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Working For and With the Land:

A Case Study of Agroecology in the MST Settlement


Mrtires de Abril

Joanna Kaiserman
University of San Francisco
Environmental Studies
Advisors:
Andr Carlos Rocha
Mercedes Zuliani
MST Coordinators
An Independent Study Project for
World Learning- School For International Training- Study Abroad
Brasil Amazon Resource Management and Human Ecology
Fall 2008 - Gustavo Negreiros, Ph.D. - Academic Director

Abstract
This paper discusses the practice of agroecology of MST members within the settlement of
Mrtires de Abril. Limited availability of land and nutrient-poor soils have forced those living in
the settlement to utilize agricultural methods that will improve the fertility of the soil and
maximize their production. The MST has promoted the use of agroecology as the most effective
means for achieving optimum sustainability of land, and therefore sustainability of agricultural
production and economic generation. Interviews were conducted with ten producers in the
settlement, three of which who were considered to be the true agroecological producers in the
settlement, and seven other community members who were chosen at random. Inquiries were
made about knowledge of agroecology, methods of cultivation, and interaction with others in the
settlement, the uses of goods produced, and the extent to which goods could alimentally and
economically sustain the producer. Agroecology has been introduced into Mrtires de Abril,
however the knowledge of agroecological philosophy and use of its practices is still developing.
All members of the settlement claim to be producing agroecologically, yet results from this study
show that non-agroecological practices are still being used. The presence of others in the
settlement that are no longer members of the MST is another factor limiting the complete
implementation of agroecology into the settlement. In order for the settlement to become a truly
agroecological community, there needs to be continued education of the philosophy and practices
of agroecology not just for MST members, but the entire community as well.
Resmo

Este artigo discute as prticas de agroecologia dos membros do MST no assentamento Mrtires
de Abril. Disponibilidade limitada de terras e solos pobres em nutrientes tm forado as pessoas
que vivem no assentamento de utilizar modos agrcolas que vo melhorar a fertilidade do solo e
maximizar a produo. O MST est promovido a utilizao da agroecologia como o modo mais
eficaz para o timo sustentabilidade da terra e, por conseguinte, a sustentabilidade da produo
agrcola e gerao econmica. As entrevistas foram realizadas com dez produtores do
assentamento: trs quem foram consideradas os produtores verdadeiros agroecolgica no
assentamento, e sete outros membros da comunidade que foram escolhidos aleatoriamente.
Foram realizados inquritos sobre conhecimentos de agroecologia, mtodos de cultivo, a
interao com outras pessoas no assentamento, as utilizaes dos bens produzidos, e em que
medida os bens poderia e sustentar o produtor. Agroecologia tem sido introduzida Mrtires de
Abril, porm o conhecimento duma filosofia agroecolgica e uso de suas prticas ainda est em
desenvolvimento. Todos os membros do assentamento pretendem ser agroecologically
produtoras, mas os resultados deste estudo mostram que as prticas non-agroecolgicas ainda
esto utilizado. A presena de outras pessoas no assentamento que no so membros do MST
um outro fator limitante a completa implementao da agroecologia no assentamento. Para que o
assentamento se torne uma verdadeira comunidade agroecolgica, preciso haver educao
continuada da filosofia e das prticas da agroecologia no s para o MST membros, mas toda a
comunidade tambm.Acknowledgements
I would like to thank my advisors Mercedes Zuliani and Andr Carlos Rocha for making this
project possible. To Mercedes for pointing me towards Mosqueiro and introducing me to To. To
Andr for expanding my limited knowledge of agroecology, helping me to develop the objective
of my research, and sharing his passion for the camponeses movement. To the members of
Mrtires de Abril who had the patience to sit down with me, even though I know they are
constantly being asked for interviews: thank you for sharing your agricultural experiences, your
beautiful lotes and inspiring words of hope for a more ecologically sustainable future. Lastly, I
would like to give my warmest thanks to To Nunes and Mamede de Oliveira, the militantes of
Mrtires de Abril whose incredible hospitality and generosity I will forever be grateful for.
Reconhecimentos
Gostaria de agradecer meus conselhores Mercedes Zuliani e Carlos Andr Rocha para seus ajuda
com meu projeto. Sem eles, no poderia possvel. Obrigada Mercedes para me introduzirem
Mosqueiro e a To, e obrigada Andr para expandir o meu conhecimento limitado de
agroecologia, me ajudando a desenvolvimento do objetivo da minha investigao, e partilhar a
sua paixo pelo movimento campons. Pelo povo de Mrtires de Abril que teve a pacincia de se
sentar comigo, apesar de eu saber que eles esto a ser constantemente solicitado para entrevistas:
muito obrigado por compartilhar suas experincias agrcolas, a sua bela lotes e palavras
inspiradoras de esperana para um futuro mais ecologicamente sustentvel. Finalmente, gostaria
de dar os meus agradecimentos mais calorosos ao To e Mamede, os militantes do Mrtires de
Abril cujo incrvel hospitalidade e generosidade vou ser eternamente grato. Muito obrigada por
compartilhando seus conhecimentos comigo, para as deliciosas refeies, e uma experincia

