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English Report

Peasant Agriculture and Agrarian Reform in Brazil:  an Evaluation of the Lula Government

Via Campesina Brazil, The Movement of Small Farmers, The Landless Workers Movement, The Movement of Dam Affected Peoples, The Movement of Peasant Women, The Pastoral Land Commission, The Brazilian Association for Land Reform

Here we present a brief description of the measures taken during the Lula administration.  

I. Measures that favored peasant agriculture in Brazil

  1. 1. Implementation of rural insurance. Insurance now covers rural workers and small farmers’ income in the case of natural events that hurt the value of crops.  However, it is still not universal.  Farmers must have a pre-existing loan from the bank to have access to the insurance.  Thus, of the 5 million peasant families only 1.2 million are able to access insurance.
  2. 2. The volume of credit made available to small farmers has increased from $3 billion reais to $8 billion reais per year. 
  3. 3. The ‘Light for Everyone’ program is bringing electricity to almost all rural families.  The program may exclude families living in very isolated conditions in the north of the country. 
  4. 4. The expansion of the home improvement program for farmers with subsidized funds from the State bank Caixa Economica Federal.  The size of the program is still very small, but it is the first time there is a governmental program that supports housing projects in rural areas.
  5. 5. In general, the Federal Government has not used the police to repress social movements.  The exception was the use of Federal Police troops against indigenous people who occupied a plant of Aracruz Corporation, in the state of Mato Grosso.  At the same time, social movements suffered the most intense and permanent repression from the Military and Civil Police, under the administration of state governments. In addition, judicial decisions in many states tend toward protecting the interests of large landowners and agribusiness.
  6. 6. More resources have been designated for rural education, which is directed toward training students and teachers from land reform areas.  However, the demand for partnerships with universities is much higher than the available resources.  The Federal government has designated, on average, R$30 million for the program, which is very little considering the accumulated necessities of rural youth, and compared to other spending programs by National Institute for Land Reform. 
  7. 7. Demarcation of the indigenous area “Raposa do Sol,” in the state of Roraima, which was a historical demand of the indigenous movement. 
  8. 8. The investment of more resources in technical assistance in the settlements. However, there are still bureaucratic problems related to this program. 
  9. 9. Support, although still weak, for cistern installation programs (families capturing rain water) in the semi-arid northeast.
II- Measures that don’t favor peasant agriculture and rural social movements in Brazil
  2. 1. The provisional measure allowing the cultivation and commercialization of transgenic soy, which bypassed the whole process of environmental studies.  Beyond that, repeated smuggling of prohibited transgenic cotton and corn seeds has gone un-regulated. 
  3. 2. The elaboration of the law of bio-security, which did not take into account the demands of peasants or environmentalists.
  4. 3. The lack of enforcement of a law that obliges all industries to inform consumers on their labels if their product contains more than one percent transgenic (genetically modified) material.  More than 8 million tons of soy were sold on the domestic market without this information on the label. 
  5. 4. The continuance of the Kandir law, which gives tax exemptions to agricultural exports.  This represents a subsidy for large exporting agribusiness, and does not stimulate the production of food for the internal marked. 
  6. 5. More resources from the official rural credit banks to the 10 biggest transnational agriculture corporations, which increased from $20 billion reais to $42 billion reais last year. 
  7. 6. Credit support from the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) for the installation of cellulose factories and industrial eucalyptus and pine plantations that threaten the Atlantic forest in southern Bahia, northern Espirito Santo and the southern grasslands. 
  8. 7. The government has not fulfilled its commitment to make a priority the settlement of landless families who are currently living in camps.  There are still approximately 140,000 landless families living in camps, waiting for land.  
  9. 8. The government has not implemented a broad land reform program that truly confronts the concentration of land ownership. 
  10. 9. Standards for measuring the productivity of large farms, and thus their suitability for expropriation, have not been updated since 1975.  This was one of the government’s commitments during the election campaign.
  11. 10. The approval of a law that transfers the collection of land taxes to municipal governments and thus disconnects the funds from the land reform process.
  12. 11. The continuance of World Bank-oriented policies like the Land Bank and the Credit Fund in which the landless peasants have to buy land at high prices.
  13. 12. The government did not mobilize its parliamentary base to approve a law that would expropriate large ranches that use slave labor.
  14. 13. The government did not mobilize its parliamentary base to prevent the approval of a report that categorizes the occupation of land as an act of terrorism.
  15. 14. The government did not take the initiative to punish those responsible for various rural massacres, such as in Corumbiara (1995), Carajás (1996) and Felisburgo (2004).
  16. 15. Violence in rural areas has increased as a result of the government’s failure to implement effective policies to prevent the creation of militia groups organized by large landowners.
  17. 16. The government did not take any parliamentary or administrative initiative to change laws and measures that slow the process of land reform.
  18. 17. The government has not demarcated various indigenous reserves, especially the Xavantes, Guaranis, and Pataxós. 
  19. 18. Policies that benefit large agribusiness have raised unemployment in rural areas.  It is estimated that more than 300,000 families have lost their jobs in rural areas in the last harvests. 
  20. 19. The government hasn’t controlled the expansion of soy and cotton plantations in the Amazon forest, which creates serious environmental problems. 
  21. 20. The government has created a law that allows the rental of national forests in to timber companies.
  22. 21. The government has failed to fulfill a promise to double the minimum wage in four years, which would be an effective way to promote income distribution for the rural population. 
  23. 22. The government has continued a policy of partnership with foreign companies in the construction of hydroelectric projects that do not respect the rights of people who live by the rivers. 
  24. 23. There is a lack of governmental control over the milk market, which is controlled by a small number of transnational corporations, such as Nestlé, Danon and Parmalat.  These companies buy milk from thousands of small farmers who were left at the mercy of their monopoly control when the price of milk fell.
  25. 24. The government did not implement, as promised, a substantive program to promote agro-industrial cooperatives for peasants. 
  26. 25. In the last WTO meeting in Hong Kong, the Brazilian government defended a position that only represented the interests of agribusinesses, and not that of peasants. 
  27. 26. The Federal Police has closed various community radio stations that were serving rural communities.
  28. 27. The official research policies for agricultural technology continue to prioritize the interests of large corporations.
  29. 28. By maintaining neo-liberal economic policies, the government has made it unviable to increase the income of small farmers or stimulate the domestic food market. The lack of income distribution diminishes the consumption of food. Also, there is not enough resources for agrarian reform and peasant agriculture.


