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Grassroots’ Brazilian Partners at Nyeleni

February 2007

Two Grassroots International partners from Brazil, the Landless Workers Movement (MST) and the Movement of Small Farmers (MPA) were both at the Nyeleni International Food Sovereignty Forum in Mali this week. They spoke to Radio Mundo Real about the importance of food sovereignty and the need to continue to advocate for it and agrarian reform on a continuing basis with the Brazilian government, as part of the strategy of achieving food sovereignty.

This interview was originally posted on the Nyeleni Forum website. Grassroots was honored to have been able to support the organizing of the Nyeleni Forum, including participation by Radio Mundo Real; and is currently supporting the MST in Pernambuco state for agroecology training and human rights defense and Maranhao state for women’s and youth leadership building and agroforestry, and the MPA in Goias state for agrobiodiverity and native seed varieties protection.

Brazil: Social Movements Change Strategy for Lula’s Second Term

The most important social movements in Brazil will conduct in 2007 a strategic change in their relationship with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s administration, of the leftist Workers Party, known as PT. The change will be led by peasant movements such as the Landless Rural Workers Movement (known as MST in Portuguese), and the Movement of Small Farmers (known as MPA in Portuguese), to “put the issue of agrarian reform [on] the government’s agenda.” The new strategy was explained to Radio Mundo Real by Elsa Nivia, from MST’s national coordination, and Maria Tavares, from MPA’s national board.

About 15 delegates from several Brazilian organizations and movements will participate at the Global Forum for Food Sovereignty, which is taking place now in Selingué, a village in the countryside of Mali, to present their experiences in the struggle for an agrarian reform and to coordinate actions at the regional and global levels with other movements that fight for food sovereignty.

According to Elsa Nivia, in the last stage of Lula’s first term, rural social movements placed a bet on the strategy of dialogue to advance their main demands, abandoning [mass] mobilization and the occupation of unproductive lands or of the headquarters of the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (known as INCRA).

Energy and motivation for this change in strategy came from “the frustration of great expectations” of popular sectors in the rural area, which hoped to have access to their own lands and [financial] credits to develop productive tasks.

“Be it landless families that were not settled, or small family farms that did not get needed support to keep their production going, expectations were large and so was frustration with so little done by the government,” MPA’s Maria said.

In this scenario, Lula’s second term will see “much mobilization and much fermentation of popular demand”. MST has already drawn, along with other peasant and popular movements, an agenda of struggles for the first semester of 2007 that will end at the National Congress taking place in Brasília in June.

“This year we prepared for March and April a deepening of the struggle with great mobilizations and land occupations,” said Elsa Nivia to Radio Mundo Real. The demands will be the same MST has repeatedly presented in the last few years: denunciation of the penetration [into the economy] of agribusiness and large food corporations; of the slowness in sharing the land [that is land reform]; and of the lack of support policies for small farmers.

“The strategy now toward the government will be the stick-and-carrot,” said literally Elsa Nivia. “We will not anymore behave as [in] previous years, when dialogue was our first tool. Now we are ready to go into a period of confrontation [mobilization and protest].”

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