inesquecvel. Seu LAPO uma verdade inspirao para um futuro de esperana e harmonia com
a terra.

Table of Contents
Introduction.1
Challenges of agriculture in the Amazon region.1
History of agriculture in the Amazon..2
Agroecology and the MST..3
Definition of agricultural sustainability..4
Background of case study site4

Objectives....5

Methodology....5
Defining area to be researched5
Research methods used...5

Results..6
Knowledge of agroecology within the settlement...6
Interview responses.6
Figure 1. Displaying results....9

Discussion10
Assessment of Agroecological practices10

Conclusion...11

Appendix.12

Works Cited13

I. Introduction
The right to own land on which to live and produce is an inherent right that all should be entitled
to. However, the deep social inequalities that exist in Brazil prevent many from realizing this
right. Largely controlled by wealthy landowners, more than 50 percent of the nations
agricultural land lies in the hands of just 4 percent of landowners (Wright & Wolford, xv).
Significant agrarian reform is needed if Brazil is to overcome this unequal distribution of land.
The MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem-Terra), Brazils Landless Rural Workers
Movement is at the forefront of the campaign to generate national agrarian reform and create
social change. The MST works to create large-scale reform by starting at the base level of
securing land for individuals who do not have land on which to produce and survive.
Since the movement began in the mid 1980s, the MST has succeeded in influencing the
Brazilian government to redistribute over twenty million acres of agricultural land to 350, 000
families, providing these families with the opportunity to create a livelihood from themselves off
the land. The basic goals of the MST formulated by the delegates of the first national meeting of
the MST which are still used as the official guidelines today are: a) to maintain a broadly
inclusive movement of the rural poor in order; b) to achieve agrarian reform; c) to promote the
principle that the land belongs to those who work on it and live from it; and d) make it possible
to have a just, fraternal society and put an end to capitalism (Wright & Wolford, 75). With this
overarching goal of lasting social reform, it is clear that the obtainment of land for individuals on
which to produce is only the first step. Once individuals obtain land, it is essential that they learn
how to utilize their land in a manner that will ensure its effective and sustained productivity. The
land is a foundation for all future prosperity for themselves and the movement, and therefore the
ability of the people to successfully use the land they have gained is vital to the success of the
MST as a whole.
The land is only the first part, yet it is also the most essential part of the movement. Providing
alimental sustenance as well as economic potential, land is the basis for human survival. In order
for life to be sustained, the inherent connection between the well being of the producing land and
the well being of the consuming being must be recognized. This is especially important for
members of the MST, who work toward the fundamental goal of obtaining land for which to
sustain themselves, to understand. If the farmers of the MST fail to sustain their land, losing it to
environmental degradation or lack of self-sufficiency, everything the movement has worked to
achieve will also be lost. Therefore, it is imperative for MST farmers to practice agricultural
methods that will ensure the continued productivity of the land.
Challenges of agriculture in the Amazon region
The MSTs vital dependence on sustainable agricultural production has made the northern region
of Brazil the most difficult area in the nation for the MST to mobilize in (Wright & Wolford,
107). The soil in the North, and particularly the Amazon region, is the most nutrient-poor in all
of Brazil (Rocha, personal interview). For this reason, slash and burn agriculture has been
practiced indigenous populations in the Amazon region for centuries to facilitate production in
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this area of low soil fertility. Native populations who had an abundance of land available to them
developed slash and burn agriculture as an effective and efficient means for crop cultivation. The
energetic efficiency of slash and burn agriculture is greater than any other form, producing the
greatest number of calories per unit of calorie invested (Moran, 61). The basic method of slash
and burn agriculture is to fell a section of forest, and allow the debris to dry until it will burn
well, and then burn everything without tilling. Then the ashes are left to fallow while the organic
nutrients in the ashes enrich the soil. During the first agricultural cycle, one or two fast-maturing
staple crops such as rice, beans, corn, or manioc are planted. After the yields from this first cycle
fall, the area is once again abandoned to allow for the secondary forest to grow. Depending on
the nutrient level of the soil, this secondary forest must be left to fallow for 7 to 20 years before
the next slash and burn cycle can occur. Eventually, after several cycles, and if allowed to fallow
properly, the nutrients in the soil will stabilize or even increase. Providing that the agricultural
capacity of the land is not exceeded, the slash and burn method of cultivation is a sustainable
low-input form of agriculture which can continue on indefinitely in the infertile soils underlying
most tropical rain forest (Whitmore, 157).
