This story is over 5 years old.

In Photos: Drought in Brazil's Sertão Region

While attention has focused on drought in São Paulo, persistent dry conditions are also devastating Brazil's northeast.
Photo par Alessandro Falco

VICE News is closely tracking global environmental change. Check out the Tipping Point blog here.

The state of São Paulo is experiencing its worst drought in decades. Reservoirs that millions of people rely upon for drinking water are running dry and outbreaks of dengue fever have brought about an acute public health crisis.

But another region of Brazil is experiencing drought, although it has largely gone unnoticed compared to the crisis in the more populous southeast. The Sertão region, which includes parts of several states in the country's northeast, is semi-arid, but typically produces millions of tons of crops and hosts millions of head of goats, sheep, and cows.


Like São Paulo, the Sertão has been devastated. And with El Niño conditions forming in the eastern Pacific Ocean, the situation could become worse.

A child explores what remains of an artificial lake near his home in Pernambuco, a state in the northeast of Brazil.

A mother attempts to sow seeds in the dry and rocky soil of Brazil's northeast.

Workers unload a truckload of drinking water in Sertânia, Pernambuco, a state in the northeast of Brazil.

Zezé de Sirley recovers a calf in the scrublands of Brazil's northeast. He is helped by his son Jenailton, who left school to follow his father's path. Cow herding goes back generations in the family and vaqueiros like Zezé are a defining characteristic of the region's culture. 

Police search a group of young men for drugs in a poor neighborhood of Salgueiro, a city in Pernambuco. The military has increased operations as they seek to clamp down on the region's growing marijuana industry. 

Triunfo, the city with the highest elevation in Pernambuco, is known as an oasis in the typically dry state. But rainfall has been even more scarce than usual over the past several years. 

In central Pernambuco, A young cowboy finishes a beer during the Feast of São José. He has traveled several kilometers on horseback so not to miss one of the most important festivals of the year, which is dedicated to the tradition of the vaqueiros.

Expedita is a folk healer who treats dozens of families each day. Her services are free and she is deeply respected by the locals.

Workers butcher cattle in a municipal slaughterhouse in Sertânia, Pernambuco. Livestock production, the main source of income in the area, dropped by 35 percent in the last four years because of the drought, impacting small farmers the most. 

Jobs seekers gather at a municipal employment center in Serrita, Pernambuco. The city's unemployment rate is the worst in a decade due to the gradual mechanization of the agricultural sector and the severity of the ongoing drought.

In 1998, one hundred and twenty families from Brazil's Landless Workers Movement occupied this once fertile piece of land in Pernambuco. Since 2001, though, the Pajeú River has ceased to feed the reservoir that the settlers rely upon to irrigate their fields. 

A goat named Bido is the main attraction at a circus in the city of Ouricuri, Pernambuco. The goat is considered "King of Sertão" because of its high tolerance to drought conditions.

Young boys bathe in a tank of rainwater on the border between Pernambuco and Paraíba, which lies to the north.

All photos by Alessandro Falco

Follow Alessandro Falco on Twitter: @AlessandroFalco