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English Report

Diversity creates unique local and environmental identities.  It ties territory, social practices, environment and culture.  It cements cultural identities that transform into trenches of resistance.  It breeds shared political will to fight for rights, for traditions, for survival and for perspectives of a future without the destruction of its own history and ways of life.  It raises the desire for dialogue, for respect and for the construction of political unity between various cultures and peasant identities for the popular struggle around the right to an existence and to the right to build a future.

Peasant Agriculture

Frei Sérgio Antônio Görgen*

Peasant agriculture is not just a way to produce food.  It is a way of living.  It is a specific culture and relationship with nature.  It is a differentiated form of community living. This form of agriculture cannot be defined only as a system of work.

Peasant families live and survive with little land.  Farming of this sort is done on small plots of land.  In this, it distinguishes itself from big agribusinesses done on large plots and with contracted labor.

Peasant agriculture thrives on the diversification of production.  It is not based on monoculture.  It combines animal husbandry with production of crops, and performs each of these activities year round.

Food production for self-consumption, for the subsistence of the community, has an important role in peasant agriculture. Their land is one of the fundamental elements constituting a space of autonomy and nourishment.

Community and family relations are strong components of this mode of existence.  Some writers, such as Alexander Chaianov - one of the principal scholars of peasant agriculture throughout history – say that the reproduction of peasant agriculture is based on family and community relations.

For example, if a peasant family values – consciously or unconsciously – objectives of a modest life, it will organize its economic life in this way. But if another family thinks that the completion of a college degree is an important objective, its decisions about how to organize the production and its relationship with the market will be based on that goal.

The community is a central element in the peasant way of life.  To destroy their communities is to destroy them completely.  In the community, they organize spaces for parties, religious events, sports, conflict resolution, cultural expressions, holidays, shared learning, exchange of experiences, expression of diversity, political activities and economic administration. 

There is no anonymity in the peasant community.  Everyone is known.  The relationships of kinship and neighborhood acquire a determining influence over social relations in the peasant world.  It profoundly distinguishes itself from urban cultures, in their varied forms of expression.

A prominent mark of country-based agriculture is diversity.   Diversity ranges from different cultures to ways to interacting with the land in the context of different natural worlds.  Brazil is large and diverse: the many Brazilian farmers possess the benefits of this diversity.  As Brazilian peasants forged their footsteps they also learned to adapt to the world in which they lived. In this way the Brazilian farmer produces a variety of things in different ways, whether it be through diverse biomass, countless agro-ecosystems, hundreds of microclimates, through adapting with the specifications of every location, living with nature's responses without aggravating and destroying every niche, mountain slope, river bank, pasture bottom, dense forest.   Under intermittent rain and caustic sun and winter frost, the best rural map of Brazil is the diverse reality created by the presence of small farmers.

Diversity creates local environmental identities.  It binds territories, social practices, environment and culture.  It cements cultural identities that transform themselves into trenches of resistance. It produces political and collective organizations that fight for basic rights and survival.  It raises the challenge of dialogue, respect, and the construction of an alliance to fight for the common struggle for the right to exist and preserve this culture in the future.

Peasant agriculture doesn't exist in pure form.  It is always marked by contradictions and challenges to meet its own affirmation. Its own existence is based on resistance and a permanent fight to survive.

Today, traditional peasant agriculture is under pressure from an agricultural policy that gives priority to large corporations and monoculture production for exporting, as well as a technology based on chemical products.

Country agriculture and the peasant way of life is, at the same time, a historic patrimony of human society and a contradictory process of collective construction—an utopian life for a large part of our society.


* Frei Sérgio Antônio Görgen is a member of the Movement of Small Farmers (MPA).