Grassroots International description of MST Landless Workers Movement in Brazil


"The Landless Workers Movement (MST), Latin America's largest popular movement, has been at the forefront of social action for comprehensive agrarian reform and food sovereignty. The MST works with landless peasants to identify and settle on underutilized land, gain legal title to the land and bring it into productive use. Through the MST's efforts, more than 1.5 million people have been settled on 17 million acres of land and currently another 89,840 families are living in encampments, awaiting settlement. The MST is also one of the most powerful peasant and landless workers movements and plays a vital leadership role within the global peasant farmer network the Via Campesina" (page 5).

"Grassroots works with the MST at state and national levels through sustainable agriculture, training and legal assistance projects. Projects for 2014:

• MST - National Agroecology Training Project: Across the 23 states where its settlements are located, the MST promotes agroecological farming methods (based on traditional knowledge local control using organic, ecologically and socially sustainable practices). MST’s agroecological model prioritizes the use of local seed varieties, diversification of crops, recovering and building local knowledge, and fostering food sovereignty. The Training Project offers a wide array of support and learning opportunities for its members as well as for representatives of other Latin American peasant movements that are also members of the Via Campesina. The MST also supports the development of the Latin American School of Agroecology. For the MST, the ultimate goal of this exchange process in agroecology is to promote food sovereignty and social justice.

• MST Maranhão – Base Organizing and Leadership Development: This project provides leadership training for 180 women and youth organizers in camps and settlements in the state of Maranhão. Grassroots has been funding the leadership training program since 2006. In the past few years, the number of families in camps awaiting settlement in Maranhão state has increased dramatically, in part because of the success of the MST’s efforts. Consequently, the need for training and educational development of an entire new cadre of camp leaders, particularly youth, has also increased.

• MST Pernambuco - Agroecology Project: This project aims to increase and diversify food production among families living in settlement areas by using sustainable and effective agricultural practices. Local families are joining hands with MST agronomy graduates from the Agroecology Training Project, to create an agroecological demonstration unit that will serve as a training ground for settlement residents. The techniques can also be replicated in other settlements. The Agroecology Project shows farmers that more crops can be produced at lower costs using sustainable methods than through costly and toxic chemical fertilizers and other inputs that are part of the industrial agricultural model.

• MST Pernambuco - Human Rights Training and Defense: Grassroots has supported various aspects of human rights monitoring, training and legal defense in Pernambuco over the last several years. Extreme disparities of wealth and land concentration have led to violence and human rights abuses by large landowners, particularly against land reform activists. Through this project, MST offers trainings for land activists about legal procedures and documentation of human rights abuses as well as legal assistance in cases against its members" (page 5-6).

Grassroots International, “2014 Partners and Projects Guide,” (Boston, 2014), 5-6, accessed June 1, 2014,

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