MST settlements report lack of budget for infrastructure and basic rights

Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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By Solange Engelmann With information from Agatha Azevedo, from Minas Gerais, Camila Maria Alves, from Goiás and Fernanda Alcântara, from São Paulo | From the MST Page | Translated by Friends of the MST (US) | Original URL:

In the second part of the report, settled families complain about the lack of public investment in structuring life in the settlements and demand solutions from the government

In the struggle for land, after the Landless families of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) achieved the Movement's first objective, which is the democratization of land with the transformation of a large estate into a settlement area, and in majority of times, it is only possible after years of struggle, living in camps of canvas tents in an itinerant and precarious way, then new processes of struggle begin to achieve the second objective of the Movement, the realization of People's  Agrarian Reform.

The families, after settling, mobilized to continue the fight, now on the land and guarantee their permanence in this space, which previously generally housed animal husbandry, monoculture production, the use of pesticides and degraded areas. To return to generating life in these spaces, recovering the soil, the environment and establishing housing for food production, families need to remain organized and fight for the implementation of a set of public policies for the development of these territories. And thus advance the third objective of the MST, social transformation and the construction of socialism, in a society with relationships free from any type of discrimination and violence, and with social justice.

This set of guidelines and values ​​are part of the MST Agrarian Program, which is being debated and updated by the Sem Terra base across the country for the 7th MST Congress, scheduled to take place in July 2025, in Brasília.

In this sense, after the first part of the report on the need for public policies to create new settlements and the stagnation of the federal government's budget for Agrarian Reform, in this report we move forward in the debate on public policies for the permanence and structuring of life of families settled in the countryside.

For more than 40 years, the MST has continued to fight, together with the settled families, in the search for public policies for infrastructure in the settlements, such as rural housing, electricity grid, water and basic sanitation, roads, and a set of rights provided for by law, such as the construction of rural schools and health centers, among others, so that families can have decent living conditions in the settlements won in the collective struggle.

In Mathias Lobato, in Vale do Rio Doce, Minas Gerais, since July 10, 2019, a total of 31 Landless families from the MST, who live in the Maria da Penha settlement, continue to fight for the release of initial credits for the installation and structuring of the settlement, issued in possession by the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra), in the same year. According to the families, the settlement does not have any infrastructure and even though it is close to a BR, the access roads have not yet been built by the agency.

The settler in Maria da Penha and leader of the MST in Vale do Rio Doce, José Carlos, highlights that to this day families are waiting for the approval of the settlement and the release of credits. “So, it has been almost five years since Incra took ownership and to this day there is no resource for families to develop in the area. Everything that is being done is with the strength and little savings of families. It is necessary to regularize the settlement for the investments necessary for its advancement, mainly in production and the family economy.”

The occupation of the large estate took place in 2009. According to José, there are families who have been fighting for access to land for 15 years. Still in MG, the situation is the same in the Dénis Gonçalves settlement, in Goianá, in Zona da Mata, where families have also not received installation credits so far.

The case is also common in several states in the country, such as in three MST settlements in Goiás: the Chico Mendes settlement, with 182 families and possession issued by Incra in 2012; settlement 08 de Março, with 32 families and issued possession in 2016, located in the municipality of Crichás and the Paulo Gomes settlement, which has 18 families, and obtained the issuance of ownership in 2016, in the municipality of Itapuranga. These are just a few examples of MST settlements in Brazil, destined for Agrarian Reform purposes by Incra, but which did not receive the installation credits and public policies necessary for housing families and their development.

Terra da Gente does not provide resources for structuring settlements

In this sense, in relation to the demands of Agrarian Reform in Brazil, and trying to respond to the struggles of popular movements in the country, including the MST, on April 15, the Lula Government launched the Terra da Gente Program, which, in the vision of the government, seeks to “speed up agrarian reform”, through the acquisition of “land available in the country to settle families people who want to live and work in the countryside”.

However, in the view of MST leaders, the program cannot be seen as an Agrarian Reform policy, but only as a form of social compensation, which does not solve the problem of land concentration in the country, emphasized Gilmar Mauro, from the national coordination of the MST, in an interview with Brasil de Fato. The main focus of the program is on the expropriation of vacant land from the Union for the creation of settlements and not on the democratization of land from large estates.

For the creation of new settlements for landless families in Brazil, through the Program a budget of R$520 million was announced in 2024, which would benefit 73 thousand families, and the creation of the National Agrarian Reform Program, with an estimated benefit 295 thousand families with settlements by 2026. However, for the structuring of settlements there were no investment announcements.

