The five years of Armazém do Campo do Rio de Janeiro are being celebrated with the “MST Festival: for Land, Art and Bread!”, in Lapa, downtown Rio, with cultural programming that began on Friday (15) and runs until Sunday (17). The products displayed at the fair come from MST settlements and camps in various parts of Rio and other states.
A member of collectives from the Lagos region that are present at the Festival, Marcela dos Santos is from the Osvaldo de Oliveira Sustainable Development Project (PDS), in Macaé. She states that the Fair brings the city and the countryside closer, as the population of urban centers can have contact with the producers who present the food.
“The Fair is very important. Here, people who come to visit talk to the producers themselves, find out how healthy our food is, we give them our recipes, it’s a sharing of knowledge from the countryside to the city”, explains Marcela.
Read more: Political act marks the 5th anniversary of Armazém do Campo in Rio
According to her, the Fair also helps to demystify the negative perception that the media creates about the MST and food production by families. PDS frequently donates food in the region where it is located. Approximately 63 families live in the settlement. Marcela has three children. In the settlement she lives with her mother, one of her children and two grandchildren.
Alternative to middlemen
Among producers in the northern region of the state of Rio, Damiana Alves Viana, better known as Ana, is from the Dandara dos Palmares settlement, in Campos dos Goytacazes. It is at the MST Festival fair with three other settlements in that region: Josué de Castro, Zumbi dos Palmares and Oziel Alves.
Ana and the other settlers participate in the Fair offering foods such as cassava, pineapple, pumpkin, lemon, cassava starch, flour, honey, natural juices and some seasonings. The Dandara settlement is 20 years old, the same time as Ana arrived at the place, where around 21 families live today.
She said that the MST fairs changed the dynamics of selling products from settled families. Previously, many were dependent on middlemen who mediate between producers and traders.
“We are children of farmers, we plant. Before, we planted and lost, we were unable to sell our goods. When we did, it was for middlemen at a value well below the price. The MST opened its doors with the state fair, the regional fairs, today we go to fairs in Minas and São Paulo. Our goods are sold for the price they are worth. It’s very gratifying”, she commented.
The physical effort involved in working with the land does not discourage those who produce the food that the countryside and the city consume. Julia de Almeida has lived for 11 years, with her husband, two children and two grandchildren, in the Roseli Nunes settlement, in Piraí, in the southern region of the state. At the Fair, the region is also represented by the Terra da Paz settlement.
In addition to vegetables, corn and beans, products brought to the Feira na Lapa by the Alaíde Reis collective, some of the approximately 80 families from Roseli Nunes are starting and experimenting with growing new products. One of them is the banana. The other new feature is the planting of seedlings to produce organic coffee.
“The pandemic and past mismanagement brought a lot of difficulty to all of us. It’s great to be here today. Of course, the Fair is a way to sell our merchandise, it’s important because it’s where we get our livelihood from. But seeing the families, having This contact to renew our strength and reunite with our companions is also very important”, celebrates Julia.
The state of Espírito Santo also participates with several settlements at the MST Festival in Rio. Ícaro Motta Portes, 22 years old, was born in the Zumbi dos Palmares settlement, in São Mateus, in the north of the state, two years after the occupation, which began dated 1998, received the issuance of ownership in 1999.
He knows the entire history of the region. One of the camps in the Quilombo dos Palmares Regional is 39 years old, the age of the MST, which will celebrate 40 years of foundation in 2024. Ícaro explains that the city of São Mateus is the 12th oldest in Brazil and that there used to be a port of arrival of enslaved people.
“At the headquarters of the settlement there is a mansion that was used as a space for parties and articulation of the UDR, the União Democrática Ruralista, a violent organization of landowners that was created in counterpart to the MST and that ordered several murders of comrades in the struggle for land, the conquest of this territory was very symbolic”, says Ícaro.
In the past, the area was a settlement of Italian settlers and, therefore, received the name Nova Verona, currently the district of São Mateus, but they were expelled from the land by landowners. The land, previously unproductive, today gives way to a school that uses MST pedagogy. The school serves the 151 families in the settlement and the children of small farmers in the surrounding area.
At the Rio Fair, settlements in Espírito Santo offer fresh products, jellies, jams, coffee and liqueurs from the Terra de Sabores brand, from the state MST.
There is also the state’s pioneering initiative to sell ornamental and medicinal plants. Sanuza Motta produces herbal medicines under the Fios da Terra brand. Mother of Ícaro, she associated the family’s ancestral knowledge with technical training in the health course for the rural population, based on a partnership between the MST and Fiocruz and Pronera, the National Education Program for Agrarian Reform.
Ícaro also reinforces the importance of fairs to give visibility to the struggle for Agrarian Reform and combat widespread prejudice against the movement. He recalled that the MST of Rio Grande do Sul has already donated more than 20 thousand lunch boxes to people who were left homeless after the heavy rains that hit the state.
“The Fair has an objective role. In addition to being a space for us to show society what agrarian reform actually produces, it is also a space for breaking paradigms and stigmas because the image that is consolidated in the common sense of the movement It is the image of purposely placed criminalization”, he states.
Source: BdF Rio de Janeiro
Editing: Jaqueline Deister