‘Losing our land like losing our lives’, Brazil activist tells World Bank

le 16/03/2016

Investors describe it as one of the last frontiers for major agricultural expansion – a vast area in Brazil’s poor northeast that the government is eager to open up to investors hoping to set up big new soy farms and cattle ranches.

But for Maria de Jesus Bringelo and tens of thousands of other Afro-Brazilians who earn a living from the land in more traditional ways, the MATOPIBA region has another value: it’s their home.

Bringelo, a 68-year-old grandmother of nine and long-time rights campaigner, wants to block new large-scale investments from encroaching on territory where her family has lived and worked since Brazil abolished slavery in 1888.

Her house was burned down in 1979 after she led a letter- writing campaign criticizing cattle ranchers for forcing local residents off the land, but says that is not the worst thing that could happen.

« Losing our land is the most violent attack we can face, » Bringelo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. « We lose our history, our lives, our knowledge. »

A key member of the National Commission for People and Traditional Communities, a Brazilian government advisory body, Bringelo addressed World Bank officials in Washington on Wednesday to raise objections to new large-scale agriculture plans.

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Source : farmlandgrab