For generations of workers in the sugar cane plantations of north-eastern Brazil, the long months between harvests have been a time of hunger. Sugar cane cutting is hard labour. Women workers rise in the early hours to prepare food for their families and leave for work before dawn, working long hours in the scorching sun. Alternatives are limited. An innovative training programme which offers participants training in non-traditional jobs like welding, soldering, electrical work and taxi driving, is using the time between the harvests to change women’s prospects, with transformational effects. This case study includes key findings and policy recommendations for programmes such as this.