Social movements, including AS-PTA, involved in development of new agroecology policy in Brazil
This policy was sanctioned in a decree on 21 August by President Dilma Rousseff. A National Committee with 28 representatives of both government and civil society will develop proposals for the new policy, which must be ready by the end of February 2013.
Paulo Petersen of the Brazilian partner in the AgriCultures Network (AS-PTA), will be one of the committee members. He represents the Brazilian Agroecology Association, of which his organisation is a part.
Petersen: “Participating in this committee is a unique opportunity to establish an open debate with the government about the concept of agroecology. The government tends to formulate policies for niche markets, while we are talking about a structural change in rural development. Between these two visions, there is much to negotiate. We hope that structural programmes will be implemented rather quickly. Two elements are key for us: the preservation of native seeds, and the reduction of the use of agrochemicals”.
Denis Monteiro, executive secretary of the civil society coalition, agrees: "It is not possible for things to continue the way they are. We are the largest consumers of pesticides in the world. Because the current situation is inconsistent with the concept of agroecology, progress must be made to promote agriculture without poisons and to monitor large companies," he proposed.
According to Minister Gilberto Carvalho, the government aims to enhance the participation of social movements in developing the new policy. About 20 representatives of rural social movements attended the meeting. Eugenio Ferrari is spokesperson for the civil society coalition. He stated that the participants realise that the current economic environment is not in their favour, because of the tendency of the government to strengthen industrial agriculture and agribusiness.
At the same time, emphasises Carvalho, it is important that various programmes were put in place that have contributed to the uptake of the agroecological perspective, such as the Food Acquisition Programme and the National School Nutrition Programme. “The new agroecology policy must consolidate and expand these mechanisms”, he said.
The organisations were surprised with the launch of the decree during the Unitary Meeting of Field, Water and Forestry peoples and workers, held in Brasilia in August 2012. According to Rosângela Lamb, the Movement of Rural Women, more than 30 organizations were present in a workshop about agroecology where the decree was suddenly presented.
"We are very concerned with the new policy, because agroecology is very dear to our peasant life, autonomy and food sovereignty. It is crucial that our rights to land and territory are strongly present in the agroecology policy. We are willing to help in the elaboration of this policy, but what has to be at the forefront of the policy is the defense of our common goods”, said Lamb. She stressed: “Peasant agriculture sustains this country, it produces 70% of our food."
Carvalho also has critical observations: "It is clear that an agroecology policy should be geared at the needs of family farmers, peoples and traditional communities. With this in mind, we participated in the process until the end of May 2012. However, what this decree says, surprises us. We are dissatisfied with the lack of reference to the social function of land, which is the fundamental element and the physical basis of agroecology. We equally unhappy that the decree makes no reference to universal access to water as a public good. Finally, the participation of social movements in the development of the policy looks to be rather limited."
However, according to the movements, the inclusion of the importance of saving native seeds is an advancement in this dialogue. They also have proposals to strengthen other aspects of the policy.
"The policy should be geared to stimulate the local markets. The local markets begin to lose ground in favour of large companies and big supermarkets. We must encourage them. It is therefore important to review the credit policy, " observed Francis dal Chiavon, the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST).
The president of the National Food and Nutritional Security Council (Consea), Maria Emilia Pacheco, noted that there is no nutrition and food sovereignty without security of land. According to her, this issue requires boldness on the part of the government, because since 1988 there is no framework that guarantees the territories of traditional peoples and communities.
"It is not only about expanding protected areas, which is a breakthrough (and we can give examples), but also about land reform and new trade agreements. Finally, programs need to recognize the role of women in leadership agroecological processes", she said.
Stay tuned for further updates from Brazil!
Read more (in Portuguese): An interview with Paulo Petersen of AgriCultures member AS-PTA