MST, policies for Agrarian Reform and budget by the Federal Government

Monday, May 20, 2024
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By Solange Engelmann | From the MST Page | Edited by Fernanda Alcântara | Translated by Friends of the MST (US) | Original URL:

MST denounces that the application of these policies is stagnant and the budget does not benefit settlements created before 2023; Understand how this relates to the disaster in RS

Along 40 years of struggle, the Landless Movement has been using the occupation of unproductive large estates, buildings and public spaces in the whole country as a form of pressure to the federal and state governments for the creation of registration for aims of agrarian reform, thinking about the registration of an immense liabilities of landless families that they still exist in the country.

The Movement argues that land must comply with the principle of social function, as determined by article 186 of the Federal Constitution. This determines that rural properties must meet three basic requirements to fulfill their social function: adequate use of available natural resources, preservation of the environment and respect for labor legislation. In view of this, landless workers point out the importance of an Agrarian Reform program in the country as an urgent and necessary alternative for the production of healthy food for the rural and urban population, in combating hunger, and advancing the country's development. .

These guidelines are part of the MST Agrarian Program that is being updated by the Sem Terra base across the country, for the 7th MST Congress, scheduled to take place in July 2025.

However, currently there are still around 105 thousand MST Landless families camped throughout Brazil, living precariously and “coexisting with violence from landowners, agribusiness and the police in various locations, waiting for a piece of land and agricultural promotion for the production of food for subsistence and the fight against hunger”, as highlighted by Ceres Hadich, from the national directorate of the MST, when denouncing that Agrarian Reform remains stagnant in the Lula Government, during the National Day of Struggles in Defense of Agrarian Reform, last April.

After the installation of a settlement by the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra), which is the result of a long process of struggles by Landless families, from the occupation of a large estate to the conquest of land, some families remain for more than ten years camped in canvas shacks. The next step for the workers is to continue new processes of struggle with the federal government and state and municipal governments in the search for public policies and credits, so that these families are able to produce and survive in the conquered areas.

To this end, in four decades the MST has demanded from governments a set of public policies and agricultural credits at low interest rates for the structuring of settlements, food production and conditions for a dignified life in these rural communities, seeking to advance the construction of the Reform Popular Agrarian.

In addition to the constant pressure from the Movement and a set of popular movements in the country, Agrarian Reform will only be possible with the massive support of the population and public investments from the Brazilian State, which has become increasingly difficult, as today the budget of the department focused on this public policy became, for two consecutive years, the lowest in the last 20 years.

Ceres explains that, in April this year, the Lula Government announced that in 2023 it had settled 50,852 thousand Landless families. “But when analyzing the numbers, it is clear that only 1,450 families refer to the creation of new settlements, the others are for recognition and regularization of consolidated and previously created areas”, says the leader.

During this year's April Struggle, the MST denounced that the Lula Government's initiatives aimed at Agrarian Reform have proven to be insufficient, as the federal government has not purchased land for Agrarian Reform for the third year in a row. Given this, the new Lula Government ended its first year of management with rates close to those of the Bolsonarist administration. In addition to the low budget, other factors hinder the advancement of Agrarian Reform, such as the fact that Incra needs servers and structure.

Terra da Gente Program

On April 15, Lula announced the Terra da Gente program as a new strategy to speed up Agrarian Reform in the country. However, the program focuses on allocating “available land in the country to settle families who want to live and work in the countryside”, informs the Incra portal. The proposal is to systematize these areas available in Brazil for inclusion in the National Agrarian Reform Program (PNRA).

With the National Agrarian Reform Program, the government's estimate is that 295 thousand Landless families will benefit from settlement by 2026. For 2024, a budget of R$520 million is planned for the acquisition of areas for the creation of settlements, which would benefit 73 thousand families. Thus, the government's promise is that between 2023 and 2026, the PNRA will benefit 74 thousand families with settlement and 221 thousand recognized or regularized in existing settlement lots.

