In Brazil, from the countryside to the city: the path of agroecological foods at the MST Fair

Learn about the path and diversity of food brought to São Paulo by the social movement

Translated by: Lucas Peresin

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo (Brazil) |
Settlers and campers from the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) begin the preparations for the National Agrarian Reform Fair in São Paulo
Settlers and campers from the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) begin the preparations for the National Agrarian Reform Fair in São Paulo - @angelozao

Barra Funda. One of the oldest and most traditional neighborhoods in the city of São Paulo, filled with 500 tons of healthy food. During the fourth National Agrarian Reform Fair, the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) showed that in order to produce agroecological food, land is needed.

"All of us, farmers and Agrarian Reform settlers, want to show that we produce, and we produce a lot, and with quality", points out to Bem Viver na TV, Adilma Fernandes, from the Oziel Pereira settlement, in the municipality of Remijo (state of Paraíba).

“It is a way for us to show the world our work with food and its immense importance. In times when hunger is knocking on everyone's door, we are bringing healthy food. The magnitude of an event like this is immeasurable”, adds Sueli Alves Moreira, from the production sector at Acampamento Marielle Vive, in Valinhos (São Paulo).

Data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) indicate that 78.3% of the entire cultivated area in the country is used by agribusiness to produce commodities for export. Meanwhile, the production of food for domestic consumption, coming from family farming, occupies only 7.7% of the cultivable area.

Part of this food that actually feeds the Brazilian people was brought by more than 1,200 vendors who came to Parque da Água Branca to display their products. And with one detail: the vast majority based on agroecology.

“Agribusiness exploits nature, burns, deforests, poisons the land, and we have this environmental concern, because for us to produce healthy food is to produce health, it is to produce life”, summarizes Silvano Leite, a settler from the municipality of Ouricuri, in the backlands of the state of Pernambuco.

Healthy food from north to south of Brazil

All this diversity was brought from MST areas in 23 Brazilian states. In addition to the agroecological fruits and vegetables, there are agro-industrialized products for sale from more than 120 movement cooperatives spread throughout the country.

From Paraíba, the landless families brought 8 tons of food with no poison, produced in 10 settlements from the coast to the backlands of the state. 

The food was shipped on Monday and arrived on Thursday in São Paulo. For the settler, the Fair period is a week of 10 days: 4 for the fair, and 6 for the road, counting the round trip from Paraíba to São Paulo

"We brought bananas, we brought pineapples, yams, passion fruit, clay handicrafts, corn meal, brown sugar, we brought a little of everything so that no one would feel excluded."

“As it is not possible for everyone to come to the fair, we chose people who are references in the communities and these people were responsible for collecting these products and rendering accounts with the farmers”.

Coast, agreste and backlands

The landless people from the state of Pernambuco came with 3 trucks and 40 tons of agroecological food, including dragon fruit seedlings from the Normandia Settlement, in Caruaru, and fresh fruits produced by the agrarian reform settlers who live in the region of the irrigated pole of the São Francisco River.

Our production is diversified and comes from all the camps and settlements in the state of Pernambuco, from the coast, through the agreste, also through the backlands. So there is a great diversity of healthy foods. We have mangoes, papayas, watermelons, onions, honey from the Araripe hinterland, coconuts, cachaça, handicrafts”, explains Silvano Leite, who is the state coordinator of the production sector of the Landless Workers’ Movement in the state from Pernambuco. 

"When we look at the agribusiness that says 'agro is pop, it's tech, it's everything', we see the contradiction with a Brazil that has 33 million people with nothing to eat. We are here to guarantee healthy food for all Brazilians", completes Leite.

Campers also produce

From the Marielle Vive Camp, in Valinhos (state of São Paulo), in addition to handicrafts, soaps and medicinal ointments, also came a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. According to Sueli, there are so many things “it is even hard to remember everything”.

“Sugar cane, sweet potato, cassava, corn, lettuce, chicory, arugula, a lot of curcuma, Jerusalem artichoke, arrowroot”, lists the farmer.

Everything is produced inside the garden in the shape of a mandala, a space that symbolizes collective work and the commitment of 700 MST families to healthy eating. 

“The mandala is the flower of life, it is what comes to break this system where everything is lined up. It's all a circle, one looking at the other. It's the meaning of life. Sometimes just by looking I can understand the needs of the other”, she explains.

“We produce our inputs ourselves. We prepare our soil with what we learned within our space. You care for our own creole seeds. There is no possibility of us planting a transgenic and thinking it won't do any harm. That's why we preserve all of our seeds”, completes the farmer.

MST Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry

The 4th edition of the fair takes place at a time when the Brazilian National Congress approved the establishment of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) to investigate land occupations by the MST. 

The CPI seeks, through criminalization, to hide a fact: a good part of the healthy foods produced in Brazil only reach the population's table because they were grown on land that became productive after the MST occupations.

In Brazil, 65 thousand landless families live in camps waiting for regularization to be settled, as is the case of Sueli. The demand is central from the MST to the Lula Government. 

“We need to be legalized to have the tranquility of being able to produce more”, points out the farmer from Marielle Vive Camp.

"We are the landless people, the people who occupy the unproductive latifundia. And today we are giving an answer with our production. We are showing society why we occupy the unproductive latifundia", concludes Silvano Leite.

Edited by: Daniel Lamir