Although slash and burn agriculture can initially increase fertility when allowed the proper
amount of time for the regeneration of nutrients to occur, it still destructive to the land. In the
Amazon region, where there is a growing pressure to preserve forests and reduced deforestation,
slash and burn agriculture can prove to be counterproductive. For this reason, other techniques
are now being explored in order to find the most sustainable way of cultivation in Amazonian
soils that can both increase fertility and reduce the forest destructive forms of agriculture, such as
those practiced by indigenous farmers.
History of agriculture in the Amazon
For thousands of years prior to the invasion of Brazil by the Europeans, indigenous populations
lived and produced in harmony with nature. They utilized four main methods for surviving off
the land: fishing; hunting; collecting fruits, roots, leaves and grains; and cultivating manioc and
corn. Their agriculture was produced cooperatively and with great diversity, collectively
cultivating herbs, vegetables, fruits, legumes, along with the raising of cattle (Rocha, personal
interview). Considering the vast amount of land available and the relatively small size of the
populations, these methods were a sustainable means for existence. However, during the
indigenous massacres of the mid 17th century the majority of these rich collective farms were
seized by the colonists and replaced with latifundia. Mainly created for sugar cane production,
large-scale plantations marked the first introduction of industrial agriculture to the region.
Industrial agriculture, as it still exists today possesses five main characteristics: a high
concentration of production on large plots of land; low-wage or slave labor; dependence on
industrial technology, chemical fertilizers and insecticides; monoculture cultivation; and
production for exportation rather than local sustenance (Instituto Giramundo Mutuando, 5). This
type of production is heavily taxing on the natural environment and detrimental the local
economy. The practice of monocropping disrupts natural ecological cycles of the land by
eliminating the vital interdependence of different plant species for nutrients, as well as
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preventing the natural rotation and succession of species that protects plants from pests and
disease. Chemical fertilizers and insecticides degrade the natural composition of the soil, and
eventually lead to a dependence on these products that continue to poison the soil until the land
is eventually rendered useless. Besides the degradation suffered by the land, industrial
agricultures concentration on export production also causes a degradation of the local economy,
as resources are used to sustain foreign export instead of the wellbeing of the local community.
As it has done in the Amazon, large-scale agribusiness eventually comes to dominate agricultural
production, forcing small-scale farmers to enter into the same model, and as a result many
peasant farmers have suffered.
Agroecology and the MST
It is apparent that an alternative form of agriculture is required in order for small-scale farmers to
be successful, which has led the MST to promote the practice of agroecology within its
communities. Agroecology provides the knowledge and methodology necessary for developing a
system of agriculture that is environmentally sound, highly productive, and economically viable.
The basic philosophy behind agroecology is based on the understanding of the interdependent
relationship between human beings and nature. The manifestation of this philosophy is the
science of agroecology that promotes a method of agricultural production that is adapted to and
works with the natural ecology of the land (Instituto Giramundo Mutuando, 9). Agroecology is a
return to the traditional approach of agriculture, using knowledge of the surrounding ecosystem
to develop a method of cultivation that is both productive and non-detrimental to the
environment. Although conventional agriculture is initially more productive, agroecology
eventually leads to a more and more productive agricultural system because it doesnt kill off
helpful insect species, and promotes a diverse polyculture that mimics the natural ecology of the
land. The following is a set of principles adapted from Manuel Altieris definition of agroecology
in Agroecology: The Science of Sustainable Agriculture. According to this definition,
agroecological systems adhere to the following set of principles:
1. Minimize the use of external, non-renewable inputs
2. Enhance soil fertility and control pests through the use of local, renewable resources
3. Help facilitate the recycling of biomass and nutrients within the agroecosystem
4. Promote beneficial symbiotic interactions between different plant species
5. Integrate livestock production into the agricultural system
6. Optimize the use of products to alimentally and economically support the producers
7. Promote communal agriculture and social cohesion within community
These principles can be applied by way of various techniques and strategies, depending on the
local ecosystem. The ultimate goal of agroecological design is to integrate components so that
overall biological efficiency is improved, biodiversity is preserved, and the agroecosystem
productivity and its self-sustaining capacity is maintained. Agroecology is also more
economically sustainable because it is concentrated on providing for the cultivators and to the
local population to whom they sell.