In this context, the resources available for access by settled families are concentrated in financing from the Family Agriculture Harvest Plan, between the periods of 2023 and 2024, announced last year with an amount of R$ 77.7 billion, to cover all Agriculture Family and Peasant of the country. Of this amount, R$71.6 billion is for rural credit, an investment that can be accessed through the National Program for Strengthening Family Agriculture (Pronaf). It is important to recognize that the value of this Harvest Plan broke a record in volume of resources in relation to previous years, but it does not come close to the resources allocated to agribusiness, through the common Harvest Plan, which in the same period concentrated an amount of R$364 .22 billion.

Along these lines, the national leader of the MST in Alagoas, Débora Nunes, emphasizes that there is a lack of priority on the part of the federal government. She explains that, if Agrarian Reform and Peasant Family Farming in Brazil were seen by the Lula Government as strategic solutions to solve the problems of the rural and urban population, they would have public resources for this.

“When it comes to infrastructure demands and all other needs (credit, housing, agroindustry, energy available in quantity and quality for agricultural activity, mechanization, bio-inputs, community spaces for coexistence, leisure and culture, education), in the settlements of Agrarian Reform, in addition to the need for a budget and restructuring of Incra, also requires a government political decision that Agrarian Reform and Family Farming are essential to solve structural problems throughout society.”

Deborah Nunes

According to Incra's regional superintendent in São Paulo, Sabrina Diniz, in relation to the infrastructure for settlements and investments necessary for the development and guarantee of life in these areas, such as the water issue, the lack of access roads, among others, The municipality faces a lack of budget for the development of these public policies, which is now the responsibility of the National Congress.

“Today, basically what Incra invests in settlement infrastructure comes through parliamentary amendments. When this process of transferring the budget to the National Congress began, we had resources withdrawn from the Executive Branch budget and this was placed in the hands of the National Congress, federal deputies and senators. This makes the Executive's budget a reduced budget. So today we also have a very big budget problem to be able to invest in settlement infrastructure”, laments Sabrina.

This issue increases the difficulties faced by the MST and the popular movements fighting for land in the country, regarding access to these public policies, as today Brazil has one of the most conservative National Congresses in its history, with a large number of parliamentarians opposing the Reform. Agrarian and who are part of the ox, ruralist, agribusiness, bala and Bolsonarist benches.

The fascist policy and criminalization of social movements by Congress was evident in the approval of the Bill (709/2023), by the absolute majority of the Chamber of Deputies, which removes the rights of people who participate in land occupations, to participate in National Agrarian Reform Program, in addition to being prevented from receiving benefits such as rural credits, entering social assistance programs such as Bolsa Família, Continuous Payment Benefit (BPC) and Minha Casa Minha Vida.

In relation to social rights, the Terra da Gente Program, the federal government announced the supplementation of R$20 million to the National Program for Education in Agrarian Reform (Pronera), in education and teaching projects in the areas of Agrarian Reform. However, in a recent interview with Joio do Trigo, the national leader of the MST, João Pedro Stedile, denounces that so far there is no progress in relation to Pronera, in addition to the halt in expropriations and credits for settlements.

Incra’s return after stagnation Agrarian Reform

In the first part of the report on public policies for the areas of Agrarian Reform under the Lula Government, we present the problem of the lack of budget for the creation of new settlements and the lack of budget for structuring settlements created before 2023. In relation to this, Incra's regional superintendent in São Paulo, Sabrina Diniz, explains that to advance in the creation of new settlements, Incra needs to obtain land, but today the main obstacle is the budget limit for obtaining land by the municipality.

“The budget for obtaining land is still very low. Incra today has more than R$900 million allocated to the National Congress, which could be used to obtain land. So, the budget issue is indeed a big limit for us to implement this public policy.”

– Sabrina Diniz

Furthermore, the superintendent reports that the municipality also faces bureaucratic and judicial obstacles in creating settlements. “Today our way of obtaining land is expropriation and purchase and sale through Decree 433, which are expensive ways of obtaining land and there are other ways of obtaining land that were announced in Terra da Gente by the Lula Government, which is adjudication, obtaining land through payment of the Union’s large debtors.”

However, she emphasizes that this process of awarding land to large debtors is also time-consuming and bureaucratic due to great economic power and judicial difficulties, as in many cases these debtors are precisely landowners and agribusinesses.

“Today the Union’s biggest debtors, in the state of São Paulo, for example, are large landowners. And if you try to obtain this land through adjudication, you will have resources to prevent the adjudication process. And this sometimes takes Incra ten to 12 years until possession is issued. This is also a great difficulty in advancing in obtaining land today in Brazil”, concludes Sabrina.

 **This is the second part of the report on the situation of the Lula government's public policies in the areas of Agrarian Reform. Keep an eye on the MST website and social networks and follow the next content on the topic!