on the specific qualities of the semi-arid environment that, as opposed to being threats, are possibilities when worked with through the lens of sustainability. The project shows the small producer that he is the agent of social change and local economic development in the semiarid region. There are many projects working to support small farmers in Northeast Brazil. However, these organizations perpetuate the immense challenges that virtually make it impossible to effectively work with young people.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

ADEL is a social technology for local rural development. The organization consists of a social, nonprofit business which offers management and technical support services to groups of small agricultural producers in the region. ADEL was born from an opportunity: the willingness of youth from rural communities who went to university to make the choice to return to their hometowns to contribute to their development. Small farms are the predominant economic activity throughout the region. Principally, the cultivation of goats and sheep, beekeeping, poultry (chicken), fruits and horticulture (vegetables and legumes). However, small producers practice a traditional type of agriculture with low levels of efficiency. They work in isolation and sell their products to middlemen. They occupy the first stages of production and supply chains. The more lucrative processes (improvement, processing and sale of final products in mainstream markets) are concentrated in the hands of large producers. Youth believe their options are to continue this cycle on their parent’s properties or migrate to urban centers for jobs (attracted by the image of modernity and wealth associated with the city). It is in this way that ADEL disrupts this reality through developing socially productive projects with groups of farmers to: train them in new and modern practices and tools for methods of production, management and direct commercialization; organize them into cooperative and participatory management structures of rural businesses; enhance and expand the infrastructure of rural production (implementation of agribusiness for the benefit and processing of raw products; strengthen associations, cooperatives and regional forums and, in this way, increase their selling power), adding value to production chains and, finally, influencing public policies to support small farmers. In the end, the program has one central objective: to increase the productivity and profitability of small farmers in the semi-arid region. The first phase of social technology is to approach the communities through their associations and cooperatives. The second stage is conducting a participatory diagnostic with the communities to identify local potential, talent and limits. Based on the challenges and opportunities identified in the diagnostics, participatory strategic plans are made to improve the productive activities of community groups--articulated in cooperation. The plans describe tools such as: technical training, management training, establishment of agro-industrial units, implementation of new methods and tools of production, and socioproductive inclusion of girls and women in production chains among other actions that extend the capabilities of production, commercialization and management of productive groups. To ensure sustainability of the production arrangements created, ADEL invests in strengthening associations and in the creation of regional cooperatives - through specific training in cooperative management and advisory groups to they are able to manage shared structures in production/supply chains (one sole structure used by a group of farmers from nearby communities, preventing each farmer from having has his own individual and costly method of production). The exercise of managing these shared production structures further contributes to the formation of farmers cooperatives. At the end of this process, ADEL has encouraged the formation of cooperative rural businesses and communities - where every farmer is more efficient in their production and the community, as a whole, has given increased value to its production activities. In the macro field of land development, ADEL has two special functions, both considered strategic priorities: (1) the organization of small farmers throughout the region for the creation of regional forums and dialogue with public officials and (2) to serve as a bridge between financial institutions and investors and groups of small producers. ADEL has a business model for its own sustainability: After the diagnostic phase, the organization establishes socioproductive projects for communities, with local associations as "customers /users", and seeks partnerships with investors and partners to enable the implementation of its projects. After associations and cooperatives develop, they may absorb part of the costs, sharing the investment with financial institutions. Currently, ADEL has a strong partnership with the Northeastern Bank of Brazil (BNB) - which invests in the development of local producers associations through the implementation of ADEL.
About You
Agência de Desenvolvimento Econômico Local - ADEL
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Agência de Desenvolvimento Econômico Local - ADEL

Organization Country

, CE

Country where this project is creating social impact

, CE

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Wagner Gomes, 27, was born and raised in the Monte Alverne Community in the town of Apuiarés, Ceará. Until adolescence, he followed the same trajectory as any young man in the semiarid region, and his ideas were directed towards continuing the work of his parents on their small family property. It was not what he wanted. He had been interested since his childhood in the organization processes and management of his family’s productive activities. He attended the local rural school until he had access to PRECE (Cooperative Group Education Program), where he prepared for the Vestibular college entrance exam and learned about the methodology of cooperative learning. In PRECE, he also learned about the importance of cooperation and social capital for the development of the region and that a deeper social transformation could be possible through human resources training and its application for development in the region.

