22 april 2006
Brazil's landless farmers enter deal with ABN AMRO-daughter
That company is Votorantim Celulose e Papel (VCP), the largest paper producer in the country. In its search for a steady supply of timber, the company decided not to turn automatically to the big land owners, but to involve small producers in poor regions. The choice for Brazil's Landless Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, MST) was quite obvious, since this is the largest social movement in Latin America with an estimated 1.5 million landless members. Ever since the mid-eighties, MST has campaigned for land reform in Brazil, where a mere 3% of the population owns two-thirds of all arable lands. Occupation of land owned by 'feudal lords' was and still is a favourite means of battle of MST.
VCP also found a partner in Banco Real, a large buyer of its recycled paper, and like VCP striving to be a responsible 'corporate citizen'. Linda Murasawa tells P+: "VCP and Banco Real addressed the government of the southern state Rio Grande do Sul about our ideas, and discussed the possibilities to involve the MST. At that time the government was already negotiating with MST about land properties. The main reason for choosing this region is that it is the poorest in Brazil and it offers conditions for economic development for small farmers."
The programme Poupança Florestal (meaning 'forest savings') has started at the end of 2005 with some 300 small farmers. 102 members of MST were donated land by the government. The programme will expand to 25,000 small farmers in the near future. They will produce mainly eucalyptus, and will get training, technical assistance and education in sustainable practices. Linda Murasawa: "The farmers use half of their land for eucalyptus cultivation to meet their production standards and generate a long-term income. On one quarter of their land they can grow whatever they want, and another quarter will be used for a reservation of the Indians."
And what is in it for Banco Real and the federal bank BNDES, who both deliver credits and knowledge? Linda Murasawa: "A lot of new account holders."
P+ Webtip: Banco Real Sustainability Report 2005