Definition of agricultural sustainability


According to the MSTs Association of Alternative Agriculture Projects at the Giramundo
Mutuando Institute, the adoption of agroecological strategies can greatly increase the
sustainability of MST settlements (Instituto Giramundo Mutuando, 3). In order for this to be true,
the terms of what sustainability is must be addressed. According to the Institute, sustainability of
a community is the product of the following components:
Long-term maintenance of ecological conditions of production and the productivity of
agro-ecosystem.
Minimization of negative impacts to the environment
Adequate economic and social return to the families
Optimization of production with a minimum of external inputs
Generation of sufficient food and income to meet the needs of the people
Attending to the social and cultural needs of the families in the community
Background of case study site
The MST settlement of Mrtires de Abril on the island of Mosqueiro in the northern Brazilian
state of Para is a community where the use of alternative agriculture is a necessity for
production. The first challenge to cultivation there is the limited amount of land available to
work on. Each family is given about 3.6 hectares, and often times only a fraction of the land is
viable for agricultural use (Pettinelli 2004). With this limited access to land, the use of slash and
burn agriculture is not a viable option for the residents of Mrtires de Abril. They do not have
sufficient land area to allow part of the land to fallow properly while subsist off the production of
another part of the land. Furthermore, the original condition of the land is so deficient in
nutrients the farmers cannot afford to lose the 70% of initial nutrients that is lost through the first
cycle of slash and burn (Tipitamba Project flyer). The land of the settlement suffered great
degradation from its previous owners. The use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and
monoculture cultivation heavily degraded the nutrient levels of the soil and prevented the regrowth of many native species. About 30 to 50% of the land was used for large-scale coconut
production, 30 to 40% for unselective timber extraction, and 10-15% for mineral and sand
extraction. Before the MST began settling the land in 1999, it had been left deserted and unused
for ten years (Pettinelli 2004). The settlers were and still are faced with the challenge of
maximizing the productivity of this land whose fertility was so greatly depleted by its former
use. In 2002, the Federal University of Para in partnership with other research institutions and
organizations implemented a project for alternative agriculture in the settlement. The project
included the planting of permanent trees such as aa, fast-growing fruits such as maracuj, and
the introduction of chicken raising. The intention of this project was to establish a system that
would help the community produce in a way that is both environmentally and economically
sustainable. Although not necessarily an agroecological model, this project helped to lay the
foundation for the potential implementation of agroecology into the community of Mrtires de
Abril as solution for improving the productivity and sustainability of the land.

II. Objectives
The main objective of this research is to evaluate the practice of agroecology within the MST
settlement of Mrtires de Abril. Using the definitions of agroecology and sustainability outlined
above this study will:
- Identify the current practices of agroecology within the settlement
-Evaluate the ability of agroecology to sustain the settlement of Mrtires de Abril
From the findings of this case study, an assessment will be made of the potential of agroecology
to sustain the greater MST movement.

III. Methodology
Defining area to be researched
When Mrtires de Abril was established in 1999, there were 91 original families. However, in
2005 after some minor disputes over conflicting interests, many families left the MST but
remained living in the community. Today there are only 35 families living in the settlement that
are affiliated with the MST (Rocha, personal interview). For the purposes of this study, which is
concerned with studying the MST, the term settlement in this report is used to indicate the
community of inhabitants that are currently members of the MST.
Research methods used
The research methods used to gather data were interviews and observation. Interviews were
conducted with 10 families within the settlement. The interviews were often conducted
concurrently with more than one family member as opposed to individuals to obtain a more
accurate interpretation of the familiar nature of production of those in the settlement. The
intention of the interviews was to understand: 1) the knowledge of agroecological principles; 2)
how individuals were introduced to agroecology; 3) what methods of agroecology are being
utilized; 4) future plans for production. Three of the interview subjects were chosen intentionally
with the prior knowledge that they were considered to be the three families in the settlement who
practice agroecology. The other seven interviews were conducted with other members of the
settlement chosen at random. Interviewees were asked about their personal knowledge of
agroecology, what goods they cultivate, methods of cultivation, uses of the goods produced,
involvement in community production, and their agricultural plans for the future (See Appendix).
Along with the interviews, observations of the members lotes, or areas of production, were
made. Methods of cultivation were observed, and photos taken to document the findings of the
use of agroecological practices (See Appendix 2).

