Agricultural fairs, a fertile space for the landless

Saturday, May 19, 2018
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Agricultural fairs, a fertile space for the landless

by Giovanna Costanti — published 05/19/2018

When selling organic produce, farmers from settlements, encampments, and quilombolas exchange experiences of the countryside and of the struggle for agrarian reform with people from the cities

Agricultural fairs: spaces where the organized movement and the public are willing to dialogue

At the beginning of the year, the budget for obtaining land for agrarian reform suffered a cut of 80%. According to INCRA, in 2017 no families were settled and only 28 settlement projects were created. In March of this year, Decree 9.311, published by the Federal Government provided the legal basis for INCRA to resume registration and select families to be settled.
The process has been stagnant since a decision of the Federal Court of Audit that determined the suspension of the processes of registration and selection of candidates for the National Program of Agrarian Reform (PNRA), from April 2016 to September 2017. In Goiás, for example, there were only 7 settlement projects created since 2016 with no families settled.
At the same time, agribusiness is expanding. At the end of last year, the Brazilian Agriculture and Livestock Confederation concluded that the share of agribusiness in the GDP was the highest in 13 years. In this scenario, family agriculture has to fight in the political and legal areas in order to gain access to land that does not fulfill its social function.

With the stagnation of agrarian reform, agricultural fairs become spaces in which the organized movement and the public are willing to discuss agroecology and the cultivation of organic produce. The exchange also occurs in order to share and understand the circumstances of those people living in the countryside.
During a visit to the 3rd National Fair of Agrarian Reform, in Parque Água Branca, in São Paulo, CartaCapital talked with people from encampments and settlements, extractivists and quilombolas. In addition to the financial aid that the agroecological and organic fairs promote, there is an interest in exposing the reality of the landless, a social group that has been stigmatized, to city residents.

Cássio, 23, Wenceslau Guimarães (BA)

CassioCassio is the son of settlers. Born in Porto Seguro, he moved to the Fábio Henrique settlement with his mother and godparents at the age of fourteen. He finished his studies in a rural school. At 23, he graduated in the same settlement and already teaches as a rural educator in the People’s School of Agroecology and Agroforestry. In 2014, he and others from the same area succeeded in getting the agroecology education project in basic education approved as a discipline or in an interdisciplinary way, in 14 municipalities

"I see that the difficulty that farmers have is very great. First of all, we do not have any financial incentive, since that only goes to agribusiness. So the families, mostly those from encampments who get a plot of land, usually do not have the resources. They need to build houses, fences, plan the production process and some do not have access to water.
There, the eucalyptus and coffee monoculture is very large, so 80% of the settlements are in areas surrounded either by eucalyptus or by coffee growing. As the process of agroecological transition is time-consuming, we have increasingly constructed a dialogue with the farmer because when he sees that some things do not work, he often becomes resistant. We have tried test areas for agroecology. We have already eliminated the use of pesticides and many chemical fertilizers."

Evelaine, 34, Minas Gerais

EvelaineEvelaine has lived for 15 years in the same settlement and moved in when it was still an encampment, without INCRA regularization. She lives with her husband and son, Gabriel, who was born in the same encampment and is now 13 years old. There is no school within the settlement, which causes families to have to resort to a nearby community. She shows Gabriel in a tent in front of her, helping in the sale of the food grown in the settlement.
"He does not like to talk about coming to town. His business is in the same field, he has even bee farming, so he likes it a lot. With faith in God he will continue in the fields. He really likes the land, because he has been there since he was a little boy. "
Family farming is important to show society where food comes from, where healthy food comes from, and see that agrarian reform really has a purpose. A lot of people think that the MST occupies only to make a commotion. Here we have the opportunity to show that it is not this, that we are really there to produce organic products. "

Imaculada, 59, Peruíbe (SP)

Imaculada is part of the Union of Women of Peruíbe, which has existed for 20 years. She does not live in a settlement, but in a quilombo, which still awaits regularization. With the help of other women who remained in the group, Imaculada helped in the restructuring of the group. Today, the women who make up the Union have their own income, through family farming, with women farmers and fishing.
They also organize discussions on feminism, autonomy and economy, in union with producers in the urban areas of Peruíbe and Ribeira Valley, who produce handicrafts, breads and spirits. Now they are waiting for a space promised by the City to hold women's fairs. "At first the husbands thought it strange. But now we plant, sell and have autonomy. It is a very serious job for women and helps with income from home,,” she explains.

