A better world is possible



This episode revolves around the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, sponsored by FAO and held in March 2006 in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, birthplace of the World Social Forum.

From various perspectives we focus on the challenges provided by the natural resource earth. We analyse such fundamental aspects as gender, indiginous communities, farmers without land, access to education and to technological resources, and environmental sustainability.

During the FAO conference, various social organisations presented the World Campaign Against Rural Violence. We will hear the testimony of some of the survivors of the massacres of farmers.



Voice over:

Flying over the Brazilian state of Río Grande do Sul, we were on our way to its capital, Porto Alegre, the birthplace of the World Social Forums, to attend the Second International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, sponsored by the FAO and the Brazilian government, and held in March of 2006.

It certainly felt as if the idea of the fight for land and natural resources was spreading around the planet like a benign breeze, and we understood that the concepts of agrarian reform and food sovereignty, abstract and far removed from our daily lives, was an every day reality which is part of a new, universal language: the language of the earth.

Miguel Sarango – CONAIE, Ecuador (World Social Forum – Caracas):

The culture of the land? Well, the topic of the culture of the land… we consider it literally as our lives. We call it the Pacha Mama, which over the centuries has given us our lives, our health.

Voice over (Rome, June 2005) (FAO headquarters, United Nations):

This is the story of a journey composed of different times, space and memories, all of which form part of an itinerary towards the future… and hope.

Parviz Koohafkan – Director of Rural Development Division, FAO:

The idea came up in the committee for agriculture, of the FAO, to propose an international conference on agrarian reform and rural development, and the countries who were especially interested in the FAO organising this gathering were Brazil, along with some others, but the final decision was made unanimously.

Miguel Rosseto – Minister of Agrarian Development, Brazil (International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development):

The decision of the United Nations for agriculture and food production, the FAO, to hold this conference in Brazil, is an honour for us.

Paolo Groppo (Analyst of land possession systems, FAO):

I think it’s important to explain, as another interesting point, why this conference will be interesting and complicated.

The decades of agrarian reform in Latin America and other places were simply programmes against the big plantations. Nowadays, there are many more key words which form part of the laws and the vocabulary of everyone. Environmental sustainability, the gender dimension, the indigenous dimension, the rural, the urban… Whether we like it or not, we are going to have to confront several topics, without a pre-established agenda against it, and with a willingness, which has already been expressed by my director, to create paths of dialogue around the search for new paradigms.

Miguel Rosseto:

The first FAO International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, held in Rome in 1979, ended with the issuing of a document called THE LETTER OF THE FARMER. 27 years later, it is still an impressive document. In it, agrarian reform is said to be a decisive factor in rural development. It defends a more just distribution of, and access to land, water, and other natural resources, the protection of women’s rights, food security, environmental protection, the eradication of misery and a more just distribution of the benefits of progress.

Unfortunately, the years following its publication did not see its generosity transferred to reality.

Man with green cap, 4:51:

We have come to Brazil because we have been meeting with many of the world’s countries to find solutions to agriculture, to local fishing, and to many of the rural workers who have been forgotten by many international and national governments around the world.

Miguel Rosseto:

Equality, democracy and justice, Mr. President, were also the lifelong goals of Josué de Castro. This conference is dedicated to the memory of Josué, to the writer, to the politician, to the humanist, to the Brazilian scientist, who confronted the plantations, defended agrarian reform, demystified hunger as a biological phenomenon, unmasked the theories that attributed the misery of poor countries to the race of its people or to the climate of its land.

Jacques Diouf – Director-General of FAO:

There are also fundamental factors within agricultural production such as storage means, processing means and transformation means which allows for the necessary added value to increase the income of farmers.

But if we continue to NOT invest in the sector which provides food, which provides income for the poor of the world, for the hungry, we are NOT going to reach our objectives. Thank you.

Voice over:

In the travelogue of this voyage, there are inevitably pages dedicated to one of the major ports of call: the city of Valencia, in Spain, where in December of 2004, civil society organised the World Forum on Agrarian Reform. The seeds were thus planted, and the idea has since thrived.

Sergio Leite - Professor, Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro University, Brazil (Pontificia Catholic University, Porto Alegre):

I think that if we take the Forum on Agrarian Reform celebrated in 2004 in Valencia, if we take the sessions held on agrarian reform in the Social Forums around the world, the Forum of Porto Alegre, the Forum of Venezuela in Caracas, then we can see an accumulation of experience, an accumulation of alliances, together with the strengthening of farmer organisations at an international level, international workers groups, then maybe we’ve built up enough weight for this second FAO conference to have its place, its legitimacy.