IV. Results
Knowledge of agroecology within the settlement
When the settlement was first established, all members of the settlement attended informational
courses about agriculture, during which the principles of agroecology were introduced. In
accordance with the MSTs mission, all members of the settlement agreed to not use agro-toxins
in their agricultural production, guaranteeing that all production within the settlement would be
organic. Although refraining from chemical fertilizer and pesticide use is an important principle
of agroecology, this was the only principle of agroecology that was assured to be implemented
throughout the settlement. There are currently three families in the settlement that are considered
to be agroecological producers, meaning that they have an active interest and knowledge of
agroecology and are consciously utilizing agroecological practices to their greatest possible
extent. Several members have attended agroecology courses outside the settlement and then
returned to the settlement to teach the principles of agroecology.
Interview responses
The majority of people interviewed first encountered the term agroecology in the courses held
by the MST at the initiation of the settlement in 1999. Others had heard of the term from
television programs. When asked what the term agroecology meant to them, all responded that it
meant to produce organically, without the use of agro-toxins, and using alternative cultivation
techniques instead of slash and burn. Other responses included participating in reforestation,
working with the ecology of the land, saving and re-using ones own seeds, and the sharing of
produce. Since all the members of the settlement interviewed claimed to be practicing
agroecology, they were asked why they use agroecology. The reasons given were that it is
healthier for their families and for the land, it works well with the climate, it enhances the
productivity of the land, increases the longevity of plants, and the organic produce generates
more money in the market. When asked what their plans are for future production, all said that
they planned to continue cultivating in the same manner they currently are, but constantly
improving their methods to become more productive. For some this meant an intention to
actively seek out ways to make their production more environmentally sustainable, and for others
their primary concern is to become more economically productive. Many mentioned the desire to
acquire a machine for pulping aa so they could begin to sell the aa they produce. Others
desired a greater access to transportation to take their goods to sell in the outside market.
At the end of this year, a project similar to the one introduced in 2002 will be implemented into
the settlement, and all the families interviewed mentioned this when talking of plans for the
future. The project will help to facilitate the implement horticulture and raising of fish, pork, and
chickens into the lotes of those members of the community who desire it. Receiving these
resources is free, but those who want them implemented must first attend 40 hours of
informational courses. All those interviewed have hope that the project will help to improve their
production quantity and economic prospects.

Responses from the following quantitative interview questions are displayed in Figure 1.:
What do you cultivate?
How do you plant your crops?
How do you fertilize and enrich the soil?
What do you do with your products? If the products are sold, where do you sell them?
Are the goods produced sufficient to feed your family? What other goods do you need to
buy on a regular basis?
Who works with you in your lote? Do you work with others in the community?
The specific categories outlined and terms used to represent the responses received have been
defined below:
Goods cultivated: Goods produced are divided into five different categories to indicate the use of
a variety of production that is essential to the agroecological model. What goods are cultivated
by an individual is defined by whether or not the production of goods within a certain category is
significant. A significant amount of cultivation is here defined as producing enough to be used
for selling, feeding their family, or both. Below is a description of each category in relation to
how it is cultivated in the settlement, why each is important to the agroecological model, and
examples of each type commonly produced within the settlement.
Permanent plants: Perennial woody plants that produce fruit. Normally grow and produce after a
longer time than other plants, but provide valuable shade for undergrowth. Ex: aa, coconut,
bacur, acerola, lime, orange, jackfruit.
Non-permanent fruits: these are fast-growing plants that begin to produce before permanent
plants, therefore providing a source of income and alimentation while other plants grow.
Horticulture: Vegetables, used primarily for personal consumption or selling within the
settlement. Ex: lettuce, cabbage, cilantro, potatoes, beans.
Manioc: Fast-growing annual crop used extensively for a variety of foods including farinha and
tapioca.
Livestock: Animals used for meat, eggs, and manure, providing a source of food, income, and
organic fertilizer. Ex: chickens, ducks, pigs.
Method of planting: This category refers specifically to the manner in which plants are planted
in the lotes of production. Essential to the practice of agroecology is the interplanting of plants,
or polyculture.
Interplanting: Intentionally planting crops together to maximize their symbiotic relationships.
Monoculture: Cultivating one crop in a single area
Enrichment of Soil: There are several important aspects of agroecology concerning how soil is
enriched. These techniques used by individuals in the settlement are defined below:
Compost: A mixture of organic waste from decaying plants and decomposing fruits and
vegetables. Spread or mixed in to enhance the soil. Since no one in the settlement uses

chemicals, all compost is organic.


