MST brings together 4 thousand people to celebrate the largest production of organic rice in Latin America

Friday, March 17, 2023
Info Source: 
MST web site By Catiana de Medeiros; translated by US Friends of the MST |

Event on March 17th in the Filhos de Sepé settlement in Viamão (RS)

Around four thousand people participated in the 20th edition of the Agroecological Rice Harvest Festival. Photo: Renan Mattos

The 20th edition of the Agroecological Rice Harvest Festival was celebrated this Friday (17th) by around four thousand people in the Filhos de Sepé settlement, in Viamão, in the metropolitan region of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul. 375 families whose production is based on agroecology live there. In addition to settlers from all regions of the state, the event brought together leaders, authorities and supporters of the Agrarian Reform policy, including those from other countries, such as Cuba, Guatemala, Argentina and Venezuela. Among the participants were the Minister of Agrarian Development and Family Agriculture (MDAF), Paulo Teixeira, and former governor Olívio Dutra.

One of the highlights was the traditional symbolic harvest in the fields, which involved national leaders of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), parliamentarians, Minister Teixeira and healthy eating specialist, Bela Gil. The moment was celebrated with singing, applause and the slogan “Long Live Agrarian Reform”, in recognition of the families that chose to produce healthy food and preserve the environment.

MDAF Minister Paulo Teixeira and Bela Gil. Photo: Renan Mattos

According to Nelson Krupinski, from the Grupo Gestor do Arroz Agroecológico, holding the Harvest Festival in a territory 100% free of pesticides and GMOs is symbolic and reinforces the MST's commitment to life. “Here more than seven thousand tons of organic rice are produced, but there are also vegetables, beans, corn, bakeries.” He thanked the movement's partners and research entities that helped to make the cultivation of organic rice possible, over 20 years ago, through numerous experiments.

The MST has led the largest production of organic rice in Latin America for more than ten years, according to the Rio Grande Rice Institute (Irga). The estimate is to harvest more than 16 thousand tons in the 2022/2023 harvest, in an area of 3.2 thousand hectares, according to a survey by the Grupo Gestor. Production, which involves 352 families and seven cooperatives, takes place in 22 settlements located in nine municipalities in the Metropolitan, South, Center-South and West Frontier regions of the state. The main varieties planted are needle and collared rice.

The event brought together leaders, authorities and parliamentarians who support the Agrarian Reform policy, including those from other countries. Photo: Renan Mattos

The municipality hosting the event is known as the Capital of Organic Rice, a title conferred by Law 4,751/2018, authored by then councilor and now state deputy Adão Pretto Filho (PT). This recognition is the result of the cooperative work of the families in the settlement, who, in addition to contributing to the local economy, transformed Viamão into the largest producer of organic rice in Rio Grande do Sul. There, 1,600 hectares of food are cultivated.

Ana Primavesi Bioinput Production Unit

To reaffirm its commitment to this production model and advance sustainability, the MST today inaugurated the Ana Primavesi Bioinput Production Unit, made possible in a partnership between the movement, the Cooperative of Settled Workers of the Porto Alegre Region (Cootap) and the International Association for People's Cooperation (BAOBAB). From it, settlers will be able to produce their own inputs, which is synonymous with more autonomy and less dependence on large companies, in addition to increasing family income and improving soil fertility.

According to Dioneia Ribeiro, an organic rice producer and member of the Grupo Gestor, bioinputs will be provided for three thousand hectares. “Because it it linked to the Agrarian Reform cooperatives, it is a milestone in the advancement of agroecology in our country, being the first of its size under the control of peasant families,” she said.

The use of bioinputs in the production of organic rice has already occurred in this season, in 28 hectares destined for research. Next time, the goal is to use them throughout the food production area in the Filhos de Sepé settlement. In addition, it will be expanded to the entire Management Group, also contemplating the organic production of vegetables, beans, corn and soybeans.

Political event, announcements and demands

Minister Teixeira signaled the Government's commitment to workers' access to land and credit. Photo: Juliana Adriano

The Harvest Festival also featured a political event. Minister Paulo Teixeira stressed that President Lula is responsible for Agrarian Reform and that the best way to combat poverty and misery in the countryside is to allow, among other issues, workers access to land and credit.

I am putting up for discussion a model of Agrarian Reform that is occupied by agro-villages, with electric and internet infrastructure, with agro-industries and cooperatives that can develop the land. We want education in the countryside and to remodel credits so that the poorest can access them, so that they can benefit from cooperatives and develop agro-industries in the countryside”, stated Teixeira.

João Pedro Stedile, national leader of the MST, stated that the Movement's objective is to produce healthy food, free of pesticides and without slave labor, in reference to the recent cases that occurred in RS. He also highlighted the importance of social organization, to contribute to the Lula government and change economic policy.

Hunger is the zero point. But just giving food does not solve Brazil's problem. What solves it is to build another national project with sovereignty, and that in fact makes the structural changes in the country”, observed Stedile.

During the event, three contracts of the Initial Support credit were signed, in order to help peasants face the drought in RS. The proposal for the first project of the Food Acquisition Program (PAA) was also delivered to cover 5,600 families from 27 popular entities in Porto Alegre, involving 12 MST cooperatives and more than 1,000 settlement families, in addition to demands from two structuring projects of the agroecological rice production chain, expressed in the seed processing unit and in the parboiled rice industry.

The national leadership of the MST submitted demands to the federal government. The document calls for the immediate settlement of the 65,000 families in encampments in the country, who have been living in this situation for over ten years, and also the creation of public policies for the 500,000 families that are already settled, with a guarantee of structural credit and technical assistance for organize food production and drive development. Another point is about investments in rural education, especially through the National Program for Education in Agrarian Reform (Pronera). The goal is to meet soon with the federal government to discuss the agenda.

The program also featured testimonials about human rights and food, with the participation of culinary specialist Bela Gil. She said that it is not possible to talk about healthy food without talking about land distribution and agrarian reform, and that she is very hopeful that, with the current government, these issues will be resolved.

We need to review how food is produced, distributed and consumed, to build proposals and policies to feed the people with healthy food”, Bela Gil pointed out.

In the program, there was also a mistica performance, which warned of the impacts of the use of pesticides in agriculture and highlighted the resistance and unity of the working class for the construction of a fairer society and the implementation of People’s Agrarian Reform. At noon, carreteiro rice was served, a typical dish of the state. Throughout the event, participants were able to visit the fair, which offered a variety of natural and agro-industrialized products. The space brought together exhibitors from RS, Minas Gerais and Santa Catarina.

Carreteiro rice was served at lunch, a typical dish of the state. Photo: Renan Mattos

Also in attendance at the festivities were Edegar Pretto, the next president of the National Supply Company (Conab); PT, PSol, PCdoB and PDT parliamentarians; and representatives of the State government, the General Secretariat and Social Communication of the Presidency of the Republic (Secom), various entities, universities and social movements.

 Edited by Solange Engelmann