Voice over:

For farmers to stop being invisible, one of the pending programmes in the rural world is the eradication of illiteracy along with increasing rural access to education, information and to technological resources.

As part of this campaign, the NGO Action Aid, together with the FAO, have launched an internet web site, “landtenure.info”, a window of opportunity, open to the future.

Francisco Sarmiento – Action Aid International (FAO Headquarters):

Our experience of the last 15 years clearly indicates a need to improve access to information. And the problem, as you can imagine, is enormous, not only because the information isn’t available, but because there aren’t the means necessary to access what little information is currently available.

Egidio Brunetto – MST leader, Brazil (Pontificia Catholic University, Porto Alegre):

And there’s an organised movement for the struggle for land on all continents. And I think the debate on agricultural land usage has been reopened in Europe, too. And there’s a higher level of communication and solidarity among these organisations. The fight against repression, I think that’s gaining ground. These are all, I think, important steps for democracy.

Voice over:

Half way through the government sponsored conference, amid profound debates and reflection, a parallel conference organised by civil society was presenting one of the most moving and representative of platforms, The Global Campaign against Rural Violence.

Lesbia Solórzano – CANEZ leader (Pontificia Catholic University, Porto Alegre):

Well, so far ten farmers have been killed.

Interviewer: Oh, no…

When I came here, 6 had been killed. And I’ve been worried, very worried… because…

Interviewer: That’s a full blown offensive, isn’t it?

Yes, and I say that… there’s no turning back, we’re after the big plantations.

Female speaker at podium, green top, 10:15:

Violence camouflages impunity, murder, hunger, slave labour, and many other things.

Alberto Broch – Vice President of CONTAG, Brazil (Pontificia Catholic University, Porto Alegre):

What is it that we want with this campaign? We want to make public opinion in Brazil and around the world more sensitive, because we want to put an end to this shameful situation.

We don’t want to discuss rural violence only when people like sister Dorothy die. There were 29 victims last year, our colleagues from Para. Among them were 6 union leaders murdered in the state of Para, and from here I’d like to greet our widows, who are here and who have come from different parts of Brazil, victims of violence.

Leta Gomes Cavalcanti – Widow of Edvandro Cavalcanti (FETAG, Porto Alegre):

He was a young idealist, a lawyer, he was 37 years old, exercising his profession, defending worker’s rights, expropriating land. And he was murdered. I’ve been left with 4 small children, and it’s very hard to bring up our children.

Leonardo de León – Coordinator for the UITA Department of Agriculture, Uruguay:

In Para they are murdering people…

In Para they are killing the forests…

In Para, terror is paralysing the entire agrarian reform process…

In Para, impunity reigns…

In Para, how absurd the social exclusion.

Eduardo Buzzi – President of the Argentina Agrarian Federation:

Violence is an ancient theme. We could go back centuries. But in our country, one of the themes that I think is worth highlighting in these days, is that violence at one time was institutional, it took the form of a government. This Friday is the 30th anniversary of the most genocidal military coup that Argentina has ever seen. 30 years.

Vicent Garcés – President of CERAI:

We could say that… since the death of Emiliano Zapata, who was assassinated for defending agrarian reform in Mexico, for defending land and freedom, from that day to these moments we are living now, rural violence has been present in Latin America.

Voice over:

On the stage holding flowers are the mothers, the widows and the orphans of the victims murdered by death squads, and one can perceive the melancholic and long lasting aroma of the intense pain of absence. Behind every face is a name, a story and a grave.

On the 8th of March, the international day of the working woman, these same women and their colleagues from the  National Organisation of Rural Workers, CONTAG, are marching through the streets of Porto Alegre, calling for an end to violence and impunity.

Miguel Rosseto:

I believe that this conference represents a great political victory in the sense that it is recovering a greater dimension, a more adequate and just one, for a theme that is so vitally important for the global debate, and this is precisely a more responsible and dedicated platform on the question of misery, and rural poverty.

Michel Merlet – AGTER, France (Sheraton Hotel, Porto Alegre):

What I’ve noticed is the strength of the arguments presented by the leaders of the different farmer organisations from around the world, and from civil society in general. And the convergence of the different positions, the coherence of the different arguments, in particular during the round table for civil society and governments, where it was obvious that the arguments presented by civil society were much more coherent, more articulate, more serious.

