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Report raises Brazilian land governance issues

Small-scale farmers have played a larger role in providing Brazil's food needs than has been recognized, but small farmers are endangered in that country, the London-based International Land Coalition said in a report it released Thursday in Rome.

While Brazil has become a major exporter to world markets and the world's largest biofuel producers, "Brazil’s peasantry, while playing central role in meeting the country’s domestic food needs, faces to a large extent the same kinds of problems confronting small farmers of the Global South: increasing marginalization and disempowerment in a context of land concentration and growing rural inequities," says the report.

Bernardo Mançano Fernandes

Bernardo Mançano Fernandes
It was written by Bernardo Mançano Fernandes, a geographer at the Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) who is known for his work with leading social movements in Brazil; Clifford Welch, a professor of contemporary Brazilian history at the Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP); and Elienai Gonçalves, a researcher at the UNESP Center of Agrarian Reform.

“The report shows how the commercial paradigm has predominated in Brazil since colonial times and suffered few challenges until recent decades when, for a brief period, a small-scale farmer paradigm gained broad public support,” Fernandes said in a news release.

The report highlights a program that encourages biofuel producers to establish partnerships with small-scale farmers. Called the “Social Fuel Seal,” this program offers tax incentives for investing in the family farming operations.

Other policy innovations include national agrarian reform planning, directly contracting with peasant associations to provide food for school lunches and a federal program to subsidise general education for peasants from elementary schools to the post-graduate level.

The report concludes that the best hope for indigenous peoples and peasants in Brazil is if the Brazilian government not only recognizes territorial divisions, but also begins to establish zoning rules that favor the permanence of peasants.