Read the version in Portuguese here
Issa lives in Granja Viana and is one of the representatives of Transition Granja Viana, an initiative of the worldwide Transition Town movement. According to her, the Swap Fair, also known as the Ecofair, is the biggest success of the Transition GV Group. She told me this while we were driving to her house one Saturday afternoon so we could catch a potluck supper of Granja’s Transitioners and be ready to attend the Ecofair bright and early on Sunday morning.
Granja Viana is part of metropolitan São Paulo and is in the municipality of Cotia. As Issa recounts, it’s a place that has seen a recent incursion of people moving there (perhaps to escape the traffic and chaos of inner São Paulo) and condominiums and malls following close on their heels. Previously, Granja Viana was a highly agricultural place, but with this gentrification, the cost of land has shot up to impossible levels for a lot of the farmers. Many of them have been selling their land because they just weren’t making a profit off it, which results in a decline of available local and organic produce.
The first Swap Fair in Granja Viana was born out of Issa’s exasperation. When the Transition group was just starting up they had many meetings with interested persons to chart out how they were going to do it. But after many meetings without concrete actions, Issa was tired and one day said, ‘We’re going to have a Swap Fair!’ And like that they began- in 2009.
Issa told me that the fair has helped a lot of farmers. So I spoke with some of them who had their vegetables for sale or exchange at the fair to find out what difference, if any, the Fair had made. They told me that at the Fair they earn better prices for their produce than if they were to sell to supermarkets. At the fair they are the owners of their products and they get to keep all of the profit from sales. When I asked whether they farmed on their own land, they said no- the leased land to farm on. With higher profits, they can keep doing that.
Besides agricultural products, the Fair, which was put together through support from Transition Granja Viana, Site da Granja, the Municipality of Cotia and AUescambAU among others, is an opportunity for artisans to show their products and exchange these. There were people there who made jewellery, beaded house decorations, raffia mats, compost bins, flowers and plants, and reclaimed wood and glass items. Food items in the form of honey and homebaked cakes and breads were also present.
The residents of Cotia also had the opportunity to swap items that they had brought with them amongst themselves or with the artisans. Issa, for example, exchanged an old TV that she no longer used for a bag of vegetables. Books were exchanged for house decorations, a beaded candleholder for a pot of flowers, a suitcase for a raffia decoration, home-made bread for home-made candles and fine needlework.
I left the Ecofair with a warm sweater to protect me from São Paulo’s winter chills, and an earring rack for my millions of earrings that was exchanged for a book. I also left with a house decoration that I won- all the artisans as a payment for participation, contribute an item for a lottery and every participant in the fair has the chance to win. You could say that there are very many draws to attending the Swap fairs.
And the residents continue swapping and exchanging. After this fair they have had others. Their goal was to have at least one fair every month, but they’ve already surpassed themselves! They now have a Fair every weekend. It’s a great way to change people’s points of views on the necessity of money for everything, change their relationships with money and goods, as well as a way to give new life to items that we no longer use even though they might still be good. In Granja Viana the Ecofair also reinforces the independence of small local producers in a changing landscape.
Have you swapped anything recently?