Solidary collective work in São Paulo: Mutirão

I have discovered the “mutirões” in São Paulo when I started to interest myself to urban agriculture, at the end of 2014. Many “mutirões” are organized every week-end, for example to maintain community gardens, to plant trees, to repair community buildings and equipments sometimes using permaculture principles, others are related to health issues or cultural events.

“Mutirão” designates a gathering focused on a common target, based on the voluntary service. Originally, it was used for group work in agricultural fields or in the construction of popular houses, tasks which were difficult to realize alone and from which all were benefiting and helping without hierarchy. It often included a meal and cultural festivities. Nowadays, the term “mutirão” can designate all services realized by a group of volunteers such as for example painting a school, cleaning a park, etc…

To give an idea of the traditional aspect of “mutirão”, have a look at the below video which shows an amazing ancestral collective work in Peru, focused on building a bridge for the community.


In Brazil, traditional quilombolas community of the rio Ribeira’s valley* (4hours South of São Paulo city, still in the state of São Paulo) are revitalizing their ancient custom of”mutirão” and organized a “mutirão” for the collect of rice in May 2015. It is very important for the transfer of their traditional culture to younger generations. The Instituto Socioambiental – ISA has realized a video about the event which shows differences between past and present “mutirão”. The subtitles are available in English and French.


It is wonderful having a group of people joining its energies and managing to do something great together for the community. It is out of the work context, it is voluntary, people are independent and free! And it also has strong social benefits! In our new collaborative world, what if we would all focus our energies on things that really worth for the local (and global) community? Won’t the world change for the better much more quickly and efficiently?

Below are 4 examples of the effervescent collective works organized in the city of São Paulo.

1) Urban community gardens in São Paulo city are used to organize collective work usually on a monthly basis. In the “Horta comunitária da Saúde” for example,  they take place on the second Sunday morning of each month. The work is planed and shared among the participants. The atmosphere is very friendly and focused. The day I visited, we shared a snack including delicious tempura of carrot leaves and went back home with part of vegetables collected. All activities of the community garden “Horta comunitária da Saúde” are documented on its Facebook page including plenty of thankful messages for people’s participations and achievements.

horta_da_saudePhoto from Sergio Shigeeda – Mutirão of 9/04/2016

2) BoraPlantar is organizing “mutirões” for planting trees around São Paulo city, including transport, tools and food for participants. Created by Intituto Kairós in partnership with the Movimento Urbano de Agroecologia de São Paulo- MUDA SP, BoraPlantar is focused on the recuperation of riparian forests adjacent to rivers, lakes and springs, aiming to show an “upstream” solution to water shortage which complements the “downstream” reduction of water consumption. Last “mutirão” was organized on March 12th in the indigenous community of Guarani Kalipety, in Barragem (in Parelheiros, rural area in the South of São Paulo city).

BoraPlantar_FBBoraPlantar group Facebook page (04/2016)

3) On March 12th, the first “Floresta de Bolso” (Pocket Forest) of São Paulo has been planted, starting an enthusiastic movement of planting of pocket forests in the city, following the technique developed by the botanist Ricardo Cardim. About 80 seedlings of native trees and shrubs have been planted in a place situated right inside São Paulo city, in Vila Olimpia. The benefits of a “Pocket Forest” includes the concentration of high biodiversity and trees in a small area, being an environmental solution against urban heat and air pollution, preserving the local biodiversity and offering a nice place to relax to the community. Many other “mutirões” are now organized to spread “Pocket Forests” around the city.

4) Another example which involves a community for the recuperation of a degraded area: In  2015, several “mutirões” have focused on the revitalization of the place Haruo Uoya in Santo Amaro, located in the South of the São Paulo city. Part of the GVT na Praça 2015 project organized by Instituto Elos, it has gathered neighbors to dream about how the place could be safer and more pleasant for the community. They have realized together the necessary work: cleaning the area, planting, building an environmental-friendly kids playground and installing equipment to exercise or even a small library.

gvt-02Photo Instituto Elos

I am currently supporting these communities quilombolas in cooperation with the Instituto Socioambiental – ISA.


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