Between March 7 and 10, Brazil will host the 2nd International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (CIRADR). This is the first conference of its kind since a 1979 conference in Rome.
According to the Ministry of Agrarian Development, headed by Miguel Rossetto, who will lead the Brazilian delegation to the conference, all 193 member-nations of the UN have been invited to send participants to the meeting in Porto Alegre.
In 1979, an international conference on land reform, or agrarian reform, and rural development took place in Rome. A final document from that conference, known as the Campesino Letter, contained a number of proposals, few of which were ever implemented.
Next week, more than twenty-seven years later, the 2nd International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development will take place in Brazil.
Members of local social movements and organizations are busy preparing for the event with the objective of pressuring the Brazilian government to be more active in favor of land reform, access to ownership of land and water resources, and in dealing with the problems of food sovereignty, training and education for rural inhabitants, and strengthening rural communities.
According to Milton Rondo Filho, at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, this second conference, dealing with a "lost debate" at the UN, must be seen as a new phase following two decades of neoliberalism in many parts of the world.
"This is an important issue at the moment in many countries, especially in the South, and maybe in some in the North as well. As a result of the enormous concentration of income resulting from so many years of neoliberalism, it is almost certain that there has been an negative impact in the rural sector," said Rondo Filho, as he promised that the matter would be discussed at the Porto Alegre conference next week.
According to one of the leaders of the Landless Rural Worker Movement (Coordenação Nacional do Movimento dos Sem Terra) (MST), João Paulo Rodrigues, it is essential for the 2nd International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, which begins next week in Porto Alegre, to examine the two "farm models;" agribusiness and family farming.
Rodrigues admits that land reform may not be important in places like Japan and Canada, but he says that in Brazil it is a hot button issue and must be dealt with. He says one problem in Brazil is that agribusiness and family farming are seen as stereotypes: the first generates riches and the latter is "backward" and "small".
Rodrigues says that there are 4.5 million landless rural workers in Brazil (he says his figure is from the government statistical bureau – the IBGE). And he adds that he is not happy with the government’s land reform program.
"They say they will settle 400,000 families by the end of this year. The MST believes they need to settle one million families."