Agroecology to regain the land: Brazilian defenders face agroindustry
December 1, 2023
Cover Photo: Entraide et Fraternité.
In March 2023, Brazilian land defenders visited Brussels to raise their voices about the violence they face from agroindustry and mining activities, and to share the importance of agroecology in their lives. Entraide et Fraternité, CIDSE’s Belgian member organisation, was one of the supporters of the European tour.
Agroindustry and mining activities have an impact on the lives of people who depend on their land, forests and water for their livelihoods. The community of Minaçu, located in the northern state of Goiás, Brazil, is one of the many communities affected by the activities of transnational corporations.
“In the last six years, communities have faced all kinds of violence, threats to life and loss of territory. This is due to the expansion of the agricultural frontier, agribusiness, mining, and large hydroelectric companies that fail to adequately compensate the affected families, as in the case of the Limoeiro community in Minaçu”, explains Saulo Reis, of the Comissão Pastoral da Terra.
Between 2012 and 2021, peasant communities, quilombolas and indigenous peoples have been deprived of their natural resources and are facing unprecedented systemic violence. The exploitation of land and forests is destroying the ecosystems that need to be protected: the Cerrado, the Amazon and the Pantanal.
“There are different types of impact. There is the impact of agrochemicals, which are sometimes used as chemical weapons to expel families from their territory or to hinder the production of peasant communities, because they cannot produce without poison, given the way large plantations are managed. There is also the impact of mining, which is the law of gravity, as we have already seen in Brumadinho and Mariana”, adds Reis.
The community has found in agroecology an opportunity to continue its work and growth.
“The importance of agroecology is what it does for the environment. It’s good for health, good for those who work with it. Working in a conventional field is very different from working in an agroecological field,” says Maria Moreira Da Silva, of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, “because it’s very different to work in conventional agriculture than it is to work in ecological agriculture; the energy is different. So, it’s about the importance of our resistance and showing why we want this land, what makes it different from the other types of agribusinesses. That is very important to us”.
But, some policy proposals could also threaten agroecology. For example, if an agreement between the European Union and MERCOSUR is ratified, it’s more likely that these families will see more deforestation, land grabs and attacks on farmers’ rights.
“They (the transnational companies) don’t care how it’s done, how many rivers dry up, how many fires they set in the forest, or how many people are poisoned. None of that matters to them. And that is what the governments have to start seeing, they have to start putting a stop to it. Because if it’s not stopped, if there’s no way to halt it, where are we going to end up?”, reflects Maria.