Wagner attended the Federal University of Ceará, where he majored in economics in 2009. In 2007, he founded ADEL with other young people in the region, who mobilized to give rise to their project to return and promote the development of local communities of Curu Valley, and has been its Executive Director since then. In 2010, he won the Social Entrepreneur of the Future Award, from the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo and the Schwab Foundation.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

The first result is institutional: the consolidation of ADEL as a local economic development agency within the Curu Valley, trained and managed 100% by the region's youth. ADEL has won major awards, showing recognition of its work at a national level: second place for the Rosani Cunha award (Ministry of Social Development), Honorable Mention for the Celso Furtado Award (Ministry of Regional Integration), Ozires Silva Award (Getulio Vargas) and the Social Entrepreneur of the Future Award (Folha de Sao Paulo and the Schwab Foundation), won by Wagner Gomes - Executive Director of ADEL. The organization also already has partnerships with Souza Cruz, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Northeastern Bank of Brazil (BNB) - institutions with high standards of management that demonstrate the competence and credibility of ADEL in Brazil today. These accomplishments should be highlighted as results because ADEL is managed exclusively by young people, who came from rural communities and who, during the project’s early phases, were regarded with suspicion.

ADEL also gained the trust of small farmers throughout the region, which was another challenge to overcome. Young people today can count on partnership with and credibility from local farmers.

ADEL has served more than 600 farmers in about 100 rural communities in the municipalities of Pentecoste, Apuiarés, Tejuçuoca, General Sampaio and Umirim-municipalities in the Middle Curu micro-region. Another 80 youth have already been trained in rural entrepreneurship, cooperativism, agorecology and modern production techniques in the areas of goat and sheep farming and beekeeping. These 80 young people have been assisting their communities so they can be included in strategic roles of local productive activities, mainly related to product enhancement/processing and commercialization stages. Young people are also taking an increasing role in decision-making processes of local governance - in associations, cooperatives and regional forums, which indicates a rejuvenation of these spaces.

ADEL has organized the establishment of rural community enterprises in cooperative structures (even if informal) in all communities in which it has worked. Some have grown quickly: such as the goat and sheep farming businesses of Pentecoste and Apuiarés (which already has a cooperative of small producers, created in partnership with ADEL) and the beekeepers group in Apuiarés. In this way, ADEL has also contributed to the reorganization of the productive sectors of family farming in the area, facilitating more robust and active networks, especially in the area of direct commercialization. On this point, ADEL has more results to highlight: specifically the integration of more than 80% of farmers supported through ADEL programs with the Federal Government’s direct commercialization programs- Food Purchase Program (Ministry of Social Development) and Direct Purchase Program (Ministry of Agricultural Development). ADEL also organizes fairs and local product promotion and commercialization events across the region -such as participation in TejuBode (a large traditional festival held in the city of Tejuçuoca).

Another important result is the diversification of production in rural communities - in particular the family farm, which is required for economic development in the region. Diversification of production refers to both the variety of products from the same production chain (refinement and processing) as well as from different production chains (the opening of new lines of cultivation /production).The first is critical to increasing the profitability of local farmers - to the extent that they are able to refine/process primary goods, aggregate value and commercialize their products as a group for much higher prices than when primary products were sold to middlemen. The second is also critical - producers who previously worked only with goats and sheep, today already work with beekeeping and horticulture in the agro-ecosystem. Even more interesting is that young people have created space within this diversification for their own socioproductive inclusion - one example of this is the creation of a group of young beekeepers in the Apuiarés municipality.

In general terms, the following tangible results can be highlighted:

(1) the expansion of productive infrastructure in the area - construction of 01 Lamb Slaughtering Center; Acquisition of 06 shredders and 05 balers; installation of an animal feeding complex with a complete irrigation system; construction of an agribusiness for processing honey; installation of an agribusiness for goat and sheep feed processing; reopening of an agribusiness for processing goat and sheep meat;

(2) the training of over 600 family farmers in techniques to increase efficiency and quality of the production process, certify their products, manage cooperative associations, participate in governance and the formulation of public policy and commercialization;

(3) the strengthening of 23 associations of small family farmers in the region’s communities;

(4) the creation of a regional cooperative, bringing together local rural small farmers and the municipality of Pentecoste and

(5) the creation and strengthening of 04 regional forums for small rural farmers, with the participation of around 240 farmers from 32 associations (all plans, programs and projects are approved at these events prior to their implementation, including through bodies such as the Northeastern Bank of Brazil (BNB) and the State Government).

Indicators of social impact are designed to be verified in a larger evaluation process which includes:

(1) Productivity of farms in the communities served;

(2) Profitability of rural establishments in the area;

(3) Value-added to the productive chains supported;

(4) Median household income for family farmers in the area;

(5) Public policies and social investments influenced from participatory decision-making processes at local level;

(6) Participation of farmers, youth and women in areas of collective decision-making- forums, associations and cooperatives.

