Land Movements, Participatory Democracy &
Rural Landless Workers’ Movement (MST)
This week’s readings were on local and national land movements, participatory democracy, the Rural Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) of Brazil and the local and global challenges of land grabbing processes. The end of Cold War in the 1980s not only brought a shift in the dominant discourse of security and development, but also the rapid and vigorous spread of globalization. With globalization came inherent promises of “human progress” and “development.” It also did not only create national and global changes in the landscape, economy, politics and cultures, but also hammered its way through the traditional fabrics of local systems, which include local food systems, patterns of production and consumption, security, human rights and ability to continually possess what we have had for years passed down from previous generations.
Land is a significant aspect of human existence especially so when it is used for the production of agricultural produce for households consumptions and marketing locally. It is the responsibility of the nation-state to its citizens to provide the needed land for all its citizens to live a dignifying and fulfilling lives and to also reciprocate such sentimentality to the land on which their survival is protected. However, when the nation-state becomes so powerful and corrupt in using the “commons” for its own gain and profitability at the margin and expense of the populace especially those who are at the extreme of these margins; that is, the poor, people of colored, ethnic minorities, Native Indians and peasant farming families then there is a need to seek an alternative discourse to challenge and counteract the current perspective of the dominant paradigm of the nation-state.
There is only one step that needs to be taken to repossess what has been forcefully and illegitimately taken from them by this powerful and controlling system and invasive apparatus; that is, the nation-state. This option rests on the local, national and systematic revolt against this controlling and powerful system of the nation-state. It is a revolution that is organized in total agreement of the masses to reclaim their land and resources that have been extracted by this ‘big belly beast,’ whose nature and final goal is to completely devoid what it has violently and repressively possess.
Wolford takes us through her work in Brazil excavating the diligence of the Rural Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) that seeks to reclaim what have been taken away from them and “enclosed” by the nation-state. MST challenges the current paradigm of economic progress that seeks to project globalization, industrialization and economic development at the expense of peasant farmers whose land were extracted from them.
Land grabbing, land deals and human rights issues are crucial in most developing countries especially in sub-Saharan Africa. As most developing countries continuously rush to the development-oriented agenda, which is trap to extract their natural resources and continue the pattern of dependency. The issue of large-scale investment initiatives and land allocation became unavoidable and unprecedented. These large-scale investment opportunities in the names of ‘development,’ ‘progress,’ and globalization put local communities especially traditional farming communities and their families at the margin of these investment schemes, making them the victims of such processes; that is, development schemes and investment initiatives, which continue to feed this ‘big belly beast’ and its collaborators.
Their local resources including land, water, air and forest systems became polluted as a result with very limited efforts to mitigate and restore normalcy. In some instances, local dwellers are not appropriately consented for their acceptance for the project to take place. This happens to villagers Tanzania of the Bagamoyo district in Tanzania when a Swedish firm took their land for a large-scale development project with the backing of the Tanzanian government in the name of development. The issue of land grabbing and human rights issue is exacerbated in regions that are undergoing arm conflicts or with unstable governments where the warlords claimed territories and lands in areas that they captured and use the local resources as investment towards arm dealers usually from the West. This was similarly done in Sierra Leone with the blood diamond illegal trade and Liberia with the timber and rubber plantation and Ivory Coast with the illegal sales of Ivories. James Scout deliberated on the subject of the state’s power to control and how over the years the nation-state has developed several programs and services, but yet has failed to meet the needs of its citizens.