Category Archives: Brazil

Small Farmers in Brazil’s Amazon Region Seek Sustainability

By Mario Osava
IPS News Agency

aa-2. Sustainable Farming Alison Oliveria
Alison Oliveira, surrounded by the organic crops that he and his wife grow on their small-scale farm outside the city of Alta Floresta, on the southern edge of Brazil’s Amazon region. Sustainable family farming, supported by several organisations, acts as a barrier against deforestation and soy monoculture. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

ALTA FLORESTA, Brazil, Sep 19 2017 (IPS) – The deforestation caused by the expansion of livestock farming and soy monoculture appears unstoppable in the Amazon rainforest in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. But small-scale farmers are trying to reverse that trend.

Alison Oliveira is a product of the invasion by a wave of farmers from the south, lured by vast, cheap land in the Amazon region when the 1964-1985 military dictatorship aggressively promoted the occupation of the rainforest.

“I was born here in 1984, but my grandfather came from Paraná (a southern state) and bought about 16 hectares here, which are currently divided between three families: my father’s, my brother’s and mine,” Oliveira told IPS while milking his cows in a barn that is small but mechanised.

“Milk is our main source of income; today we have 14 cows, 10 of which are giving milk,” he explained. “I also make cheese the way my grandfather taught me, and I sell it to hotels and restaurants, for twice the price of the milk.”

But what distinguishes his farm, 17 km from Alta Floresta, a city of about 50,000 people in northern Mato Grosso, is its mode of production, which involves an agroforestry system that combines crops and trees, irrigated pastureland, an organic garden and free-range egg-laying chickens.

Because of its sustainable agriculture system, the farm is used as a model in an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) programme, and is visited by students and other interested people.

“We want more: a biodigester, solar power and rural tourism, when we have the money to make the investments,” said Oliveira’s wife, 34-year-old Marcely Federicci da Silva.

The couple discovered their vocation for sustainable farming after living for 10 years in Sinop, which with its 135,000 people is the most populated city in northern Mato Grosso, and which owes its prosperity to soy crops for export.

“Raising two small children in the city is harder,” she said, also attributing their return to the countryside to Olhos de Agua, a project promoted by the municipal government of Alta Floresta to reforest and restore the headwaters of rivers on small rural properties.

The financial viability of the farm owes a great deal to the support received from the non-governmental Ouro Verde Institute (IOV), which in addition to providing technical assistance, created a mechanism for on-line sales, creating links between farmers and consumers, Oliveira pointed out.

The Solidarity-Based Marketing System (Siscos), launched in 2008, is“an on-line market that allows direct interaction between 30 farmers and over 500 registered customers, zootechnician Cirio Custodio da Silva, marketing consultant for the IOV, explained to IPS.

Customers place weekly orders, the system chooses suppliers and picks up the products to be delivered to the buyers in a shop on Wednesdays.

Besides, Siscos supports sales in street markets, and the school feeding programme, which by law in Brazil buys at least 30 per cent of its food products from family farmers, and the women textile workers’ network, who make handcrafted textiles.

The IOV, founded in 1999 in Alta Floresta to drive social participation in sustainable development, especially in agriculture, has promoted since 2010 a network of native seeds, to encourage reforestation and crop diversification.

Seed collectors organised in a 115-member cooperative, with 12 seed banks, 200 selected tree species, and mainly oilseeds for agriculture, represent an activity that is also a source of income, said agronomist Anderson Lopes, head of that area at the IOV.

Initially, the interest of the farmers was limited to having access to agricultural seeds, but later it also extended to seeds of native tree species, for the restoration of forests, springs and headwaters, and degraded land, he said.

Silva and Lopes have similar backgrounds. Their farming families, from the south, ventured to the so-called Portal of the Amazon, a region that covers 16 municipalities in northern Mato Grosso, where the rainforest begins.

It is a territory with a rural economy, where one-third of the 258,000 inhabitants still live in the countryside, according to the 2010 national census.

It is a transition zone between the area with the largest soybean and maize production in Brazil, in north-central Mato Grosso, and the Amazon region with its dense, sparsely populated jungle.

This is reflected in 14 indigenous territories established in the area and in the number of family farmers – over 20,000 – in contrast with the prevalence of large soybean plantations that are advancing from the south.

