The MST come to town | World Development Movement

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The MST come to town

By Dan Iles, 14 November 2013

Monday was an exciting day for me. Because after years of talking about their work in public talks, food sovereignty briefings and film nights, WDM had a visit from the MST!

Isis and Ana join me, Christine , Miriam and Heidi at the office

Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) is a landless peasant movement in Brazil. They have been enormously successful in the last 15 years at driving through a bottom up process for much needed land reform. Because of them 370,000 families, many of them previously landless, have been able to settle on 7.5 million hectares of land. This has been done by occupying land and reclaiming it from the landed elites that have long been dominant in Brazil. After occupying the land, what’s even more exciting, is what the MST do with it. Families are empowered to work together and set up producer cooperatives making what was once fallow and unproductive land into a fertile resource. Added to this the movement also runs a national agroecology school where peasants from across the Brazil and even the world can come to learn about alternative agricultural methods, as well politics.

Isis and Ana had come over to Europe on a mission to build allies. Despite the hard work of the MST, there is still vastly unequal land ownership in Brazil. Added to this, since Brazil’s rise into an economic giant, their old and rather clunky enemy, the landed junta are now forming a dangerous new alliance. New agribusinesses like Monsanto, Bunge and Cargill are putting a modern face onto these previously old fashioned elites and using huge swathes of land for production of crops like soy, which are exported for animal feed or biofuel. 

As these agribusinesses work across borders, it is crucial to build international alliances. In February next year the MST are organising the mother of all forums. For their sixth national congress they are inviting over 15,000 MST activists from across Brazil to celebrate their successes so far and look ahead. Alongside this another 1000 representatives from across the world are being invited! As Ana assured us, the MST like to do things big!

WDM are very pleased to be one of these international invitees. Our new campaign on agribusiness which will be launching next year is set to challenge the corporate approach to agricultural development. When looking at the international food sovereignty movement, the MST is such a positive and powerful example of practical and radical solutions to the current food system. And what better way to celebrate and learn from this than by joining all 15,000 of them and hearing their stories? 


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Written by

Dan Iles

Dan Iles has been involved with WDM for two years. He started as an activism and events intern, then went off to the South West to work as a regional mobiliser. After this Dan stayed in Bristol and became the Bristol WDM group coordinator. He now works in the WDM London office as a campaign and policy assistant. He has a wealth of experience in setting up community organisations and grassroots campaigning and is particularly inspired by food sovereignty. He has got experience with the local food movement in Bristol, doing work for Bristol People’s Supermarket, community gardens and community kitchens and was part of the UK delegation at the European Food Sovereignty Forum. 

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