Small-scale Farmers’ Movement distributes food in Bahia

Coalition provides food from family farming to peripheral movements in Salvador and the Reconcavo Bay through CESE’s Small Projects Programme

Family farming is a fundamental ally for effective food security and sovereignty.  This is demonstrated in the actions of the Small-scale Farmers’ Movement (Movimento de Pequenos Agricultores: MPA) though its Campaign for Permanent Food Collection, Joint Action Against Hunger, which seeks to make an effective alliance between the countryside and the city to combat the food insecurity that affects low income populations.

With support from CESE’s Small Projects Programme, the MPA is distributing food baskets to 180 families in the temporary urban settlements of the Homeless Movement of Bahia (Movimento Sem Teto da Bahia: MSTB), located in the Paripe and Periperi neighbourhoods in Salvador, and to residents of the Engenho da Ponte Quilombo in Cachoeira.

In Salvador, the family beneficiaries of the initiative were mostly composed of black people, who are economically vulnerable, living in encampments, without stable incomes or unemployed.  Eighty families in the Engenho da Ponte Quilombo benefitted, also in extreme vulnerability, living off fishing in a territory badly affected by COVID-19, both because of the community’s precarious homes and a lack of sewage and running water.

In addition to guaranteeing the distribution of food baskets, the campaign also strengthens peasant families, who are able to sell their products for a fair price.  The partnership created the conditions to guarantee that healthy food, produced by peasant workers, was able to reach the tables of those who most in need at this time of crisis.  The initiative made it possible to purchase food products directly from the farmers and  to transport this produce, ensuring the items reached the places where the baskets were assembled and distributed in Salvador and Cachoeira.

According to Leomárcio Araújo, peasant worker and MPA director, the families in the Engenho da Ponte Quilombo have little land and low quality water, which is not sufficient for planting, as well as experiencing physical isolation and difficulty accessing transport.  “We have a target audience who have suffered a number of limitations to producing or guaranteeing their own food in the pandemic.  This is the reason for the solidarity activity,” he explained.

According to Araújo, for the MSTB families living in temporary urban settlements, the situation is even more precarious.  “They don’t have access to work, they don’t have access to land, they don’t have concrete access to the means of production.  So they are very vulnerable and totally dependent on support from politicians.  This is a much greater limitation for these people,” he asserted.

Countryside-City Alliance – For the grassroots peasant families of the MPA, delivering healthy food to families in social vulnerability is an opportunity.  “First, for the concrete ability to provide healthy food.  Second, because there is also hunger in the countryside and it provides the possibility of a minimum economic return for their produce, which is made within their territory.  An activity such as this makes a direct contribution to the target audience within these two arenas: from those who produce to those who consume,” Leomárcio Araújo explained. The initiative is important for the farming families because they have experienced restrictions to selling their products in their municipalities, since they’ve been affected by the suspension of open-air markets during the periods of social isolation.

According to this leader, partnership with CESE has enabled them to perform the desired activity, overcoming the difficulties of transporting products and reaching communities in the two territories.  “We’ve been able to provide all the transport, rigorously following Health Surveillance protocols.  With social distancing, the use of masks, hand sanitizer, in short, all the measures to guarantee that distribution does not open the door to contamination.  And in this way, to carry out an activity that contributes and strengthens,” he added.

The Small-scale Farmers’ Movement (Movimento de Pequenos Agricultores: MPA) is a mass grassroots peasant movement for permanent struggle, national and autonomous in nature, whose social base is organized into groups of families from peasant communities.  The MPA seeks to restore peasant identity and culture in all its diversity, and positions itself alongside other grassroots movements from the countryside and the city for the construction of a grassroots project for Brazil, based on sovereignty and for the values of a fair and fraternal society.