Peasants, FAO and the government present their proposals in Porto Alegre

To build a new model of sustainable development in the countryside and to promote an agrarian reform that includes the social function of property—these are the principles that will guide the discussions of the conference entitled “Land, Territory and Dignity” put together by the civil society in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

During the opening plenary this past Tuesday morning, representatives of peasant, indigenous, fisherfolk and women´s movements expressed their expectations in relation to the 2nd International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, organized by the United Nations Agency on Food and Agriculture. Some of their demands included: more effective actions on the distribution of land, more recognition of traditional agricultural practices and the adoption of policies that are opposed to the neo-liberal measures of the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.

Irma Ostro, from the Landless Peasants Movement (MST), says that in the last 15 years, agricultural lands are being handed over to multinationals, a consequence of the domination of neo-liberal representatives in many governments in Latin America. The production in the countryside is now being turned into large-scale farms for export in order for businessmen to rake in more profits in dollars. Also, Irma emphasized the importance of agrarian reform. “There is space for agrarian reform, but not in the market that is promoted by the World Bank. We want a reform that breaks up the concentration of land by means of expropriation, validating the social function of land,” she demanded.

Jorge Dixon, a youth from India representing the International Movement of Rural Youth, talked about the participation of youth in this process. “We do not want an agrarian reform oriented towards the market, but towards people, specifically youth because we are the future,” he argued. Half of the world population lives in the countryside, so it is unsurprising there are many criticisms of the neo-liberal model and the increased militarization of strategic regions on the planet.

Anais Boyd, a member of the National Coordination of Indigenous Women of Panama, tells us about the case in her country where the government recently signed a free trade agreement with the U.S. “I was very sad to find out that the government of Panama is so happy to finally have a free trade agreement with the U.S. The people will definitely become more exploited,” she affirmed. In order to sign the agreement, Panama had to legalize all US patents, which increases imports into the country.

Dopehead Zo from South Korea denounced the construction of a US military base in Pyeongtaek. The base, however, has the full support of the government of South Korea.

The Government

Representatives of FAO and the Brazilian government also made presentations during the opening plenary. The Minister of Agrarian Development, Miguel Rossetto, reiterated the importance of governments and civil society to build a political climate where it is possible to discuss agrarian reform. “At this very moment, FAO is going through a restructuring,” he stated. Rossetto agreed with the idea of strengthening these international bodies by increasing the participation of poor countries in decision-making.

However, Jorge Dixon from India affirmed that the people are becoming impatient with such promises. “There are plenty of proposals to save the world´s agricultural lands. Now, we want our governments to start implementing them.

Raquel Casiraghi
Minga Informativa-Vía Campesina