The road that connects Sinop – a kind of capital of the empire of soy – with Alta Floresta, 320 km to the north, runs through land that gradually becomes less flat and favourable for mechanised monoculture, with more and more forests and fewer vast agricultural fields.

aaaa-grocery store Pedro Kingfuku
Pedro Kingfuku, owner of four supermarkets, stands among fruit and vegetables that come from Paraná, 2,000 km south of Paranaita, a municipality with a population of 11,000 people. Local family farming has a great capacity for expansion to cater to the large market in the north of the state of Mato Grosso, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

That tendency is accentuated towards Paranaita, a municipality with a population of 11,000 people, 54 km west of Alta Floresta, which announces the last frontier of livestock farming and soy monoculture, at least through that south-north highway across Mato Grosso, the national leader in the production of soy.

Movements in favour of sustainability, such as the one supported by IOV, and the important presence of family farmers, are joining forces to help curb the invasion of the Amazon region by soy monoculture which dominated north-central Mato Grosso, creating a post-harvest desert-like landscape.

Another non-governmental organisation, the Center of Life Institute (ICV), also active in Alta Floresta and surrounding areas, has a Sustainable Livestock Initiative, with reforestation and restoration of degraded pastures.

The “colonisation” process of the Portal of the Amazon was similar to that of the rest of Mato Grosso. People from the south came with dreams of working in agriculture, after previous waves of loggers and “garimpeiros” – informal miners of gold and precious stones – activities that still continue but have become less prevalent.

“Many of those who obtained land harvested the timber and then returned south,” because planting crops was torture, without roads, marketing or financial support, recalled Daniel Schlindewein, another migrant from Paraná who settled in Sinop in 1997.

Agriculture failed with coffee, rice and other traditional crops that were initially tried, until soy monoculture spread among the small farms, rented from the large producers.

But family farming has survived in the Portal of the Amazon.

“If the town of São Pedro didn’t exist, I would have to close the store in Paranaíta,“ Pedro Kingfuku, the owner of a chain of four supermarkets in the area, told IPS. He opened the stores in 2013 betting that the construction of the Teles Pires Hydropower Plant nearby would generate 5,000 new customers.

“But not even a tenth of what was expected came,” he lamented.

The 785 farming families who settled in São Pedro, near Paranaíta, saved the local supermarket because they mainly buy there, said Kingfuku, the son of Japanese immigrants who also came from Paraná.

“Among the settlers, the ones who earn the most are the dairy farmers, like my father who has 16 hectares of land,” said Mauricio Dionisio, a young man who works in the supermarket.

Additional Photos: [ http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/small-farmers-brazils-amazon-region-seek-sustainability/ ]

The Tuxá Indigenous Paradise, Submerged under Water

By Fabiana Frayssinet
IPS News Agency

Tuxa families take a break...
Tuxá families take a break while building their new village in Surubabel, as part of what they consider the recovery of their ancestral lands, on the bank of what was previously the river where they lived, the São Francisco River, but which now is a reservoir on the border between the Brazilian states of Pernambuco and Bahía. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

RODELAS, Brazil, Sep 30 2017 (IPS) – The Tuxá indigenous people had lived for centuries in the north of the Brazilian state of Bahia, on the banks of the São Francisco River. But in 1988 their territory was flooded by the Itaparica hydropower plant, and since then they have become landless. Their roots are now buried under the waters of the reservoir.

Dorinha Tuxá, one of the leaders of this native community, which currently has between 1,500 and 2,000 inhabitants, sings on the shore of what they still call “river”, although now it is an 828-sq-km reservoir, in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, along the border with the state of Bahia, to the south.

While singing the song dedicated to their “sacred” river and smoking her “maraku”, a pipe with tobacco and ritual herbs, she looks dreamily at the waters where the “Widow’s Island” was submerged, one of several that sprinkled the lower course of the São Francisco River, and on which the members of her community used to live.

“This song is to ask our community for unity, because in this struggle we are asking for the strength of our ancestors to help us recover our territory. A landless indigenous person is a naked indigenous person. We are asking our ancestors to bless us in this battle and protect our warriors,” she told IPS.

