I first went to Brazil in 1984 from South Africa where I lived for most of my life. Although I have travelled to over 60 countries, no country has ever attracted me like Brazil for many reasons, including its challenges, and I am now privileged to call Brazil home together with Athlone in Ireland.
The Mantiqueira is a mountainous region that lies on the border of three great Brazilian states, being Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. These three states (there are 28) make up 70% of all Brazil’s economic productivity. In the intersection the unique Mantiqueira Mountain Range is located and here 15 000 people live in the ‘City’ of Passa Quatro. It is an attractive vibrant country town boasting an infrastructure that is greater than its modest population suggests. With numerous bed and breakfasts the town also has two substantial four-star hotels, the latest of which opened only a few years ago – giving a clear insight that this is a town and location where things are happening.
Passa Quatro is home to 15 000 proud friendly residents, and weekends see an influx of Brazilians mostly from Rio and Sao Paulo (both are 3 hours drive) who want to enjoy mountain walks, mountain biking, hiking and climbing. There are also many artisanal attractions in the area from coffee plantations, artisanal dairies, making, fish farms, cachaca distilleries and our very own ‘Smoking Mary’ steam train (Maria Fumaça) that takes tourists from the town centre to the historic border tunnel with Sao Paulo.
Fourteen years ago I bought a small farm three kilometres outside town and five years ago my husband and I bought an adjacent farm doubling the size of the land. Together this is now Fazenda Sao Francisco de Assis, an animal sanctuary. We currently have 25 hectares bordering both forested areas and farms in a totally enchanting and private valley. The farm has a perennial river running through it flowing straight from the mountains. The property has four access points, one house and three other building one of which is a guest cottage and is well serviced by a gravel road from the town (3km) that makes its way to the hamlet further up the mountain (Jurema).
Although we have a variety of fruits, the farm is now dedicated to being animal sanctuary and this will always account for 80% of the property. The other 20% being allocated to our own housing, the future Green School and housing and the organic crops, fruit trees (including lychees, jabuticaba, citrus, avocado and coffee) and fifteen productive bee hives!
Animals on the farm include otters, monkeys, possums, jaguarundi (otter cat), armadillo, rabbits and monitor lizards. With the assistance and approval of Ibama (nature conservation) we will bring back other animals native to the area such as coatimundi – see top left image below.
The farm (and the area in general) has an incredible energy and for those who share a passion for minerals we have found plenty of obsidian, tektites and crystals all of which are associated with energy. Seldom do I go for a walk around the farm without returning with a pocket full of stones that have intrigued South African customs officials! The soil is rich and productive.
The opportunity to purchase the adjoining farm crystallised the idea of opening Green School. Green School Brazil will be a non-profit organisation and we have decided to transfer the farms to Green Think Foundation to ensure the long-term future of the entire project. In due course, a Board of Trustees will administer the Green Think Foundation to further protect the long-term viability and vision of the project.
Andre de Villiers
& Romeu Santana (Founders)