On the occasion of the launch of the Terra da Gente program, according to information from Brasil de Fato, the minister of the Ministry of Agrarian Development and Family Agriculture (MDA), Paulo Teixeira, stated that in relation to the total of 295 thousand families that will benefit from the PNRA, 73,200 will be included in the program this year, 81,000 in 2025 and the remainder the following year. These numbers, according to the government, represent an increase of 877% in policy compared to the period between 2017 and 2022, when actions aimed at Agrarian Reform were paralyzed and unstructured by the previous government.

However, although the mobilization of the Lula Government with the launch of the program and the creation of new public policies for the areas of Agrarian Reform is notorious and fundamental, Giselda Coelho, from the national coordination of the MST's production sector, explains that the main obstacle to advancing access to public policies for settlements has been the guarantee of a budget for the application and implementation of these policies.

“How to guarantee a budget to serve the settlements, the oldest settlements, but also the new settlements? The main limit today is to have a budget that guarantees what the government has sought to make available for new settlements, created from 2023 onwards,” she states.

In this sense, she emphasizes that the other problem is that, as the government chose to allocate the available budget to new settlements, “there are consolidated settlements, which have been around for ten years, fifteen years, that have never accessed anything. They were created as settlements and did not access any type of investment to structure these families in the settlement”.

Given Incra's low budget for Agrarian Reform in 2024, which in practice has not yet been implemented, Débora Nunes, from the national directorate of the MST, points out that the issue being raised is that the federal government chose to allocate resources only to settlements new ones, which would cover with public policies an amount of only 6 thousand families settled throughout the country.

“Thus, families that have been settled, even for more than ten years, are not a priority for the government, Incra and MDA to access housing credit, for example, and be able to have a home”, highlights Débora. She also adds that the release of these credits depends on progress in selection and approval processes, which make the implementation of Agrarian Reform policies even slower.

In view of this, there is a group of rural worker families in the country that appear in federal government data as settled, and are present in the List of Beneficiaries of the agrarian reform (RB), but who still live in camp conditions, as they are in settlements who did not have access to initial credits, called installation credit. As Débora explains, these are precisely the credits needed to “install the family, so that it can begin a process of structuring and developing the organization of the productive unit” in a settlement area.

In relation to the Terra da Gente Program, Debora emphasizes that popular movements understand the importance of the program, as the work carried out by Incra makes it possible to create a diagnosis by mapping the land situation in Brazil. This contributes to the structuring of an Agrarian Reform Program in the country, capable of serving camped families and guaranteeing land for millions of Brazilians identified by IBGE as landless, who need land as a means of work and life to survive.

The program also advances by defining a set of possibilities and instruments that can be used to allocate land for Agrarian Reform. Decree 11,995 of 04/15/2024, when creating the Terra da Gente Program, provides for 17 modalities of obtaining rural properties, for the purposes of Agrarian Reform, ranging from expropriation for social interest, of public land to the purchase and sale, exchange , expropriation of rural properties with illegal crops or exploitation of labor in conditions similar to slavery, among others.

“However, we assess that the Program could have effective consequences in the medium and long term, because it involves and demands issues that are not immediately possible, or are not compatible with the urgency of resolving the situation of families who have been camped for more than 20 years,” says Debora.

The national leader also recalls that what is essential for the Program to become viable and make land available for Agrarian Reform is that it has a guaranteed public budget, in addition to the necessary adjustments to the administrative and legal instruments relating to the modalities presented, “thus guaranteeing operationality and agility , including restructuring and strengthening Incra, valuing employees, modernizing instruments and guaranteeing the organization's budget restoration. Without these conditions, it will be difficult for us to have, in a short space of time, 105 thousand families encamped as beneficiaries of Agrarian Reform, through the creation of new settlements across the country”, she projects.

We contacted Incra's advisors to hear the government's position on the budget situation for the settlement areas, but so far we have not heard back. If the information is sent, the text will be updated.

Importance of Agrarian Reform to prevent floods like in RS

Carrying out an Agrarian Reform program in the country with support and investments from the Brazilian State is essential to alleviate the effects of the environmental crisis, which every day affects more states and people with extreme impacts, such as the floods in Rio Grande do Sul, which has so far reached 157 dead victims. The Civil Defense bulletin still counts 88 missing.

