In Brazil, the MST’s 20th Agroecological Rice Harvest Party gathers about 5,000 people

Movement celebrates harvest estimated at 16,000 tons and calls for the resumption of public policies for family farming

Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha

Brasil de Fato | Viamão (Brazil) |
Celebration marks the symbolic beginning of the harvest; it will probably last until April - Foto: Pedro Stropasolas

A day to celebrate the fight for agrarian reform and its fruits for the Brazilian people and nature with about 5,000 attendees from all over the country, international guests, officials, political leaders and special guests – and, of course, with a lot of healthy food. That’s how the 20th Agroecological Rice Harvest Party, held by the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST, in Portuguese), happened last Friday (17) at Filhos de Sepé Settlement in the city of Viamão, part of Porto Alegre’s metropolitan region, the capital city of Rio Grande do Sul state. 

"Agroecological Rice Harvest Party: Eating is a political act," reads the banner at the event’s entrance / Photo: Jorge Leão

The friends and supporters of the MST arrived early. Since 7am, there was already a long line of buses and cars at the entrance of the settlement. Upon entering the party space, they were greeted by a fair of agrarian reform products. Available at a fair price, the production of the MST cooperatives offered items such as juices, jellies, cachaças, breads, sweets, snacks, as well as the movement's organic rice, distributed to each of those present.

Agrarian reform products available at fair prices / Photo: Jorge Leão

Currently, the Movement’s cooperatives are the top producers of organic rice in Latin America. They estimate this harvest to be about 16,000 tons. Besides gathering supporters and the settlement’s residents to debate the challenges of continuing and expanding the rice production, the Party ends up becoming a great moment to meet people and celebrate achievements.

Mystique, study and harvest

The traditional moment presented by the MST in its events opened the day. The artistic intervention drew the line between the huge differences between agribusiness and family farming agroecological production. On one side, poison, deforestation, hunger, workers’ degrading conditions and the enrichment of few people. These situations were represented by multinational pesticide companies, chainsaws and black crosses. 

The presentation drew the line between agribusiness and family farming agroecological production / Photo: Marcelo Ferreira

On the other side, the diversity and strength of rural and urban people’s fights were represented by young and old men and women, Black people and LGBTQIAP+ people. There was also respect for the environment and caring for people's social well-being and health, both represented by the abundance of the agroecological way of production and social movements fights, which organize oppressed people’s struggles.

The LGBTQIA+ agenda was also part of the Harvest Party / Photo: Marcelo Ferreira

There was also a study moment that focused on Human Rights and Food. The panel was attended by Juliano Sá, the president of the Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security Council of Rio Grande do Sul state (Consea-RS, in Portuguese), and Bela Gil, a healthy food expert, cook and TV presenter. She called nutritionist Bruna Crioula from the audience to the stage. Bruna hailed the work of community kitchens in the fight against hunger.

Juliano recalled that hunger has started to affect Brazilians again since the dismantling of food public policies, a process carried out after the coup against former President Dilma Rousseff in 2016. He highlighted the crucial role of social movements to mitigate the problem, particularly the MST’s solidarity. “While the agribusiness profited and exported soybean, family farmers donated food, mobilized our networks, community and solidarity kitchens and gardens.”

Symbolic start of harvest

Meanwhile, the symbolic ceremony to start the harvest was held by residents of the settlement at the rice plantation. The act underlined the production that made the MST the largest producer of organic rice in Latin America. It’s 3,200 hectares cultivated under the responsibility of 352 families from 22 settlements in Rio Grande do Sul state. The main types of rice are long-grain white rice and brown rice. 

Paulo Teixeira, Minister of Agrarian Development and Family Farming, attended the symbolic harvest of organic rice / Photo: Jorge Leão

Authorities joined the political act

One of the most anticipated moments of the event, the political act was attended by ministers from the Lula government and dozens of political leaders and parliamentarians from many leftist parties, as well as representatives of some of the movement’s partner entities. The Minister of Agrarian Development, Paulo Teixeira, said he brought “a hug and the appreciation President Lula has for the MST.”

He listed some of the federal government’s measures focusing on the population, such as an increase in the minimum wage and guaranteeing the 600-reais Family Grant (Bolsa Família, in Portuguese). He also mentioned specific actions aimed at family farming, such as resuming the Food Acquisition Program (PAA, in Portuguese) “to bring food to people” under the management of Edegar Pretto, who will be the president of the National Supply Company (Conab, in Portuguese). 

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“Public purchases will be made from family farmers”, he stated. He added that the agrarian reform program has changed. “The most effective way to tackle poverty in rural areas is by guaranteeing workers access to land and credit. I advocate for a cooperative occupation model based on agro-villages with structure and the internet," he said. 

The minister also mentioned actions for rural education and credit shuffle, particularly for women, and the opportunities presented by a transition to ecological and regenerative agriculture. “I want to salute the biofertilizers initiative. We will promote agricultural inputs to this production. We want to develop productive gardens, organic eggs, fruits, fish and small slaughterhouses to sell chicken meat.”

Farmers hand in the MST agendas to Edegar Pretto and Minister Paulo Teixeira / Photo: Marcelo Ferreira

Edegar Pretto reinforced his commitment to those who suffer from hunger. "No service will be forgotten when we be heading to Conab. We will do our best,” he said, highlighting that, now, the company is part of the Ministry of Agrarian Development, a decision that shows the political will of granting more responsibilities to Conab. According to him, the policy will focus on strengthening farmers. "Everyone who chooses to grow food should know that the Lula government will be your biggest customer."

The future president of Conab also said that family farmers, quilombolas, riverside communities and traditional communities will be able to produce food with certainty of sales and income. “School lunches can no longer be biscuits and artificial juice,” he added.

“Harvest has always been a celebration moment”

Representing the MST’s national leadership, João Pedro Stédile pointed out that the Agroecological Rice Harvest Party reproduces what peasants have always done since the beginning of human history. “The harvest is always a moment of celebration.” This celebration, according to him, calls attention to two aspects.

“We are facing two philosophical and worldview models: one of death, represented by agribusiness and large estates, and one of life, represented by family farming and agroecology,” he said. As he assesses, Brazilian society is facing these two paths, “and it is not about the MST or the ruralists, but about the future of humanity.”

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He says that Lula’s election opened the doors, but the class struggle did not end, just restarted at a new level. That’s why he thinks the government must take a leap in quality. “It’s not enough to have a government for the people. We need a government with the people. That’s what we will demand as partners [of the government],” he stated.

Stédile argues that the crisis in the capitalist system did not end yet and the current production system has no use for humanity. In his assessment, the great enemies of the popular government are the banks and the multinational companies that control the country’s Central Bank and economic policies. “We are not going to change that by complaining. We have to act, keep organizing popular committees and militants into small groups. [We need to] encourage people to fight for another project of nation,” he added.

Launch of the Ana Primavesi biofactory

Also on this festive day, the MST launched the Ana Primavesi Bioinput Production Unit. The initiative is the first biofactory of Grupo Gestor do Arroz for the production of biological fertilizers. As explained by the movement, it enables production planning throughout the year, increasing productivity and guaranteeing autonomy for the MST producers. 

The Landless Workers’ Movement launched the Ana Primavesi Bioinput Production Unit / Photo: Pedro Stropasolas

In the 2022/2023 organic rice harvest, the use of this bioinput was implemented in two research areas on 28 hectares. As for the next harvest – 2023/2024 –, bioinputs will be used in the entire production of organic rice in the settlements of Viamão, a total of around 1126 hectares.

Fonte: BdF Rio Grande do Sul

Edited by: Flávia Chacon