Adubo: Waste from organically fed livestock, used as soil fertilizer. Since not everyone in the
settlement had livestock to produce their own manure, many acquire it from neighbors or
purchase it from the outside the settlement. Since the use of manure personally produced or
produced within the community is an indicator of agroecology, the distinction is made in the
table below of where the adubo is acquired.
Natural covering: Grasses, cuttings of plants, fallen leaves, and other naturally occurring plant
matter that covers the ground. When left on the ground, helps to maintain soil moisture and to
deposit nutrients into the soil. Use of this term in the table below indicates that the producer was
consciously leaving these coverings on the ground.
Planting of legumes: Plants with roots that bear nodules containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria,
essential to maintaining the fertility in nitrogen-poor soils. Indicates that the producer
consciously intermixed legumes when planting to enrich the soil.
Use of goods produced: According to an agroecological model, the primary use of the fruits of
production should be to alimentally sustain the producer. The second essential use of products is
to generate economic income. Ideally, the vending and exchange of products should be done
within the community to help maintain the alimental and economic needs of the community.
Indicated below is what was done with the goods produced, whether or not it was consumed by
the family, or sold, and if so where the goods were being sold. A distinction is made between
whether the goods are sold or exchanged within the settlement or outside the settlement.
Basic foodstuffs not produced: With the agroecological ideal that a community should be able to
sustain itself alimentally and economically, are sustained by your community, either your own
production or the production of others within the community. The term basic foodstuffs refers
to those alimental goods considered essential to the individuals interviewed. Below, not
produced indicates these basic foodstuffs not regularly grown by the individual nor acquired
within the settlement, and therefore are purchased from an outside market.
Nature of work: It is essential in an agroecological community for the members to work
collectively, sharing the labor of cultivation as well as sharing knowledge of agricultural
techniques to improve the overall production of the community. Two methods of labor included
in the table are defined below.
Familial: the labor of cultivation is shared by members of the family, or by both spouses.
Communal: work is shared among other members of the community, and as a result share
knowledge of cultivation techniques as well as sharing the fruits of production with each other.
For this settlement, communal agriculture is referred to as troca de dia, where farmers take turns
working on each others lotes. Participation in this troca de dia is indicated by the term
communal in the Figure 1.
Figure 1. Results of quantitative interview questions