Maria Lucilene, 42, Parauapebas (PA)

MariaMaria has lived for 24 years in a settlement in the Green Belt region of Pará, where companies have exploited mining. She says she has had many difficulties in the five years she lived in an encampment. Today, women farmers make up the Group of Women of the Settlement of Palmares. They organize themselves into family-owned cooperatives. "All united," she adds.
"In the encampment we did not have many things to use. We would take goods that the people gave us for the encampment. But we were very poor and the people did not help much at the time. When we moved to the settlement things got better. We only work as family now.
To come to the fair we traveled four days. It's far. I come by bus. The merchandise cart goes in front and the bus follows behind. And it will take another four days to go back."

Maura Lúcia, 44, Itaperaí (GO)

MauraAfter deciding to move to a movement encampment, Maura lived by the side of the road. For five years she lived alone in an encampment. She left her children with her mother. The family, including her own children, did not accept her choice. "It was not easy being by myself," she says. After a while, still in the encampment, she brought her children.

Afterwards, she moved to a settlement and took the entire family, who today accepts the matriarch's choices. Today, she lives with her mother, stepfather, husband and children. The grandchildren study at a nearby community school. "It’s only 13 kilometers from the settlement," she says. A van takes them every day in the morning.

"Besides having my family there, working there, seeing my grandchildren coming in and saying, 'Grandma, can I eat that fruit?' ', To know that there is no poison. Today, I'm seeing the result of something I believed. It seemed so far away, we were so far away and I see today doing all this.
I have comrades whose children are growing up and are wanting to build houses to stay there. I dream that my grandchildren want to do this. I see the girls studying agronomy and I want them to want to do that too. Do not leave me alone in the future, just like in some old settlements where we see only the old people there. "

Ruberli, 40, São Sebastião do Tocantins (TO)

Ruberli has been living for 18 years in a settlement in the Bico do Papagaio region, north of Tocantins. The region is known as one of the areas of the country with the highest incidence of rural violence. "We are sad because all our settlements are surrounded by farmers who are destroying the babaçu palm. The way they are removing the big palm trees, poisoning the little ones, in 30 to 40 years the trees will be gone, "he says. According to the extractivist, political support for the settlers is practically nonexistent in the region, which puts them in a situation of vulnerability.

Valdeir, 57, Macaé (RJ)

ValdeirBorn in Espírito Santo, Valdeir lived for 25 years in São Paulo, where he worked as a bricklayer. He left a family in the capital, spent five years in an encampment in Macaé and today he celebrates eight years as a farmer and produces together with the settlement cooperative. At first, 250 families made up the encampment, but only 49 remained as settled on the land. "Sometimes we lose some comrades, it's a difficult fight. But everyone left a legacy,” he reports.

"While you are camped alongside the road you have no place, you are under a tarp, you cannot produce anything you want. Sometimes people say we're taking farmers' land, but that's not true. It's a big fight with INCRA. We ask for those lands that are not productive. Today much land is used for agribusiness. And we are already against this because there is a lot of space used and this will end where? Cattle gives the farmer money and poison to the consumers.
In the settlements we plan to start producing agro-ecological products. Our products are still not organic because we still do not have the organic seal, I think because we are in a settlement. We have many difficulties. "

Maria Cecília, 65, Iaras (SP)

Maria CeciliaOnly six years after being in an encampment, Maria Cecília and other families in the region were relocated to the Zumbi dos Palmares settlement, where she currently lives. The settlers themselves built a school there and set up a bank. "We suffered a lot, we were very humiliated, even in the city nearby. Today we gain respect, "he says. Today, she sells her brand of coffee, which bears her name, at the MST store, Armazém do Campo, and already has customers who buy on a large scale. But producing pure and organic coffee, at a fair price, is still difficult.
"I've had this coffee for about seven or eight years. I started grinding it by hand. We planted the coffee, then I went to sell the coffee and saw that I needed a mixer. At the time I had no money, but then I went to a where I had credit and bought a machine. I have it to this day. I carried a sample from house to house in the plastic bag. Then I started selling to more people and I had my own packaging done.
And it is not organic yet because we did not get the seal. The biggest difficulty is the bureaucracy of the government, the public agencies and sometimes even the neighbors, because in order to be organic, my neighbor cannot use pesticides. It is also difficult to get the seed labeled without pesticide, it is a very big bureaucracy. It’s easier to get it for vegetables now. If I had the seal, I would sell a pound for 60 reais, so we would have an advantage, but for now we are not getting it.