Voice over:

The spirit of the conference and the new momentum for the right to land and natural resources, which experienced a rebirth in Porto Alegre, were reflected in the meeting between government officials and civil society. For the first time in the history of governmental summits, ministers and farmers sat at a same table as equals, sharing concerns and hopes.

Miguel Rosetto:

The presidency would also like to honour the presence at this meeting of the representatives of civil society, the representation of civil society which produced a space of its own for political deliberation, of a political debate called Earth, Territory and Dignity Forum. Good afternoon colleagues, welcome to all of you to this meeting.

Pedro Avendaño – World Forum of Fishermen:

Thank you very much, Mr. President. I represent the voice of the communities of small scale fisherman who over the centuries have lived in the coastal areas of the planet. I’d like to use my time to make three statements. The first is that what is happening to the land is also, without a doubt, happening to the seas. I and would like to state this, not only in the context of civil society, but to each of the governments who are represented here, because for a very long time, these communities of men and women of the seas have been systematically forgotten by national and international policies.

Maryam Rahmanian – CENESTA, Iran:

(Already In English)

Ibrahim Bocar Daga – Ambassador of Mali for the FAO:

Many of our friends from the developed countries have not come. It’s as if agrarian reform concerned, in fact, only developing countries. We all know that it’s not true. We all realise that.

What does this mean? It means that we carry the issue, we must maintain it at the heart of the FAO, and for that we must give the FAO the means to exist. This a theme I will repeat through to our next conference to be held in two years time, where hopefully we won’t have a list this long of countries which are not paying their contributions to the FAO. If the FAO does not have the means to work, all of our statements will be for nothing.

Thank you again, Mr. President, for your patience.

Ndiogou Fall – President of ROPPA, Senegal (Pontificia Catholic University, Porto Alegre):

The issue of land is a very important one, as much for my country as it is for the rest of the world, because land constitutes an important good, it is wealth, it is starting from land that you can do business, related to agriculture, related to livestock, related to fishing, too, because if you don’t have land you are completely disconnected from the system.

Samba Gueye – President of CNCR, Senegal:

We can also add that food sovereignty cannot be appreciated, food sovereignty inspired programmes cannot be evaluated, using standards used up until now. We hear talk of growth rates, but at a local level we can see that in spite of the supposedly high growth rates, rural populations are still becoming poorer.

Raúl Salas – Columbian delegation:

At this moment, and before closing, I would like to quote a phrase I heard, Mr. President, during peace negotiations in an interior province of my country. A citizen there said that hunger is not the physical lack of food. It’s the biological symptom of a sociological disease called social injustice.

Rogelio Parra – Ministry of Agriculture of Mexico:

For us Mexicans, the problem of people in agriculture and food sovereignty   is necessarily linked to land distribution, to the creation of a rural society of land owners dedicated to rural development. And this implies that farmers, after receiving land through such programmes of land reform, receive backing for production programmes through subsidies from the state.

Emiliano Bladimir Ramos Hernández – Federal Deputy, PDR, Mexico:

During the government of Carlos Salinas, there were constitutional reforms which allowed farmers to sell their land, but due to a lack of support and backing from the government and to the sums of money offered by trans-nationals, areas which were once communities are now the private property of trans-nationals.

Rafael Alegría – Vía Campesina International:

For us, food sovereignty is a group of rights, which starts with the right to sustenance, to food. And to healthy food. And the right to produce this food, because in the last few years, those who have always produced this food, the peasants, the small farmers, the women, and the rural youth, are truly threatened.

Miguel Sarango:

As a matter of fact there is an agrarian reform law in vigour which is to be modified in order to redistribute land fairly so that poor people too can have a place to cultivate… and big landowners should understand that we are people too, in the fields and in the communities, and that we can be a balancing force in the redistribution of land.

Ramón Herrera – Tiani Cooperative, Venezuela:

It’s called an agrarian pledge that is given to the cooperative to maintain the fields. The day the cooperative stops producing…

Interviewer: … the land returns to the state.

That’s right, to the state.

Interviewer: you can’t sell it.

No, no… absolutely not.

Rafael Alegría:

The second point is that there is no food sovereignty if there is no agrarian reform… if there is no just distribution of land… Fair markets, the control of the local market, of the regional market, of the market of producers and consumers, is fundamental, too. Fair prices.

