Brazil: A Continent in Itself
On June 2019, I started to collaborate with YouthMappers as a Regional Ambassador for Brazil. Together with other selected regional ambassadors, we started to work on objectives in order to grow the number of universities participating in YouthMappers, and ensure this network of chapters composed by students and professors from all around the world thrives.
For this moment, YouthMappers was a consortium with chapters from more than 43 countries. We were in all the four corners, or rather, in the five continents… but we had no representative chapter in Brazil, and we wondered: why?
Maybe it was the language. English is not the national language in Brazil, nor is it spoken as a second language. However, in many other countries, English is not the first language also, and these countries are represented in YouthMappers. So, ok, English is a barrier for many young people, which makes it difficult for them to participate in international networks, but it cannot be the main reason.
One possible explanation is that Brazil is a giant country, a continent in itself. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world; its area is larger than the area of all European Union countries combined. We have a number of cultures, accents, and even expressions that make one region very different from others. It is the only country in South America that is not Spanish-speaking, since it was colonized by Portugal. That made us close a little bit in ourselves, maybe.
Brazil is also considered an emerging country, a somewhat confusing and diffuse category, for its powerful economy. As a result, many international aid and cooperation programs did not focus so much on Brazil, preferring to support other countries. However, we have many problems and challenges to solve. We still have to advance a lot in sanitation and sewage (only 46.3% of the sewage generated in the country is treated, according to the Ministry of Regional Development). In Brazil, the deficiency in basic cartography of appropriate scale, due to its inexistence and lack of updating, is notorious in several regions. We deal with difficulties associated with deforestation in the Amazon region, among other examples.
Brazilian professors and students, together with other institutions, are very concerned and seeking to contribute to the solutions. Many efforts have been made on the subject of cartographic bases. Many Brazilian students stand out for their innovative research results and great social impact. The willingness to solve real and local problems is there!
My challenge then, as an ambassador, was to bring Brazil closer to YouthMappers, and YouthMappers closer to Brazil. It has not been an easy task, especially from a distance, because I am living outside Brazil at this time, so I depended a lot on virtual meetings (watch the Portuguese webinars linked). But little by little I started to talking to people from Bahia, Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, … People started to know more about YouthMappers, and the first Brazilian chapter of YouthMappers was created in November! Visit
Mapedarores Livres members pictured during a mapthon and chapter event
The chapter Mapeadores Livres, from the Federal University of Paraná is officially the first Brazilian chapter of our large network of universities mapping for resilience! Surely, the first of many that will come.
Let's welcome them and show them the advantages of being part of a network like YouthMappers. We are breaking barriers.
About the author:
Natália da Silveira Arruda is from Porto Alegre, Brazil. She lives and researcher in Colombia since 2014. She is a professor at the Environmental School, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia, and helped to co-found the GeoLab UdeA chapter. She is the YouthMappers Regional Ambassador for Brazil.