Not only the Amazon, Brazil is heading towards the decimation of peasants (as has already happened in Europe and the USA)
Note: This article is from Antonio Lupo from the Italian Friends of the MST committee
Born in post-war industrial and working-class Milan, I was lucky enough to get to know the agricultural world in the last 20 years, in Latin America, especially Brazil, and later in Italy. I have been to Brazil 8 times, as a guest, for long periods, in the camps and settlements of the Landless Workers Movement (MST). I also participate in the passionate work of the Italian MST Amigos Committee, since its birth in 2004.
MST Amigos Italia's work is not a fan's work. We support the MST, which is an important component of Via Campesina International (a worldwide movement of 200 million small farmers), and we collaborate with Italian peasant movements, but we also analyze and discuss among ourselves, as we did in 2020 for the elaboration of the document. “For a world without pandemics, a new relationship with the planet. World ecological land reform now!" http://www.comitatomst.it/2020/11/30/per-un-mondo-senza-pandemie-una-nuova-relazione-con-il-pianeta-riforma-agraria-ecologica -mondiale-subito/
It is well known the terrible situation in which Brazil finds itself, under the government of the fascist Bolsonaro (for now still supported by agribusiness, employers and the military), a country in which hunger has returned to 20 million people, while another 116 million, 60 % of the population, suffer from varying levels of food insecurity.
It is from this place that I would like to make some remarks about the link between extraction industries-farmers-agroecology, healthy eating, the environment and the climate crisis. In my opinion, they are so interdependent that they can be considered a single reality, which requires unitary solutions.
In relation to extraction industries, which is the intensive exploitation of natural resources, along with mining, it is fair to speak of the agricultural extraction industry.
Both are a war on nature, for the abnormal consumption they make of water and fossil energy, with raw materials and products mostly feed for export, therefore against food and energy sovereignty.
In Brazil, these two types of extraction industries have predominated since the beginning of colonialism.
Few people know that the first gold rush took place in Brazil, in the 18th century in Minas Gerais, in Ouro Preto, about a century before the very famous one in the United States, using indigenous people as slaves and then Africans.
The predominant agricultural extraction industry in Brazil today is that of transgenic soy, cultivated in about 35 million hectares; corn, with 17 million hectares; and sugarcane, with 10 million hectares.
In 2006, 55 million hectares were cultivated in Brazil, which increased to 63 million hectares in 2017 (2017 Census- https://censos.ibge.gov.br/agro/2017/). Soybean crops occupied about 18 million hectares in 2006, rising to more than 30 million in 2017.
These are intensive monocultures in the hands of agribusiness (large estates, multinationals and financial capitalism), an agriculture that has been happily defined as ‘Agriculture without Mining’ and ‘Oil Peasants’.
In the entire first world, with the Green Revolution of the 1960’s, the number of rural workers, that is, the share of workers in the 1st sector, was decimated; now the average is 1-3% in Western Europe and the USA.
In Italy, in 1951, 8.261 million people worked in agriculture (equivalent to 42.2% of the total number of employees), falling to 5.657 million (29% of the total, with the first overrun of employees in industry) in 1961 and later to 3.243 million in 1971, a 60% decrease from 1951 to 1971. https://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/il-miracolo-economico-italiano_%28Il-Contributo-italiano-alla-storia-del-Pensiero:-Tecnica%29/
At the same time, the urban population has increased in these countries. Now it's over 80%. Unfortunately, in Latin America, Argentina has similar data to Europe and the USA, but in Brazil, despite the strong and historic expulsion of peasants from the favelas, in 2010 there was still 16% of the rural population, below the 25% of the 1991 Census.
The 2017 Brazilian Agricultural Census reports that the total population was 217 million, with a rural population of 28.6 million (13.8% of the total). A drop of 3.2 million compared to 2006 (FAO data) and rural workers were 15.1 million, 1.4 million less than in 2006 (-8.8%). Family farm workers fell by 2.2 million, from 12.3 to 10.1 million, -18% (IBGE data).
This drop occurred mainly in the Northeast, -1.6 million (-26%) and in the South, -600 thousand (-28%). In the Atlante De Agostini 2022 calendar, I found that in 2020 the percentage of workers in the 1st sector in Brazil had dropped to around 9%, compared to the 16% indicated in the same publication in 2011. I asked the comrades of the MST secretariat if these impressive data are real, which indicate a similar path, in the next decade, to post-war Italian.
Personally, even as a doctor, I believe that in this period of global crisis of a sick world, as Pope Bergoglio has repeatedly defined it, the return to the land and agroecological food production is the real and main solution for humanity, then weak and frightened, facing a tiny virus that made the leap of species due to human greed. I believe that the 13 million Brazilians who live in the favelas (but also those who live in cities with bad air like Milan and across northern Italy) and the hundreds of millions who gorge themselves on “junk food” (in English), they have a very weak immunology, they are practically already chronically ill, with this tendency when they are young and really sick at older age.
Today some powerful lords of the world want to eliminate the farmers, mainly Bill Gates, pushing the production, already started, of synthetic foods, also produced with the cultivation of stem cells.
Paradoxically, Gates agrees with us that intensive agriculture and intensive monocultures, that is, agribusiness, are responsible for much of the climate crisis.
He is also very concerned about this, but his solution is GMOs, synthetic foods and precision agriculture, i.e. Farming without Peasants!
In this way, Gates wants to achieve a reduction in the world population of at least 15%, a goal he declared since 2010, necessary according to him to save the world from global warming. On the other hand, I believe that the worldwide affirmation of farmers is indispensable, who maintain fertile lands by cultivating in an agroecological way, who take back the lands that are currently in the hands of agribusiness, lands that they deforest and make sterile, always causing new and greater emissions. of greenhouse gases with the alteration of all natural cycles, that of Carbon, Water, Nitrogen, etc.
Famiano Crucianelli recently recalled that “there is twice the amount of CO2 present in the atmosphere in the soil. Agribusiness is destroying organic matter. Today, in half of the Po Valley, organic matter is below the minimum threshold. Consequently, not only will CO2 not be absorbed, but other CO2 will be released into the atmosphere from sterile and polluted soils.”
And so, he proposed “a guaranteed minimum income for the workers of yesterday's land and for those many young people who could find their future lost in the land. It would be a virtuous investment, the fair recognition of the social role of peasants”.
Also, in Brazil, as in the rest of the world, extreme events are taking place and are multiplying as a consequence. It is worth mentioning: in particular, heat waves, floods in the Northeast and droughts in the South, which can be read in the articles written by the Landless Comrades published on the MST website: https://mst.org.br/2022/01/17/o-futuro-e-agora-a-encruzilhada-historica-da-crise-ambiental-no-brasil/ and https://mst.org.br/2022/01/14/2022-comeca-com-o-meio-ambiente-pedindo-socorro/
The fundamental environmental issue is this, Vandana Shiva constantly reminds us, of the absolute need to regenerate the land, restore fertility, subtract it and stop the ever-increasing slaughter of multinationals, financial capitalism and individualistic consumerism, especially of meat and ultra-processed products.
It is certainly useful to plant trees, but it is not enough if the criminals in agribusiness and the environment continue their relentless slaughter.
Preventing the expulsion and extinction of peasants and their families, still around 3 billion people, seems to me to be our fundamental struggle, although unfortunately it is still poorly understood.