The hydroelectric plant, with a capacity of 1,480 megawatts, is one of eight installed by the São Francisco Hydroelectric Company (CHESF), whose operations are centered on that river which runs across much of the Brazilian Northeast region: 2,914 km from its source in the center of the country to the point where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast.

After the flood, the Tuxá people were relocated to three municipalities. Some were settled in Nova Rodelas, a hamlet in the rural municipality of Rodelas, in the state of Bahia, where Dorinha Tuxá lives.

After a 19-year legal battle, the 442 relocated Tuxá families finally received compensation from the CHESF. But they are still waiting for the 4,000 hectares that were agreed upon when they were displaced, and which must be handed over to them by state agencies.

“What nostalgia for that blessed land where we were born and which did not let us lack for anything. The river where we used to fish. I have such nostalgia for that time, from my childhood to my marriage. We were indeed a suffering and stoic but optimistic people. We grew rice, onions, we harvested mangoes. All that is gone,” Tuxá chief Manoel Jurum Afé told IPS.

The new village is very different from the community where they used to live on their island.

“What nostalgia for that blessed land where we were born and which did not let us lack for anything. The river where we used to fish. I have such nostalgia for that time, from my childhood to my marriage. We were indeed a suffering and stoic but optimistic people. We grew rice, onions, we harvested mangoes. All that is gone.” — Manoel Jurum Afé

Only the soccer field, where children play, retains the shape of traditional indigenous Tuxá constructions.

But the elders strive to transmit their collective memory to the young, such as Luiza de Oliveira, who was baptized with the indigenous name of Aluna Flexia Tuxá.

She is studying law to continue her people’s struggle for land and rights. Her mother, like many other Tuxá women, also played an important role as chief, or community leader.

“It was as if they lived in a paradise. They had no need to beg the government like they have to do now. They used to plant everything, beans, cassava. They lived together in complete harmony. They talk about it with nostalgia. It was a paradise that came to an end when it was flooded,” she said.

Read the full article: http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/tuxa-indigenous-paradise-submerged-water/

 

Brazil opens vast Amazon reserve to mining

BBC News/World/Latin America
(24 August 2017)

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The reserve was created in 1984 by the then-military government. (Gerry Images/BBC)

Brazil’s government has abolished a vast national reserve in the Amazon to open up the area to mining.

The area, covering 46,000 sq km (17,800 sq miles), straddles the northern states of Amapa and Para, and is thought to be rich in gold, and other minerals.

The government said nine conservation and indigenous land areas within it would continue to be legally protected.

But activists have voiced concern that these areas could be badly compromised.

A decree from President Michel Temer abolished a protected area known as the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca).

Its size is larger than Denmark and about 30% of it will be open to mining.

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The mining and energy ministry says protected forest areas and indigenous reserves will not be affected.

“The objective of the measure is to attract new investments, generating wealth for the country and employment and income for society, always based on the precepts of sustainability,” the ministry said in a statement.

But opposition Senator Randolfe Rodrigues denounced the move as “the biggest attack on the Amazon of the last 50 years,” O Globo newspaper reported (in Portuguese).

Maurício Voivodic, head of the conservation body WWF in Brazil, warned last month that mining in the area would lead to “demographic explosion, deforestation, the destruction of water resources, the loss of biodiversity and the creation of land conflict.”

According to the WWF report, the main area of interest for copper and gold exploration is in one of the protected areas, the Biological Reserve of Maicuru.

There is also said to be gold in the Para State forest, which lies within the area.

The WWF says there is potential for conflict too in two indigenous reserves that are home to various ethnic communities living in relative isolation.

WWF’s report said that a “gold rush in the region could create irreversible damage to these cultures.”

“If the government insisted on opening up these areas for mining without discussing environmental safeguards it will have to deal with an international outcry.”

Brazil Supreme Court backs indigenous land demarcation in long running case

Chris Arsenault
Thomson Reuters Foundation

August 17, 2017 | TORONTO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Land rights campaigners have hailed a decision by Brazil’s Supreme Court to rule against a state seeking compensation for land declared indigenous territory by the national government.