(7) Proportion of small producers cooperatives and

(8) Proportion of gross production in the territory sold directly;

(9) Proportion of the total gross production refined/ processed by family farmers themselves.

The calculation of the number of people impacted by the project considers the families of farmers. The estimated number of people impacted under this methodology is 2,200 people.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001- 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Local growth will occur through the diversification of production chains in which ADEL works to include cultivation of poultry and fish. Geographical expansion is already occurring: ADEL serves about 150% more farmers than in late 2009. Expansion is scheduled to occur this year to the irrigated perimeter of Lower Acaraú, where ADEL will work with women to create an agricultural business and a cluster of fruit production, in partnership with the BNB. ADEL will also implement a Center for the Young Rural Entrepreneur in Pentecoste, in partnership with the Souza Cruz Institute.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

There are three challenges to highlight:

(1) ADEL depends on the availability of human resources to run according to its original assumptions and values - young people from rural communities, skilled and trained, returning to contribute to the development of rural areas. It is possible of course to work with market practitioners, who do not have this profile. However, it becomes a challenge for ADEL if the number of professionals without this rural background is greater than the number of young people who do. Therefore, it is necessary for the growth of ADEL to be accompanied by the graduation of youth from the countryside from university who are interested in returning to work for ADEL in the semiarid region. It is a limiting factor. Today, for example, what prevents ADEL from working with the production chain for fish farming, which is very strategic in Pentecoste, is not being able to find a youth who has expertise in the area to work implementing socioproductive projects. Recognizing this as a limiting factor for the organization’s development, today ADEL invests heavily in its Young Rural Entrepreneur Program - to identify talent and to mobilize young people to go to college and have an interest in returning to the rural areas to contribute to the development of the region.

The region already has a very effective program to prepare young people for entry into university: the PRECE (Cooperative Group Education Program). It was through this program, which uses its own particular methodology to prepare young people for the Vestibular entrance exam called "cooperative learning", that the young people who founded ADEL were prepared to matriculate at the Federal University of Ceará.

(2) The current productive culture in the field and the degree of resistance from more traditional producers. Firstly, because ADEL is an organization created by young people. Second, by presenting a proposal for networked production, with cooperation as an essential element. Producers have traditionally individual and entrenched methods of production. Finally, the trauma that families have already experienced trying to change their production processes - considering past experiences with credit that could not be repaid which led to indebtedness and loss of production.

This challenge, which is a constant through ADEL’s work, is addressed daily through the proximity with which the organization’s field technicians maintain a fluid, open and dynamic dialogue with local associations that are constructed around these spaces. Farmers understand today that ADEL is a serious entity, competent and, especially, a partner with other groups in the field. This is what makes day to day relationships easier.

(3) The management of local development in a participatory manner in Brazil is a big challenge. Local governments, especially in northeast Brazil, still do not understand the concept of human development as an integrated and democratic approach. They preoccupy themselves with the task of fostering traditional and conservative methods of development, addressing macroeconomic issues and not addressing issues such as equity, social participation and a multisector focus.

In the same way, there are difficulties in having conversations with civil society organizations, mainly the ones that are looking to promote development. Many times, these organizations consider ADEL a competitor and not a partner. ADEL, however, maintains an open dialogue with all institutions, public and private, from the state of Ceará. The organization maintains a close and direct relationship with local Mayor’s offices from all the cities in which it works, and also with the State Government of Ceará. We sit at the table to have conversations with strategic partners like the Northeastern Bank of Brazil, EMBRAPA and representatives from the Ministries that visit the region. In this same way, ADEL has close relationships with the social movements and the organizations set up by the agricultural workers and their supporters. ADEL prioritizes holding debates and dialogues on how technical criteria and socio-productive projects can be objectively built, with its grounding in data and empirically proven hypotheses.

(4) The environmental conditions in which ADEL performs its activities represent a mix of great challenges. The semiarid region demands innovative, creative and low cost solutions that are linked with sustainable living practices for the environment the communities are in. We highlight, in that sense, that the technicians from ADEL are young people that were born and raised in the rural communities in which they work today. They know the local knowledge and traditional techniques of the local culture, and manage to combine this knowledge with more contemporary techniques and tools. The technicians at ADEL have practical expertise with agriculture practiced in the semiarid region and face the task of productive improvement as an exercise for the development of new solutions and technologies, always working together with small producers on their property.

