Peasant Families Nourishing the Next Generation, One School at a Time
By Saulo Araujo
March 20th, 2013
Peasant farmers from Brazil’s central plateau delivered more than three tons of fresh vegetables and homemade cakes, cookies and cheese to local schools last week. This was the first delivery as part of the National Program of School Meals (PNAE) and marks a significant step toward food sovereignty in a region threatened by the expansion of agro-fuels plantations and GMO seeds.
Spearheaded by Grassroots International partner, the Popular Peasant Movement (MCP), 40 families delivered the locally grown, organic food to local schools in Goiás state. And MCP families are already working in the next batch.
For over six years, Grassroots International has supported MCP efforts to protect their land and seeds rights through the Creole Seeds Project, an initiative that has served as an entry point for local organizing among peasant families. Using popular education techniques, MCP organizes small, hands-on experiments with local families to identify the most productive varieties of corn, sweet potatoes, cassava, rice and beans and compare those results to costly commercial seeds. The experiments’ results demonstrate that peasant farmers do not need to become dependent on commercial seeds and agrochemicals to farm successfully. With this realization, small farmers recognize their power to protect their way of life as peasants against the growing encroachment of transnational corporations on their land and food system.
In the last six years, MCP’s membership has grown to over 1,000 families from a small group of 15, and the organization is now branching out to three other states in Brazil. The Creole Seeds Project remains the driving force behind the growth of MCP. The 400 tons of creole seeds produced last year alone have generated new opportunities for local families to generate income, like the farm-to-school program.
For Edla Lopes, a MCP member, “the [Farm-to-School] initiative is very important for the peasant families, because it helps with their income. They now can make a living without needing to get a job elsewhere to earn extra cash. This is good, especially for peasant women. Many women can now earn their own income by marketing their products.”
According to MCP’s spokesperson, Marina Mendes, the participation of MCP families in the PNAE will guarantee the inclusion of fresh, locally produced foods in the school cafeterias that respect the local food habits. MCP’s vegetables, dairy and grains are produced using agroecological practices that are socially just and environment friendly. “It will allow the students – our children – to eat healthy foods so they can learn more and be exposed to good eating habits.”
The successes of MCP’s Creole Seed Project show that peasant families are not only feeding the world, but how they can feed the next generation with healthy foods, one school at a time.