Mato Grosso, a central Brazilian state with a powerful agriculture industry and simmering land-related violence, said the national government had illegally given away state land to indigenous people.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled unanimously against Mato Grosso, ordering the western state to respect territory demarcation for indigenous people, in a case followed closely by land rights activists and Brazil’s farm lobby.

“The lands were not owned by the state of Mato Grosso because they were traditionally occupied by indigenous peoples,” Supreme Court Justice Marco Aurélio Mello wrote in the ruling.

Mato Grosso sought about $2 billion reais ($635 million) in compensation from Brazil’s authorities.

Litigation over demarcation of the land, including territory around the Xingu National Park, had been ongoing for more than twenty years.

A decision in the state’s favor would have reverberated far beyond Mato Grosso, activists said, leading other state governments to try and weaken indigenous land rights.

“It is a very important victory for our people, our family that is there in Mato Grosso suffering and fighting for health and territory,” indigenous activist Adilio Benites told the Brazilian web portal G1 after the court’s decision.

Mato Grosso was ordered to pay the federal government’s legal bill of about 100,000 reais, local media reported.

About 13 percent of Brazil’s land has been set aside for the country’s 900,000 indigenous people based on the territories they historically occupied.

Brazil is the world’s top exporter of coffee, sugar and soy and deadly conflicts over land between farmers and indigenous groups are common.


Reporting by Chris Arsenault @chrisarsenaul, Editing by Astrid Zweynert.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

Brazilian Campesino Leader Killed in the State of Pará

telSURetv
Published 9 July 2017

https://videosenglish.telesurtv.net/player/610027/brazilian-police-storm-mst-school/?aspectratio=auto

Almeida helped to reorganize an encampment on the Santa Lucia farm only days after the May 24 massacre of 10 campesinos.

Alemeida - Para
Líder Rosenildo Pereira de Almeida assassinado no Pará. (novonoticias.com) Felipe Pontes/Agencia Brasil Photo

Just over a month after the massacre of 10 campesinos in Pau D’arco in the Brazilian state of Para, yet another rural worker has been killed in the same region.

On Friday, 44-year-old Rosenildo Pereira de Almeida was shot and killed as he left a church in Rio Maria which is located 43 miles away from the Santa Lucia farm. According to police investigations, two masked suspects on a motorcycle fired four shots at Almeida at around 10 p.m.

Almeida was a member of the League of Poor Campesinos, according to Diario Online. He helped to reorganize an encampment on the Santa Lucia farm only days after the May 24 massacre of the campesinos.

Jose Vargas Junior, lawyer for the 10 Santa Lucia victims, stressed that Almeida was a leader of the families who returned to set up another encampment. Their aim was to force the government to include the property as part of its agrarian reform program.

Justice Global reported that Almeida, along with three other leaders of the new encampment, were marked for death.

Ten campesinos — nine men and one woman — were killed by Brazil’s military and civilian police as part of an eviction order led by state forces.

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Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN

Pará is the same state where Dorothy Stang, a U.S. born, Brazilian-naturalized nun was murdered in 2005 by armed gunmen who were contracted by ranchers. For decades, Stang worked alongside and as an advocate for campesino farmers.

In April, 10 more campesinos, including elders and young people, were murdered in an encampment situated in Colniza in the state of Mato Grosso. According to Mato Grosso’s Department of Public Safety, the massacre was committed by “hooded” gunmen.

Brazil police killing of 10 Amazon regional land activists under probe

Reuters: World News
Friday May 26, 2017

Brazilian authorities said on Thursday they were investigating a police raid that ended with 10 land activists killed in the Amazon region, the deadliest such conflict in over two decades.

(Use link for photo) Forensic police work in the Santa Lucia farm, where a group of landless activists were killed in the municipality of Pau D’Arco, Para state, Brazil, May 25, 2017. Picture taken on May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

Nine men and one woman were killed when police arrived at the Santa Lucia farm on Wednesday, which a group of landless activists that included 150 families had invaded two years ago.

Para state security officials said in a statement the police were fired upon as soon as they arrived. No officers sustained any injuries during the conflict. Leaders of the land activists were not immediately reachable for comment.

Para state police said in a statement that they were acting on a local judge’s order to remove the families from the private land, and also carry out 14 arrest warrants in connection to the murder last month of a security guard employed by the ranch owner.