Producer

What is
cultivated

Method of
planting

How soil is
enriched

Use of products

Basic
foodstuffs not
produced

Nature of
work

-Permanent plants
-NonPermanent fruits

-Interplanting

-Compost
-Adubo from
settlement

-Sold outside the


settlement
-Some fruits consumed
by family

-Everything

-Familial

-Permanent plants
-Legumes
-Livestock

-Interplanting

-Compost
-Natural
coverings
-Adubo from
own chickens
-Legumes
intermixed

-Sold outside the


settlement
-Exchanged and sold
within the settlement
-Consumed by family

-Rice
-Sugar
-Coffee
-Milk

-Familial
-Communal

-Permanent plants
-Manioc
-Legumes

-Interplanting

-Compost
-Adubo from
settlement
-Legumes
intermixed

-Sold outside the


settlement
-Exchanged and sold
within the settlement
-Consumed by family

-Rice
-Sugar
-Coffee
-Milk

-Familial
-Communal

-Permanent plants
-Horticulture
-NonPermanent fruits

-Monoculture

-Compost
-Adubo from
outside
settlement

-Sold outside the


settlement
-Exchanged and sold
within the settlement
-Consumed by family

-Rice
-Sugar
-Coffee
-Milk
-Beans

-Familial
-Communal

-Permanent plants
-Non-permanent
fruits
-Horticulture

-Interplanting
-Planting in
rows

-Compost
-Adubo from
settlement
-Legumes
intermixed

-Sold outside the


settlement
-Exchanged and sold
within the settlement
-Consumed by family

-Rice
-Sugar
-Coffee
-Milk
-Beans

-Familial
-Communal

-Permanent plants
-Manioc
-Horticulture
-Legumes

-Interplanting

-Compost
-Adubo from
settlement
-Legumes
intermixed

-Macaxeira sold outside


the settlement
-Exchanged and sold
within the settlement
-Consumed by family

-Rice
-Sugar
-Coffee
-Milk

-Familial
-Communal

-Permanent plants
-Horticulture
-Manioc

-Interplanting

-Compost
-Adubo from
settlement
-Legumes
intermixed

-Everything consumed by
family

-Rice
-Sugar
-Coffee
-Milk

-Individual

-Permanent plants
-Non-permanent
fruits
-Manioc

-Interplanting

-Compost
-Adubo from
settlement

-Sold outside the


settlement
-Exchanged and sold
within the settlement
-Consumed by family

-Rice
-Sugar
-Coffee
-Milk

-Familial
-Communal

-Permanent plants
-Non-permanent
fruits

-Interplanting

-Compost
-Adubo from
settlement

-Coco and artisan crafts


made from materials on
property sold within the
settlement, surrounding
community
-Consumed by family

-Rice
-Sugar
-Coffee
-Milk

-Familial

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-Permanent plants
-Non-permanent
fruits
-Horticulture
-Manioc
-Honey production

-Interplanting

-Compost
-Natural
coverings
-Adubo from
own ducks
-Legumes
intermixed

-Sold outside the


settlement
-Exchanged and sold
within the settlement
-Consumed by family

-Rice
-Sugar
-Coffee
-Milk

-Familial
-Communal

V. Discussion
Assessment of Agroecological practices
In order to assess the extent to which agroecological practices are being used in Mrtires de
Abril, the principles of an agroecological production system previously outlined in the
introduction will be used. For each component, its observance in the settlement is discussed:
1. Minimize the use of external, non-renewable inputs: All members of the community use
compost and manure produced within the settlement, and refrain from using any chemicals
in their production. However, the others living in the settlement that are not members of
the MST do not guarantee that they will not use chemicals. As a result, the lotes of MST
members can potentially become contaminated by chemicals used in neighboring lotes.
The preservation and re-use of traditional seeds is a common practice, yet some seeds are
bought outside the settlement.
2. Enhance soil fertility and control pests through the use of local, renewable resources:
Everyone in the settlement uses chemical-free fertilizers and pesticides, but the same
concern of potential intrusion of chemicals used in nearby land explained above hinders
the complete elimination of agro-toxins. Compost and manure from their own farms or
those of others in the settlement is used.
3. Help facilitate the recycling of biomass and nutrients within the agroecosystem: The
intentional use of cover crops is used by some, planting stands of legumes or other annual
plant species that when are cut or naturally fall to the ground, improve soil fertility and
help to modify the microclimate.
4. Promote beneficial symbiotic interactions between different plant species: The majority of
the settlement cultivates using a polycultural technique that mimics the naturally integrated

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nature of the lands ecology. Agroforestry, or the planting of trees together with annual
crops is also a common practice. However, some members of the settlement are using a
monoculture method of crop production, intentionally planting different crops in different
areas.
5. Integrate livestock production into the agricultural system: Several of the community
members are already raising chickens, ducks, and pigs. These animals are used to eat, to
generate income at the market, and to produce manure used in agriculture. After the new
project is implemented, livestock integration should greatly increase, with the
implementation of more chickens, pigs, and introduction of fish into the agriculture of the
settlement.
6. Optimize the use of products to alimentally and economically support the producers: The
majority of the settlement receives its main subsistence from goods produced within the
settlement, yet everyone in the settlement is forced to purchases rice, sugar, coffee and
milk outside the settlement because they cannot be produced locally. For all the families
interviewed, the vending of their products was their primary source of income. Although
most felt it was sufficient to financially support their family, all expressed a desire to be
able to generate a greater economic income.
7. Promote communal agriculture: The sharing of labor, agricultural knowledge and the fruits
of production is a common practice in the settlement. For all the lotes visited, the
cultivation process was shared between family members. Most of the members
interviewed regularly participate in the troca de dia, to share knowledge of agricultural
techniques and what they are growing with their neighbors. Many commented that if they
were lacking a certain good, they would first look within the settlement to purchase or
exchange.

