World Rainforest Movement

Brazil: Why landless women are opposed to monoculture eucalyptus plantations

The struggle between two agricultural projects has stepped up in Brazil. On the one hand, the agro-business project based on the concentration of vast stretches of land, on production for export, on large-scale production and on monoculture plantations, mainly of soybean, eucalyptus, and sugar cane. On the other, various Via Campesina social movements in Brazil defending Agrarian Reform, and supporting an agricultural model based on agro-ecology, production to strengthen the domestic market, family and peasant farming, diversified production, cooperation and a change in the technological and productive matrix.
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This context gives us a basis on which to understand the struggle of Via Campesina women against the social and environmental impacts of monoculture eucalyptus production.

The action of two thousand women from Rio Grande do Sul on 8 March 2006 [see WRM Bulletin Nº 104] to draw the attention of Brazilian society and of the participants at the Second World Conference on Agrarian Reform placed on the agenda the risks of what we call “Green Deserts.”

From the standpoint of social movements, this broke away from the established model of the role of women in a process of change because it was a collective action, organized and headed by women – peasant women – in a conflict with one of the world’s largest transnational eucalyptus producing companies: the Aracruz Celulose Company. This company has an annual production of 2.4 million tons of bleached pulp.

During this action, over 10 million eucalyptus and pine seedlings were destroyed. From then on for society, the struggle for land took on a different nature: the struggle against transnational capital investing in agriculture.

As a result, women struggles stepped up all over the country in a one-day activity under the slogan of “Landless Women: struggling for food sovereignty and against agro-business.” This action gathered over fifteen thousand MST (Landless Peasant Movement) women and attracted the attention of society because of the nature of the complaints against the green desert, and the funding of transnational corporations by the Brazilian Government, mainly for the installation of new pulp-mills and ethanol factories in Brazil.

Our assessment is that women’s struggles against transnational corporations in agriculture, particularly regarding pulp, tend to be strengthened. Therefore, it is time to answer the question of what are the negative impacts of these corporations and of monoculture on farming and on women’s lives. For us women, the answer to the question is a way of opposing monoculture eucalyptus plantations for various reasons that we want to express and that give strength to our struggles.

1. We consider that the earth, water, seeds, air and forests are the basis of life and can never be commercialized.
2. We are going through a process of globalization of poverty, particularly among women and children and this is because transnational corporations have taken over our natural wealth, our territory, through the policies of international banks and institutions.
3. Monoculture eucalyptus plantations cause environmental destruction. Many of the chemicals used are destroying our biodiversity.
4. For us, pulp is a synonym of poverty, unemployment and rural exodus.
5. Pulp companies have taken over large properties and this contributes to land concentration in Brazil.
6. In Brazil, these same corporations have benefited from environmental legislation negotiated by many Brazilian governments.
8. We are going through a privatization and internationalization process of the Brazilian territory and its natural resources.
9. Human health particularly that of women and children, is endangered by the encroachment of the green desert, that destroys biodiversity, dries up rivers, increases contamination, pollutes the air and water and threatens our life.

Our struggle is to get the vast stretches of land used by these corporations allocated to the Agrarian Reform for the production of healthy food for self-sufficiency and the generation of income; to end latifundium large states and guarantee social justice in Brazilian rural areas; and to build up our country’s food sovereignty.

It is mainly to guarantee the restoration and preservation of biodiversity, forests, medicinal plants, local seeds, water, land, that are the peoples’ heritage at the service of humanity.

To our way of thinking, all public investment in science and technology and research must be for ecological peasant agriculture.

We want respect among the ethnic, religious, cultural diversities, in gender equity and cooperation for the preservation of natural wealth and in production aimed at covering people’s needs, not capital needs.

We demand that the governments concern themselves over negative socio-economic, territorial and environmental impacts caused by agro-business, and in particular by the so-called “Green Desert.”

Motivated by this struggle and sure of victory, we the Landless Women of the MST on the occasion of Mother’s Day have prepared a letter entitled: “Letter From the Landless Mothers” (http://www.mst.org.br/mst/pagina.php?cd=3506), calling on all women around the world “to struggle tirelessely against the neoliberal system that conceives food, water, land, people’s knowledge and women’s bodies as a commodity.”

We invite you all to raise our hands, our tools and our conscience … to unite against those who exploit land, life, and our labour. We are standing vigilant and carving night and day the fertility and rebelion that is born from the guts of the earth.

Agrarian Reform: for social justice and sovereignty of the people!

By Lourdes Vicente, MST Gender Sector and national coordination, e-mail: genero@mst.org.br