The Struggle for social transformation – MST

IMG_4695MST, which stands for Movimiento Dos Trabalhadores Rarais Sem Terra (Landless Rural Workers Movement, in English) is a social movement in Brazil, “formed by rural workers and by all those who want to fight for land reform and against injustice and social inequality in rural areas”. The Movement has been around since the 70’s. However, the struggle for land is a historical one going back to the times of the Portuguese colonization where indigenous, and later African slaves, resisted slavery and the occupation of their land.

On Wednesday, February 17th, 2016 folks from different social justice organizations gather together to hear Leo give a presentation about MST. Some of the organizations in attendance were: Farmworkers Association of Florida (FWAF), Organize Now, Dream Defenders, Jobs With Justice, FIRE, Speak Up Florida, AmeriCorps, Youth and Young Adult of the National Farm Worker Ministry (YAYA-NFWM), among other organizations.

Brazil’s vast territory extension, 5th largest country in the world, it’s also notoriously marked by incredible income inequality. The South American country also has one of the highest concentrations of land ownership in the whole world. Latifundios ­­­­— or large estates — own most of the land in Brazil (and foreign companies which own about 30 million hectares), there are 4.5 million families without land. And this land is not necessarily the most productive or the one creating the most jobs. One hundred twenty million hectares (about 296 million acres) of cultivable land is unproductive in Brazil. The 2006 census revealed that latifundios employed 2.5% of the population, while small agriculture employed 86.6%. Smaller scaled family owned farms produce 85% of the food. On the other hand, agribusiness ­— alliance between latifundios, transnational companies, and financial capital) — produce commodity foods like sugar cane and soy, which is used to feed cattle. Monoculture, reduces space for the planting food, deforest the Amazon and pushes people into degrading jobs.

The Movement fights for, “agricultural reform, which democratizes access to land, preserves natural resources, and avoids private appropriation, defends national sovereignty with seeds and seedling/sapling production, and culture for the rural population, ensures social rights and guarantees the conditions for a life with dignity in the countryside.”

Leo, is here in the U.S. in a 6 month exchange that has taken him to Jackson, Mississippi for 3 months and Fellsmere, Florida for 3 months. He became involved with MST through the student movement. MST is also a member of La Via Campesina (the Campesino Way), “which is an international movement which coordinates peasant organizations of small and middle-scale producers, agricultural workers, rural women, and indigenous communities from Asia, Africa, America, and Europe.”

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Leo for the wonderful presentation on the Landless Workers Movement. Also, to the Farmworker Association of Florida and First Unitarian Church of Orlando, thank you for putting this event together.

Ileana Roque-Gonzalez

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