VI. Conclusion
There are several factors limiting the complete implementation of agroecology into the
settlement of Mrtires de Abril. The primary barrier is the presence of non-MST members living
within the settlement. Although there are little to no social consequences of this, the divide
between community members of both personal and agricultural ideologies prevents the
settlement from becoming a successfully cohesive unit. However, the lack of involvement in
agroecological practices is not only limited to non-MST residents. The main causes of this are a
lack of knowledge about agroecological principals, and the unwillingness to change their
traditional farming practices. In order for agroecology to effectively help to sustain the success of
the MST, a greater education and implementation of agroecology into MST settlements needs to
be achieved. If everyone within the settlements can utilize the principles of agroecology, there is
the potential for the settlements to be self-sustained, allowing the people of the MST to
alimentally and economically survive off their land well into the future.

Appendix
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Interview questions:
1. Qual foi a primeira vez voc conheceu agroecologia?
2. O que agroecologia significa para voc?
3. Por que voc usa agroecologia?
4. O que voce cultiva?
5. Como voc planta?
6. Como voc alimenta o solo?
7. O que voc fez com os produtos? Se vende, onde voc vende?
8. Os produtos so suficientes para alimentar sua famlia? Que mais precisa comprar for a do
assentamento?
9. Quem trabalha em seu lote? Voc trabalha com outras no assentamento?
10. Quais so seus planos para produo no futuro?
Translation of interview questions:
1. How did you first learn of agroecology?
2. What does agroecology mean to you?
3. Why do you use agroecology?
4. What do you cultivate?
5. How do you plant your crops?
6. How do you fertilize and enrich the soil?
7. What do you do with your products? If the products are sold, where do you sell them?
8. Are the goods produced sufficient to feed your family? What other goods do you need to
buy on a regular basis?
9. Who works with you in your lote? Do you work with others in the community?
10. What are your plans for production in the future?

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11.

Works Cited

Altieri, Manuel A. Agroecology: The Science of Sustainable Agriculture. Westview Press:


Boulder, 1995.
Instituto Giramundo Mutuando. Agroecologia: Notas Introdutrias e Analise de
Agroecoecossistemas. Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, Assessorial e
Services a Projetos em Agricultura Alternativa. 2nd Ed. July 2008.
Moran, Emilio F. Through Amazonian Eyes: The Human Ecology of Amazonian Populations.
University of Iowa Press: Iowa City, 1993.
Nunes, Tofila and Mamede de Oliveira. Personal Interview. 21 November 2008.
Pettinelli, Karen. The MST, Agriculture, Sustainability, and Individual Empowerment.
Independent Study Project, 2004.
Rocha, Andr Carlos. Personal Interview. 11 November 2008.
Tipitamba Project Flyer
Whitmore, T.C. An Introduction to Tropical Rain Forests. Oxford University Press: Oxford,
1999.
Wright, Angus and Wendy Wolford. To Inherit the Earth: The Landless Movement and the
Struggle for a New Brazil. Food First Books: New York, 2003. p.xiii.

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ISP Comments
I came to Brazil wanting to learn more about the MST and about current agricultural practices in
the Amazon region. As the program progressed I was exposed to so many interesting
organizations, movements, and people. In So Franisco, the Tipitamba project captured my
interest and I thought I had found my area of study, but then we got on the boat where I was soon
captivated by the river and the people living in the ribeirinho communities. Then there was
Santarm and the LBA project, and then finally to the South of Par to have the incredible
opportunity of staying in a settlement of the MST. By the time we were back in Belm and
supposed to have a clear topic, I had gone through so many possibilities of potential ones in my
mind, yet I ended up back where I had started again with agriculture and the MST.
After talking with Gustavo and meeting with my advisors whom he put me in contact with, I was
able to decide on the topic researching agroecology within the MST. I was really inspired by the
people of the MST, especially To and Mamede, the militante couple I had the privilege of
staying with in Mrtires de Abril who shared with me their extensive knowledge about the
philosophy of agroecology. My topic proved to be more difficult to research than I had originally
thought given the somewhat ambiguous nature of a term such as agroecology. It was an
interesting to talk to members of the settlement about their farming methods and get their
opinion about what agroecology means to them, and then to visit the lotes of production and
observe how cultivation was being performed. In the end, I learned a lot about alternative
agriculture techniques and the lives of MST produtores, which was the most valuable knowledge
to me. The best advice I can give when it comes to figuring out your ISP is a quote I heard from
a Brazilian: dont stress, because everything will work out in the end. Be open to all the new
things you exposed to along the way, but always keep your own passions and interests in the
forefront of your mind. If you do this and pursue a topic that has meaning to you, all will
eventually fall into place and the instead of feeling like work, your ISP will be a truly enjoyable
and eye-opening experience.

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