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A day in the life of Nicinha: a local cheese producer in Brazil

With the help of Crescer, an enterprise development programme that we support, Brazilian small business owner Irenice de Fátima Mariano Bicalho (Nicinha) has built her business up from humble beginnings. Discover her story in the article below.

“I wake up at 3am each day to milk the cows and start my cheese production. By midday I’ve finished the production work and spend the afternoon cleaning, washing the vessels I’ve used and then feeding the cattle. Following that, I prepare the products that I plan to sell at the next fair and by 7pm I’m ready for bed. The next day, I wake up at the same time and start all over again.”

This is the daily routine of Irenice de Fátima Mariano Bicalho (Nicinha), a local cheese producer who lives in the community of Conceição do Mato Dentro, near our Minas-Rio operations in Brazil.

Although these long working hours may seem tiring, they enable Nicinha to cope with the increased demand for her cheese products that came with the population growth resulting from Minas-Rio. She currently sells at different markets, to people from the community and to Anglo American employees at the local fair.

Business growth

Like many others farmers in Brazil, Nicinha started out as a small cheese producer. And like many other farmers too, she lives in a rural area with no mobile signal and limited access to infrastructure or technology. These challenges however, haven’t stopped Nicinha from seeking the help she needs to make her business grow.

She’s joined the Crescer enterprise development programme, supported by Anglo American, where she has learned how she can develop her business by incorporating new technologies, finance and innovation, and how to improve and expand her product offering without compromising quality.

Since then, Nicinha’s production has increased even more and she is now further investing in her business to meet even greater demand.

“To cope with the high demand, I’ve had to hire someone to help me with the production and I’ve increased my cattle and now have more than 15 cows. I also bought a packaging machine to vacuum pack the cheese and a machine specially to pack trays. The packaging maintains the quality and improves the shelf-life of the cheese meaning that I can sell it outside of my local area too,” says Nicinha.

Strengthening local entrepreneurship

Through the Crescer initiative our employees in Brazil have the opportunity to buy Nicinha’s cheese and other producers’ products at the Quitanda Real fair, held regularly at the Conceição do Mato Dentro operations. Here the entrepreneurs from Crescer exhibit and sell products such as coffee, honey candy, cheese and handicraft to residents of the municipalities living in the area of influence of the Minas-Rio mine and beneficiation system: Alvorada de Minas, Conceição do Mato Dentro and Dom Joaquim and Serro.

The objective is to help strengthen local entrepreneurship. In fact, the fair goes beyond that and for some producers such as Nicinha, it is actually a valuable source of income.

“The income I receive from sales to Anglo American’s employees is very good. I sell all the cheese I take to the fair and don’t bring any back home. I usually take 60 cured cheeses, 70 mozzarellas, 15 seasoned cheeses, 40 pieces of standard cheese and 20 frescal types of cheese. The only reason I don’t sell more is because I can’t physically carry more than I already do,” explains Nicinha.

As if her current set up isn’t challenging enough, Nicinha plans to go further.

“I want to continue increasing even more. I’m studying so that I can sell my cheese outside of Brazil. I’m already doing all that’s necessary to organise my production for exportation. As part of this I have to get a certification called Sisbi, and Anglo American through the Crescer initiative is helping me with that. I’m already in touch with other producers that export their cheese so we can swap experiences. And with the help that Anglo American is giving me, my cheese will hopefully soon be known outside of Brazil,” she says.

Find out more about the socio-economic development programmes in our communities.

 

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