To combat “hunger pandemic” MST has donated more than 600 tons of food

Kelli Mafort, one of the movement’s leaders, reinforces the importance of solidarity in order to save lives

Translated by: Ítalo Piva

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo |
The "We'll Need Everybody" campaign, of which MST is a part of, has already donated more than 40,000 food baskets - Periferia Viva

The “We’ll Need Everybody” campaign, of which the Landless Workers Movement (MST) is a part, has already distributed more than 40,000 food baskets to poor neighborhoods. 

These deeds of solidarity spearheaded by social movements from all over the country since the start of the pandemic, beyond helping those most vulnerable in society during the quarantine, are also ways of denouncing the absence of good governance. 

Just like the Landless Workers Movement (MST), which has already donated more than 600 tons of food to poor families throughout the country, dozens of organizations that form the Brazil Popular Front and the People Without Fear Front, have shown the importance of caring for your fellow man, especially in such difficult times. 

In an interview with Brasil de Fato, Kelli Mafort from the MST national directorate, detailed the initiatives being undertaken and explained that amid the current price speculation of industrialized food products, Brazilians aren’t able to buy supplies, much less have access to healthy food. 

Beyond donations, entities like the Campanha Periferia Viva for example, are organizing communities in order to assist women victims of violence during social isolation, as well as guiding workers through the process of accessing the R$600 of emergency aid the government has made available. 

The MST member emphasizes the importance of continuous collaboration among the population with these solidarity initiatives. “People cannot give up. We very much need people to share and engage with these urgent actions of solidarity, because hunger doesn’t wait”. 

Read below some excerpts from the interview:

Brasil de Fato: How are these actions of solidarity in which MST is participating taking place?

Kelli Mafort: Solidarity is one of the fundamental pillars, a principle, common to all social movements. The bulk of it stems from deeds of solidarity between people in society, unions and other social movements. In the case of the Landless Workers Movement, which is nearing 37 years of existence, we have acted with solidarity since the first settlements. 

What MST does today is repay society with the solidarity we’ve received since the movement’s inception. This solidarity is needed in this difficult moment, in which we face not only a health pandemic, but a hunger pandemic as well. 

The pandemic here in Brazil is met with historic social inequalities, since the country’s founding, and are a result of a society that lived with slavery for more than 200 years, that has precarious working conditions due to the concentration of land. 

All this inequality in Brazil makes the virus even more deadly, in which health becomes a class privilege. The initiatives of solidarity we are helping to construct are organized under two main efforts. 

One is the “We’ll Need Everybody” campaign, headed by the Brazil Popular Front and the People Without Fear Front. It is present all over the country, with actions by the movements that comprise these fronts. They are different urban and rural organizations that are not only gathering food supplies, but also taking them to the ghettos.

On May 1st we published data showing that just by the “We’ll Need Everybody” campaign, 1.5 tons of food and 40,000 food baskets had been given to poor neighborhoods. 

Besides this, we have another initiative called “Periferia Viva”. It is also on the front lines of food distribution, but moreover, we are organizing the battle of ideas in the areas where our food is being given. 

We are also engaging in a very active process of fighting for people’s rights, so that more people may have access to the emergency aid available. Whether it’s distributing soup to those queued for long hours to get their money, or taking working computers to the ghettos to help people apply for this aid, we have lawyers and guidelines available, civil society is helping. 

Within this network, we have also established support mechanisms for those who are victims of domestic violence, which has sadly increased during this period of social isolation. We not only cater to women, but to children, teenagers, the elderly and the LGBTQ community, who are also suffering more violence due to the current circumstances. 

Periferia Viva has made lots of donations. As for MST, we have already distributed more than 600 tons of food coming from our encampments and settlements, given to those who need it most, especially those who are dying most. 

The virus has hit the country’s ghettos with force, and we are now seeing its proliferation in rural areas. This worries us a lot since there are many infrastructure issues when it comes to caring for people infected with covid-19. 

While the government is pushing for the reopening of businesses and easing social distancing measures for the sake of the economy, social movements are bringing forth a different perspective, which values life above profits. What does this mean for us in Brazil and for the post-pandemic society?

Our solidarity is quite different from the one practiced by corporations and the mainstream media, which is in fact, advertising for these companies. Free publicity. Some companies had the nerve to go on TV and announce that they are donating 10 tons of food, 500 food baskets, being that these are large enterprises who exploit people. These corporations could be giving a lot more. We barely hear news about donations coming from the agricultural sector, since they don’t actually produce food, they can’t donate anything. They are commodities made for export.  

Our solidarity is not just simply giving people handouts. We are not only distributing food. Alongside these donations, we are confronted with very concrete issues such as the struggle for housing, for land, for land reform. This is what we encounter in the ghettos. 

Surely, social movements will grow a lot after the pandemic since they are important references and are actually there, in poor areas, where the State only exists as an agent of repression. 

These deeds of solidarity will certainly translate into a larger process, that will organize the struggles that need to be addressed in Brazil. Solidarity tends to intensify, but it needs to be solidarity that also calls out the government. A government that repossesses people’s homes in the middle of a pandemic, like what happened last week in the state of São Paulo, when 50 families were kicked out of their homes. They woke up to the sounds of tractors rolling over their houses, destroying everything, at the behest of governor Doria. How are these people supposed to practice “staying home” when they are homeless? They were simply thrown out onto the street with no support. 

We are also assisting these families. This is solidarity with a hint of protest, in regards to the State’s abandonment and its genocidal policies, particularly the Federal government. 


Edited by: Rodrigo Chagas