Starts Thursday (11)

In São Paulo, MST National Fair aims to show the social role of agrarian reform, during CPI

"More than producing without poison and changing production, it is necessary to change the people-nature relationship"

Translated by: Lucas Peresin

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo (Brazil) |
The last edition of the National Agrarian Reform Fair was in 2018 and gathered around 260,000 people
The last edition of the National Agrarian Reform Fair was in 2018 and gathered around 260,000 people - Joka Madruga

After five years without taking place, the National Agrarian Reform Fair, the biggest dialogue event between the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) and the urban population, starts this Thursday (11) and runs until Sunday (14), in the Água Branca Park, in the central region of São Paulo. 

According to the organizers, the Fair is a way to present to society not only the model of agrarian reform that the movement defends, but also the one that it produces in practice. The arrival of around 1,200 vendors to the capital of São Paulo marks the beginning of the celebrations of MST’s 40th anniversary, whose foundation was in January 1984.  

500 tons of food grown in settlements and camps will be sold, coming in 56 trucks from 23 Brazilian states. Of this amount, 25 tons will be donated in a solidarity action, on Sunday (14).

In addition to the stalls and a tree nursery, the Fair will have training activities and also the "Land Cuisine": a food court with 30 kitchens that will serve 95 typical dishes from different regions of the country. 

The tickets are free and the Fair also includes a cultural program with around 200 artists, such as Jorge Aragão.

The social function of agrarian reform

The Agrarian Reform Fair takes place, this year, less than two weeks after the Agrishow. The biggest agribusiness event in the country was marked by an institutional crisis between the organizers and the Brazilian federal government, when they "disinvited" the Minister of Agriculture Carlos Fávaro (Social Democratic Party) to open the event, prioritizing the presence of the former president Jair Bolsonaro (Liberal Party).

On the morning of next Friday (12), an activity with politicians will be part of the MST Fair program. In addition to Fávaro himself, the Minister of Agrarian Development, Paulo Teixeira (Workers' Party), and the Secretary of Government of the State of São Paulo, Gilberto Kassab (Social Democratic Party) also confirmed their presence. 

The four-day event at Parque da Água Branca also marks the movement's first major action after the journey of struggle in April and the approval of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) on the MST. Still in the process of being set up, the Commission of Inquiry aims to investigate occupations carried out by landless workers. "They came to the attack, to hide the crimes of the latifundia", summarized João Pedro Stedile, leader of the MST, during an interview to Brasil de Fato’s podcast “Três por Quatro”.

If, when occupying land, popular movements argue that land concentration causes immense territories to fail to fulfill their social function, healthy food production brings the other side of the coin. It reveals, precisely, one of the social functions of agrarian reform. 

In this context of the Commission of Inquiry and the organization of rural militias against occupations, the National Agrarian Reform Fair seeks, says the MST, to bring concrete evidence to the arguments of the movement in defense of its forms of action and the redistribution of land in Brazil. 

"Our fairs are the expression of that. The production of healthy food is a way of expressing the reasons for the social function of the agrarian reform", emphasizes Ceres Hadich, from the MST's national directorate. Recalling that the country currently has 33 million people in a situation of food insecurity, according to Rede Penssan, the director points out that, in order to produce food, it is necessary to have land.

Civilization stalemate 

Over the four decades of its existence, the MST has improved, Hadich says, its "popular agrarian reform program". In addition to "democratizing access to land and redefining ways of working", she says, the movement incorporated among its pillars the defense of changes in the relationship between people and nature.  

"We have civilizing issues to face", warns Ceres. "And, if we don't do that, from the point of view of political and structural action, we are even fated to cease to exist as humanity".

The theme, in addition to being implicit in the commercialized products themselves - coming from lands for which it took an organized struggle to transform into housing and agroecological cultivation - will also be guided in conversation circles at the Fair.

Delweck Matheus, who has been settled for 39 years and is a member of the national leadership of the MST in São Paulo, reinforces that "the peasant families from family agriculture, when producing, are committed to taking care of the goods of nature. This is very important for the environment and the climate, which are fundamental questions for society".

Edited by: Thalita Pires e Flávia Chacon