Tell us about your partnerships

Without partnerships a project like this one would be impossible. The project exists precisely to empower networks of partners that work in favor of local development. ADEL is an organization that offers a diverse range of specialized services for training and consulting to farmers. However, the work above all consists of facilitating and contributing to the coordination of a large network of local associations (communal), productive cooperatives and commercialization, cooperative centers, workers unions and female rural workers and territorial and regional forums.

ADEL has partnerships with diverse entities and representative centers of social movements in the Curu Valley. A clear example of this is that the first point of contact between the project and the farmers is always through the small rural producers associations from their communities. Even if they are still an informal organization. Without the structural entities and the social movements, we would not have a socio-political network for action and participative management of production (local economies).

ADEL still relies on partnerships with all the local government offices from the four cities in which it works as well as an open dialogue with the State Government of Ceará. Another very strategic partner is the Northeastern Bank of Brasil - because it has the mission to develop the region. These partners are necessary to support the socio-productive projects and organizational strengthening (participative management), besides being interested in improving and increasing the profitability of these productive activities.

In conclusion, as part of the formative process that the farmers go through to become rural entrepreneurs, they learn to cultivate dialogue between sectors, with a focus on sharing and the viability of plans to rise above pre-established ideological conflicts and proponents of the status quo.

Explain your selections

ADEL relies on two fundamental partners for financial sustainability and for the scaling of its activities: the Northeastern Bank of Brazil (BNB) and the Souza Cruz Institute. The BNB believes in the institutional model and the actions developed by ADEL and is a partner in implementing the socioproductive projects developed for local communities. This process generates a triangulation: the community association suggests the project to the BNB for the development of its activities, the BNB provides the resources for its implementation to the community association; the community association, in turn, hires ADEL for the execution of the socio-productive project. In this way, ADEL is a service provider for the community associations for the development of socioproductive projects created from the participatory diagnostics made in these communities. The Souza Cruz Institute is an investor in the social program Programa Jovem Empreendedor Rural (Rural Young Entrepreneurs Program), from ADEL. With these resources, ADEL will build a Reference Center for the Rural Young Entrepreneur in the city of Pentecoste. ADEL also has a partnership with the local government to hold events and fairs for the commercialization and promotion of local products, for infrastructural expansion and for the payment of the rural support technicians.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

ADEL was created as a social business to provide specialized services for training, technical consulting and the management of economic actors of rural territories in a way not practiced by other entities. ADEL possesses human resources and the technical competency to manage socio-productive projects of local development, and is able to give consulting to companies investing in the social sector; governments working to create public policies and NGOs in the designing of their social programs. Another group of stakeholders are the farmers, who, as they evolve in their thinking, come to recognize ADEL’s expertise as an actor to coordinate local clusters for the increase of productivity and profitability.

ADEL works to construct a service portfolio to implement hybrid financial models - in which the farmers absorb part of the costs and ADEL looks for other funding options to supplement what is needed. Local governments have a growing interest in ADEL’s work because it has been focusing on complex local issues like participative management and social capital training - subjects usually ignored by other entities working with farming consulting.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Lack of skills/training


Lack of efficiency


Restrictive cultural norms

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

The social technology developed by ADEL is primarily focused on the technical and managerial training of family farmers, focusing on cooperation and social capital. The consulting focuses on applying real life knowledge to increase productivity and profits (increase efficiencies). One of the main challenges is to combine traditional knowledge, linked with a conservative culture of production, to modern production techniques, management and commercialization in family agriculture.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.


Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services



Repurposed your model for other sectors/development needs

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

The construction of the Reference Center for the Young Rural Entrepreneur in the city of Pentecoste, in partnership with the Souza Cruz Institute, will allow ADEL to have a complete structure for the training of the region’s young people and a space for the development and diffusion of the region’s techniques and knowledge. The socioproductive project for constructing a fruit processing agribusiness for rural women in Baixo Acaraú, in partnership with BNB. And the beginning of the productive chains in General Sampaio and fish cultivation in Pentecoste.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

The main work developed by ADEL is the articulation and coordination of partnerships and strategic actors. The Federal University of Ceara, for example, is a fundamental player in making its facilities and its human resources available for our training activities (consulting, designing of teaching materials, etc.) The local governments are important for hosting fairs, and for making commercial and promotional events. Entities like the Coração de Estudante Institute are partners in the mobilization and networking of the farmers, particularly young ones. Companies, like BNB and Souza Cruz, are essential in the fundraising process for project implementation.