“Sem-Terrinha”: Brazilian landless workers’ movement, children and food sovereignty

Founded 34 years ago, the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) is organized around three main objectives: Struggles for land, agrarian reform and for socialism. We are organized on several fronts; namely production, health, youth, culture, education and human rights. The participation of our children, the so-called “Sem-Terrinha” (Landless Children), within the organization has been present since the beginning in the first occupations, because we believe everyone should be involved in the collective struggles.
This conception led MST to develop over time activities with our children as protagonists. Some examples are: children’s “cirandas” (pedagogical spaces for development and care); gatherings of the “Sem-Terrinha”, the Journey of Struggles for rural schools, as well as publications such as the “Sem-Terrinha” newspaper and the “Sem Terrinha” Magazine.

Our most recent experience with the “Sem Terrinha” has been the Cultural Journey: entitled “Healthy Eating: A Right of All”, this Journey has taken place since 2015 and is at the heart of the debate on Popular Agrarian Reform. It involves children and adolescents in rural schools and encampment schools throughout the country. The main objectives of the Journey are:

  • To strengthen and disseminate different experiences from different regions on healthy eating and its relation with Popular Agrarian Reform;
  • To work together with families on the issue of food and food production in both settlements and encampments;
  • To contribute to the food education of landless families and to the general struggle for the right to adequate food free of pesticides.
  • To strengthen initiatives to reorganize school canteens;
  • To study and debate the relations between healthy eating, food sovereignty, agroecology, peasant agriculture and Popular Agrarian Reform;
  • To introduce, in elementary schools, the debate on agroecology and on practices of ecological agriculture;
  • To resume the debate on how the link between education, socially productive work and educational content needs to be guaranteed.

During the Journey hundreds of activities were carried out throughout the country – specific studies in schools on eating habits and food history, understanding what is produced in settlements and research on agro-eco-systems, workshops related to local cooking, field practices and agroecology experiences.
The founding elements of MST’s struggles were also present during the activities of the Journey, i.e., there were theatrical interventions, awareness campaigns, public hearings, marches seeking to denounce the use of pesticides and of transgenic seeds, as well as the monopoly and food standardization that has been imposed by transnational corporations and agribusiness.

During the Journey itself, substantial changes took place in the schools where the debate was promoted, abolishing the use of soft drinks and processed foods from school meals, introducing agroecological food produced in the settlements, starting vegetable gardens to supply schools and initiating a native seed bank. Educate for an understanding that eating is a political act! This is a great challenge that motivates our struggles! Fight and build a Popular Land Reform!