Federal and state prosecutors said they were investigating the killings. Police said they, too, had started an inquiry into the officers’ actions.

Landless activists routinely invade massive ranches and farms in Latin America’s largest nation, where there is deep inequality in land distribution. Brazilian law allows for landless activists to occupy and eventually take ownership of land determined to be not actively used for agricultural purposes.

For decades, the fight over Brazil’s vast tracts of land have repeatedly led to murders, most often by rich ranchers and farmers’ hired gunmen, federal prosecutors have said.

The Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission, which tracks the conflicts, said in an emailed statement on Thursday that 61 people were killed in such rural conflicts last year, the most since 2003. The group said 26 people have been killed in such conflicts this year.

Wednesday’s deaths were the most in a land conflict since 1996, when Para state police shot and killed 19 land activists who had blocked a highway to protest their right to remain on a ranch that 3,000 families had occupied.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks; Editing by Richard Chang)

New scandal erupts that threatens to force out Brazilian President Temer

May 18 at 3:07 PM
 Brazilian President Michel Temer defied calls for his resignation Thursday, a day after a bombshell report alleged that he had been secretly recorded discussing bribe payments during an investigation into a sprawling corruption probe that has shredded the country’s political class.
Speculation that Temer would step down intensified throughout the day, with Brazil’s highest court ordering an investigation and two members of Temer’s cabinet abruptly quitting. Prominent leaders of Temer’s centrist PMDB party also distanced themselves from him, leaving the unpopular leader looking more and more isolated.But Temer refused to fold. Speaking on national television, he insisted that he had done nothing wrong and would not step down. “In no moment did I authorize a payment to anyone for their silence,” he said. “I have nothing to hide.”In a brief statement, Temer said his government had just started pulling Brazil out of its prolonged economic slump, the worst in 80 years. “We cannot throw so much progress into the bin of history,” he said.

But with Temer girding for a fight and the possibility that explosive new allegations could surface at any time, the chances of a return to economic and political stability looked even more remote for South America’s largest nation, which was rocked less than a year ago by the impeachment of the previous president in a ­different scandal.

Brazil’s financial markets plunged Thursday amid concerns that the political crisis would derail economic reforms that Temer had championed to boost the economy. The country’s currency, the real, closed down 8 percent, erasing its gains this year, and the Brazilian stock market fell 9 percent, its worst daily loss in nine years. State-controlled companies lost about 20 percent of their value.

“I don’t see how Temer survives more than a few weeks,” said Brian Winter, a Brazil expert and the editor of the New York-based Americas Quarterly journal, adding that Temer appears to be “in denial,” given the evidence against him and his evaporating political support.

Through plea bargains, in which defendants provided prosecutors with information in exchange for more-lenient sentences, authorities have been able to trace a major kickback scheme from a Brasilia carwash to the highest echelons of the ­government.

Temer had managed to mostly avoid being tainted by the probe. But the spotlight fell on him Wednesday, after Brazil’s O Globo reported that Temer had been the target of a police sting operation in which he was allegedly recorded condoning a hush-money payment by a Brazilian business tycoon to the jailed former leader of congress, Eduardo Cuhna, who is serving a 15-year term for negotiating millions in bribes.

Cunha had been one of the country’s most powerful men, and is believed to have compromising information on several top politicians who have not been formally accused.

 When the executive told Temer that he was paying the former politician a monthly stipend to keep him quiet, the president allegedly said, “You need to keep that up, okay?” according to the newspaper, citing the recording. The recording was made public by O Globo late Thursday.

Temer has acknowledged meeting with the executive who is the alleged source of the recordings, meatpacking tycoon Joesley Batista. But the president insisted Thursday he hadn’t broken the law and the investigation would exonerate him.

Opposition lawmakers attempted Thursday to open impeachment proceedings against Temer, which may increase pressure on authorities to release the allegedly incriminating tapes.

A new impeachment push would come less than a year after the last president, Dilma Rousseff, was forced out on charges of violating budget laws, bringing Temer to power through a process that many Brazilians view as ­politicized

Temer’s ministers of culture and city planning resigned Thursday, but the president was reportedly encouraged to hold onto power by his closest allies and key members of his inner circle.

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