Manifesto of the Americas:

In defense of nature, cultural and biological diversity

We live in a dominant economic system that has exploited natural resources with no limitations for centuries.  At the same time, the majority of the world’s population doesn’t have the minimal conditions of survival. 


The Millennium Ecosystem Evaluation by the United Nations recognizes that “human activities are fundamentally changing diversity on planet Earth, in some cases irreversibly.  These rates will accelerate in the future.” In this important recognition of the planetary crisis, it is fundamental to acknowledge that not all human activity is equally destructive.  Transnational corporations, guided by the demands of profit, have the most negative effects on the environment. 


Given the dramatic nature of this situation, we feel it is necessary to create alternatives that assure a future hope for life.  We need to change our society to live in an ecologically sustainable way. As inhabitants of the American continent, we are conscious of our universal responsibility. The Amazonian and Andean countries, such as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela and Brazil, are rich in biodiversity, and many indigenous people, peasants, quilombolos, and other local communities have been able to live in co-habitation with biodiversity. 


The Amazon forest in our countries shelters more than 50 percent of the biodiversity of the planet.  In it, there exist at least 45,000 species of plants, 1,800 species of butterflies, 150 species of bats, 1,300 species of freshwater fish, 163 species of amphibians, 305 species of snakes, 311 species of mammals and 1,000 species of birds. 


Given this wealth, Latin America is the object of biopiracy practices.  In colonial times, the gold and silver reserves were also taken away. Today, genetic and pharmacological resources, as well as traditional knowledge have been taken by large corporations.  The possession of these resources places these companies in a strategic position in the world market because they impose patent laws to protect their fantastic profits. 


Considering this situation, grassroots organizations that participate in the Biodiversity Summit in Curitiba, Brazil, propose:

1.      To preserve the biological and cultural diversity of our ecosystems, which means taking care of the set of living organisms in their interdependent habitats, in a dynamic equilibrium with each ecological region.

2.      To coordinate policies that aim to guarantee the integrity and beauty of ecosystems, and respect the rights of people who depend on them.  This implies maintaining the characteristics that assure ecological function, and conserve the identity of living groups in their territorial, biological, social, cultural, and historical aspects.  The preservation of biological diversity, and the integrity of ecological systems confer sustainability to multiple resources such as clean water, food, medicine, wood, fiber, climate regulation, prevention of floods and illnesses.  At the same time, photosynthesis and nutrient cycling support recreation, aesthetics and spirituality.

3.      To oppose the introduction of exotic species that are inappropriate for our ecosystems.  In many biomes, homogenous industrial plantations, like eucalyptus or pine, destroy natural ecosystems and result in severe social impacts on the people who live in those areas.  These plantations only bring profit to large corporations, but the costs for the local population are the pollution of land and water, and the increase of hunger and poverty.

4.      To oppose the introduction of genetically modified organisms into the environment.  Transgenic organisms are not necessary for food production, and are not good for anything except the profit of a few transnational companies.  They bring risks to human health, as well as permanent and irreversible modifications to natural ecosystems.  We are emphatically opposed to the introduction of transgenic crops in our countries, which contaminate native forests, causing a series of impacts on other flora and fauna, and affect the sustenance of indigenous people, fishers, peasants, quilombolas and other local communities.

5.      To oppose Terminator seeds because they are an attack against life and its reproduction.  These are “suicidal” seeds produced by large transnational corporations. The monopoly of seeds by a few companies can put the world’s food production at risk.

6. To oppose the attempts of the United States government and US corporations to impose trade agreements such as the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), or bilateral trade agreements that only benefit foreign investments. These agreements represent a risk to our natural resources, our local agriculture, and our basic rights.

7. To manifest our support for local communities that during centuries have developed agricultural biodiversity through the protection of seeds that constitute the basis of food production.  To maintain this basis of sustenance, and the enormous wealth of agricultural and food biodiversity, it is necessary to affirm the rights of peasants, indigenous peoples, fishers and quilombolas to land and natural resources, so that they can continue to perform the crucial task of conserving native seeds for humanity.


In conclusion, we express our wish that these propositions become the base of new policies that guarantee food sovereignty. This means defending the right of each people to produce their own nourishment in healthy and socially just conditions, preserving the environment.  We defend the rights of peasants who contribute to the sustainability of our planet, which is absolutely essential to guarantee the future of humanity.



Curitiba, April 20th, 2006