Michel Merlet:

It’s important to remember that in the end, the weight of rural poverty comes from the present day coexistence of agricultures with very different levels of productivity…

Pedro Peretti – Assistant Secretary of COPROFAM, FAA, Argentina (Giglio de l’Opera Hotel, Rome):

Fair commerce, food sovereignty, defence of the productive interior of each country…

Michel Merlet:

… which means that a day of work is sometimes the equivalent of a year and a half of work of the least productive farmers. This results in a very strong drop in the prices of agricultural products for the simple reason that prices on the international markets are determined by the exporting agricultural countries.

Pedro Peretti:

Who’s more efficient, the small or medium size producer or the big producer? Who works the land better, who grows the better soybeans? The company which plants 150,000 acres or me, who plants 150?

Rafael Alegría:

Land is a common good, the seeds are too, and so is water. And they cannot be under the control of the supply and demand of the market. I’m in total agreement with the inaugural speech of the director of FAO who said that if current trends of quote “development” continue, we will not need 15 years, as was proposed in 1996, to reduce poverty by 50%. We will need, he said, 150 years. Can you imagine how we will be in 150 years?

Paul Nicholson – Vía Campesina International:

We are talking about agrarian reform with basic human rights. So it is the FAO’s mandate to strengthen all of the political space on this base. We’re not saying that it must be like this or like that. What we’re saying is let’s create a space, we the social movements we will commit ourselves to being accomplice to strengthening this relationship with the FAO if it fulfils its mandate of reform.

Rafael Alegría:

And the other mandate is the defence of the agriculture of indigenous farmers.

Miguel Sarango:

Naturally, while the powerful, politically and economically, have been running the country, we are very concerned because, all the country’s ecological reserves, the reserves of arable lands, even the… the plantations have been quite irrigated… and we are working with other indigenous communities trying to legalise and recover these natural resources.

Ramón Herrera:

But we are more or less… between 40, 50, 100 hectares… more or less, and I think we have to protect that too, because if we start devastating all that, the cooperatives are going to left without any space.

Rafael Alegría:

And a mandate we would like to give them, although we are not government but we are part of civil society, and some constitutions state that the sovereignty of a people rests upon the people themselves and not on governments, and this mandate… this mandate which we would like you to take upon yourselves… is that of the defence of life. If we don’t change these policies, only death awaits us, slow but certain. We’ve got to defend humanity, definitely changing life and these policies. We’d like you to assume this. For us this conference is of utmost importance, even though it’s 27 years later, but if we change now, if we reorient these policies now, tomorrow will be different, and a new future will await our people and our great majorities which are indigenous people, farmers, women and youth. Thank you very much.

Miguel Rosseto:

The presidency wishes all of you a happy return to your communities and your countries, may you return in peace and may you return with the energy which you have shown in Brazil, our country. This energy of militancy and this commitment which is so fundamental to this generous idea of peace and of the fight against poverty. May you return in peace, and know that the energy you brought to this conference will be translated into a profound and militant commitment of our government towards the FAO and to all of your countries. Thank you very much on behalf of the presidency. We salute this Second International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development. Thank you very much, happy return home, and I declare the Second International Conference closed. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.

Voice over:

On our way home, from the clouds, we can see once again the earth as a symbol of life. It is our nest. We can hear its heart beat and we close our eyes to dream that a better world is possible.


Special Collaboration – FAO

Direction and Screenplay – Sonia Llera

Direction of content – Vincent Garcés

Executive production – Paco Rodríguez, Manolo Rodríguez, Sergio Escribano

Photography and camera – Sonia Llera

Editing – Raquel Jimenez

Live Music – Gilberto Monteiro

Narration – (nombre de la locutora Inglesa)

Graphics and Headings – Jesus de Matos, Marcela Pelegrin

“Etalonaje” ?  - Miguel Tejerina

Sound and mixing – Jose Luis Canalejo

Production direction – Cruz Ortega

Production aid – Eva Nistal, Toñi Rodríguez

Special collaboration (in order of appearance) – Miguel Sarango, Parvis Koohafkan, Miguel Rosseto, Paolo Groppo, Jacques Diouf, Sergio Leite, Francisco Sarmiento, Egidio Brunetto, Lesbia Solórzano, Alberto Broch, Leta Cavalcanti, Leonardo de León, Eduardo Buzzi, Vicent Garcés, Michel Merlet, Pedro Avendaño, Maryam Rahmanian, Ibrahim Bocar Daga, Ndiogou Fall, Samba Gueye, Raúl Salas, Rogelio Parra, Emiliano Bladimir Ramos Hernández, Rafael Alegría, Ramón Herrera, Pedro Peretti, Paul Nicholson


Sowing the Future