The estimate is that storms and floods in RS already affect the lives of 2.3 million residents of 463 municipalities, reaching 93% of the total. There are more than 581 thousand people affected and displaced, and almost 77 thousand are in shelters.

Contrary to the agribusiness model that devastates nature, contaminates soil and water with pesticides and has systematically contributed to the worsening of the environmental crisis and its effects, the massification of an Agrarian Reform program in the country has become increasingly more central and structural to face the effects of the climate crisis such as droughts, storms and floods, emphasizes Débora Nunes.

“The process of land concentration, the way in which capital has transformed nature's goods into merchandise, devastating nature, occupying spaces that should not be occupied with farming; in what should be environmental preservation areas. That for me is the main policy. But we also have other policies, such as the mechanization process, which has several consequences.”

Débora points out that based on Agrarian Reform, as an agricultural model, it is possible to produce healthy food in balance with nature and recover the environment, based on agroecology, as it has a less aggressive mechanization system, with the use of small machines. , suitable and useful for small agriculture and Agrarian Reform.

Another example cited is the broad reforestation program that has been guided by the MST based on the National Plan Plant Trees, Produce Healthy Food, started in 2020, with the objective of planting 100 million trees in ten years. To date, through the plan, 25 million trees have been planted, 300 Agrarian Reform nurseries built and 15 thousand hectares recovered.

 “We have the challenge of the National Plan to Plant Trees, Produce Healthy Food, but it cannot have the volume and speed if it had the support of the State, of public policies driving it, from the construction of nurseries, to the training of youth in the process from seed collection to planting. Agrarian Reform makes it possible to go against agribusiness, including in everything that agribusiness does from the point of view of devastation. It is a structural and model issue that can address this issue,” summarizes Debora.

Agrarian Reform presents itself as a fundamental structural project for the country, as it combines the production of healthy food with environmental preservation, making it possible to combat hunger in the country and, in times of crisis, such as during the pandemic and at this time with floods in RS manages to provide concrete answers, providing food and offering solidarity to affected families.

Since the start of the floods in the state, the MST has been involved in making lunch boxes. Sem Terra installed a solidarity kitchen in the Filhos de Sepé settlement, in sector “D”, in the municipality of Viamão, which produces and distributes around 1,500 lunch boxes daily to affected families in Eldorado do Sul. Another solidarity kitchen is also in operation in the city of Pelotas, where through a partnership between the MST, Levante da Juventude and Armazém do Campo, 400 meals are being produced per day, with the involvement of around one hundred volunteers. Solidarity lunch boxes are delivered to five shelters that are welcoming homeless people.

Solidarity is also a central element in the Agrarian Reform project and a principle for the MST, which has also acted to rescue people from public shelters and other locations to Movement spaces, donated hygiene and cleaning materials and sought support for the provision of medical and psychological assistance to affected people and delivery of basic health kits.

The floods in RS have also caused incalculable damage and losses for 420 landless families, who were affected by flooding, flooding of homes, loss of food production, damage to structures, tools, machinery; beyond the lives of animals. In total, six MST settlements that were affected are in the metropolitan region of Porto Alegre and in the central region of the state, they are: Integração Gaúcha (IRGA) and Colônia Nonoaiense (IPZ), in Eldorado do Sul; Santa Rita de Cássia e Sino, in Nova Santa Rita; September 19th, in Guaíba and Tempo Novo, in Taquari. The Landless People's assessment is that with collective struggle and public policy investments, reconstruction is possible, based on new social, ecological and productive matrices.

Therefore, before the fight to stay on the land, after the settlement achieved, Landless families face the daily struggle in the camps, resisting different types of violence and abandonment by the State and its institutions until they conquer a plot of land. . And when conquering an Agrarian Reform settlement area, the families' main objective is to produce food, recover the environment and create conditions for generating life and income in these territories, but this is only possible with the implementation of public policies by governments, aimed at creating new settlements and infrastructure for survival and food production in these spaces.

*This is the first report on the situation of the Lula government's public policies in the areas of Agrarian Reform. In the next text we will expand the debate on the situation of these policies for the structuring of settlements and food production.