Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) has donated more than 6,000 tons of food and 1,150,000 lunchboxes to individuals and families facing hunger and food insecurity in all major regions of the country.
These numbers were calculated after the conclusion of the Christmas Without Hunger campaign, promoted by the MST from December to early January. During the campaign, the MST distributed food donations, solidarity lunches and special Christmas dinners in 24 Brazilian states to around 250,000 people.
During the Christmas Without Hunger campaign alone, the MST received more than a thousand tons of food donations. The campaign distributed baskets, mostly made up of products from MST settlements and encampments, that benefited around 50,000 families. The distribution of over 30,000 lunch boxes and special Christmas dinners contributed to the fight against hunger in indigenous villages and peripheral, urban and rural communities.
The campaign was made possible only through the level of organization developed over the 37 years of the MST’s existence, based on the production of food by women and men from their backyards, vegetable gardens and solidarity plots. We also owe our success to the diversity of products donated by the associations and cooperatives of the People’s Agrarian Reform, as well as from support from the Rural Warehouse Network and Solidarity Kitchens.
After receiving donations in his village, Laurentino Garcia Nhu Vera Guasu, from Dourados, a municipality in Mato Grosso do Sul, gave thanks as a local leader on behalf of his community. MST food baskets benefited about 100 families from the 3 Tekohas (Guarani for “villages”) in the region. “This arrived at the right time, because many families no longer have anything to eat inside their houses and shacks, where there are children who are in need of these baskets”, said Laurentino, stating that not even the government has sent more supplies, leaving the people to rely on the support of solidarity donations.
In addition to food and Agrarian Reform products, the MST also distributed around 17,000 books in communities in the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The publishing house Expressão Popular donated the books, which are its own editions as well as books published by associated publishers, such as Editora 34, Editora Elefante, and Nuestra America. In all, there were 70 different titles, contributing to a Network of People’s Libraries.
Land access in the fight against hunger and poverty in Brazil
The actions of solidarity were supported by donations from individuals, with a network of friends, partner organizations, and thousands of volunteers who engaged in the cause because of the urgency required by the people. Many were moved to action due to the fact that that today five out of 10 Brazilian homes are food insecure, despite the country being one of the greatest agricultural producers in the world.
“In a country where agricultural policy is dominated by agribusiness, records are broken for exports and profits, while around 20 million people go to bed and wake up hungry, and more than half of the population suffers from some degree of food insecurity. This is proof that this economic policy is unfeasible,” says Jailma Lopes, from the national direction of the MST Youth Collective.
Despite the federal government’s dismantling of Agrarian Reform, MST families continue to fight for access to land, development of the countryside and the reduction of poverty. Solidarity campaigns offer crucial relief to the working class in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, accentuated by mismanagement of the pandemic. These campaigns also prove that hunger and inequality can only be fought with policies that benefit the public, such as People’s Agrarian Reform.
“It is only possible to fight poverty and hunger in Brazil and transform the lives of our people with People’s Agrarian Reform, building conditions for production and access to diversified and healthy food, and with other relations of production, with the conservation of our common natural resources,” stated Jailma, reaffirming that Agrarian Reform will benefit both rural and urban workers, as well as the environment in which we live.
This article first appeared on the website of the MST.