[03/03/2006] MST Informa 110: For a Genuine, Integral and Participatory Agrarian Reform

Dear Friends of the MST,

We are sharing a report with you on this occasion of the Second Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development sponsored by the UN Agency for Food and Agriculture (FAO), to be held from March 7 to 10 in Porto Alegre, RS. The Conference intends to discuss among other things the type of Agrarian Reform that countries should adopt. The choice of Porto Alegre is symbolic for the model that is currently under way: the state has one of the worst implementations in Brazil with a little more than 200 Landless families settled in the last four years. More than 2600 remain camped alongside the unproductive latifundios. It is a reflection of a policy that puts a priority on agribusiness instead of family farming, on exports instead of food for the Brazilian people. To ensure a better future, Via Campesina International and the MST will be in Porto Alegre, discussing and building alliances that can alter the relation of forces in the countryside.


By Fausto Tórrez, from Nicaraugua, member of Via Campesina International and active in the Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform

Two decades after the last Conference in 1979, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, in coordination with the Brazilian government, proposed this conference. As a result, we recognize that holding the conference means that Agrarian Reform is returning as one of the most important tasks that governments, international agencies, and social movements should promote in order to eradicate hunger and poverty.

What kind of Agrarian Reform are we demanding?

An Agrarian Reform that is genuine and integral, that incorporates a cosmic vision between space, territory, water, and biodiversity. An Agrarian Reform that begins with the broad process of distribution of the property of land. The ownership and use of land should be subordinated to the principle that only those who work on the land, depend on it, and reside on it with their family should have the right to land.

An Agrarian Reform that helps to integrate the peasants on their land and that regulates migration from the countryside to the city and to other countries.

Agrarian Reform is not only a sharing of land, but its application implies human development, the creation of jobs, and the production of foods to supply the local market.

We defend the principle that land has a social function. There can be no speculation, and capitalist businesses (industrial, trade, and finance) should be prevented from taking over great expanses of land.

All genuine and integral agrarian reform is characterized by the democratizing of the agrarian structure, which presupposes a transformation in the relations of economic and political power, which are the causes of land concentration.

This agrarian reform should prohibit the commodification of the right to produce and of limiting production to that which is customized for export. It should guarantee food sovereignty for the people. As for the policy of redistribution, above all there should be the required expropriation of private lands that do not fulfill their social function. It should redistribute land and power, altering the relations of strength in society in favor of the peasants and small farmers and the groups that support them, which has nothing to do with the patrimonial private transactions financed by the State.

A process that does not exclude fishermen, indigenous people, landless workers, shepherds, small and medium producers, an Agrarian Reform that guarantees total access over the land and its resources.

An Agrarian Reform that gives legal guarantees to the peasants who resort to the taking of lands in order to survive, an agrarian reform that ensures real ownership of the land and banishes the ghost of agrarian counter-reform.

Why do we oppose Agrarian Reform that promotes the World Bank?

We consider unacceptable the kind of mediation that promotes the World Bank to run programs of agrarian policy in our countries, whose consequences are a policy of freeing up the agrarian markets, an extension of the plans of structural adjustment that have left our countries in extreme poverty, increasing the gap between the poor and the rich. It turns basic services and land, water, and biodiversity into commodities, diminishing the role of the State and leaving this control in the hands of the financial oligarchy, promoting remedies that focus on “alleviating‿ poverty.

The vision of a new policy of Agrarian Reform and rural development in favor of the poor that appeared in an anticipated declaration of the world-wide conference in Porto Alegre appears to be a concept full of traps, a proposal to disguise the mediation of the World Bank to society as a whole. We do not accept a declaration between mediation and the apparent ingenuousness as if we were speaking of true Agrarian Reform.

It is unacceptable that an agency of the level of FAO and the government of Brazil attempt to vindicate this failure, since they are already knowledgeable on this topic and reality reveals that market-based Agrarian Reform in South Africa, Colombia, Brazil, and Guatemala has not lived up to expectations. To indicate that this model is successful is to deny Agrarian Reform.

What do we hope for from this International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development?

It should be a space for discussion between the social movements, governments, and multilateral agencies to put into perspective the topic of Agrarian Reform in benefit of the main actors: peasants, fishermen, indigenous people, rural workers, etc.

It should analyze the causes that create poverty in the countryside and the need to build true processes of Agrarian Reform, a fundamental base upon which Food Sovereignty is built. We must not accept palliatives, because their proposals are to promote the alleviation of poverty while governments carry out the instructions of the international agencies. If we accept that there is imbalance in the processes of development and an increase in hunger and poverty, it is also true that what is called sustainable development begins to unleash processes of Agrarian Reform; where they are already being carried out, struggle to maintain them and where they are still effective, promote them without submitting to conditions of the market.

We accept the interest in ensuring gender equity in access, control, and management of the land, water, and other natural resources. This is crucial for rural economies and the empowerment of women, but we must begin by recognizing equal rights of men and women in the laws of the countries that are signatories to FAO. We hope to put forward an Agrarian Reform that goes hand-in-hand with Human Rights, as an important element in the struggle for land. Yes, we believe in the important role of social justice, the rule of law, and of adequate legal standards for land reform and rural development.

We believe that family farming is of great importance since it is based in sustainable production with local resources and in harmony with local culture and traditions. We producers use accumulated experience and the knowledge of our local resources, and we obtain excellent quantity and the best quality of foods with very few external inputs. Our production is mainly for family consumption and for sale in local markets.

Where are we going after Porto Alegre?

First of all to strengthen our Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform as the principal initiative to support and jointly strengthen the struggle for a genuine and integral agrarian reform, for access to land, as a prerequisite for fulfilling the right to adequate food for the peasants without land.

To struggle for our Campaign to be the major network of the social movement with the objective of converting agrarian reform into a priority on the agenda of the social movements, NGOs, governmental agencies, and governments.

After Porto Alegre we must have a commitment to endorse the initiatives and national movements that struggle for agrarian reform, the right to the sea, to decent work and to standardize methods of raising small farm animals. We must struggle against the advance of cities and big projects such as dams over farmland.

To ensure that the ancestral right to the lands of indigenous people is respected, including the subsoil and the forests, promoting the recovery of lands that were taken from them.

To denounce the effects of the World Bank programs in the countryside, whose strategy is contrary to the interests of family farmers, such as land credit, land banks, and land cards.

We are in agreement with following the Platform of Action of the International Conference as long as it guarantees the role of the State in developing and implementing policies and programs that are more centered on the building of a real and genuine Agrarian Reform according to the concepts that are spelled out above.

– If it promotes support for the processes of agrarian reform through national, regional, and global collaboration, and international solidarity, to provide assistance and technical support, investment, promotion of exchanges, and evaluation of the impulse for Agrarian Reform and rural development.

– If it strengthens the role of the International Planning Committee of the NGO/OSC for Food Sovereignty in following the agreements adopted in this conference.

– If it condemns and brings to justice to those who criminalize full access to land, water, territory, and biodiversity.
A platform to facilitate the process of Agrarian Reform, with peasants, for land to be democratized, and the conditions of life to be improved in the countryside, the sea, and the territory.

A warm embrace,
National Secretariat of the MST