Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement, or in Portuguese Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), is the largest social movement in Latin America with an estimated 1.5 million landless members organized in 23 out 27 states. The MST carries out long-overdue land reform in a country mired by unjust land distribution. In Brazil, 1.6% of the landowners control roughly half (46.8%) of the land on which crops could be grown. Just 3% of the population owns two-thirds of all arable lands.
Since 1985, the MST has peacefully occupied unused land where they have established cooperative farms, constructed houses, schools for children and adults and clinics, promoted indigenous cultures and a healthy and sustainable environment and gender equality. The MST has won land titles for more than 350,000 families in 2,000 settlements as a result of MST actions, and 180,000 encamped families currently await government recognition. Land occupations are rooted in the Brazilian Constitution, which says land that remains unproductive should be used for a “larger social function."
The MST’s success lies in its ability to organize and educate. Members have not only managed to secure land, therefore food security for their families, but also continue to develop a sustainable socio-economic model that offers a concrete alternative to today's globalization that puts profits before people and humanity.