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Feeding a Nation

By Aaron M. Smith

ARAXA, Brazil – Jose Augusto strolls through his settlement farm and proudly examines ears of corn growing on tall, full stalks. He peers over a field full of thick, lush beans growing as far as his eyes can see.


He smiles.


Augusto is one of the many settlement and landless farmers taking part in projects organized by APR, a non-profit organization that aids and advises the poor farmers of Brazil in creating a decent, human life.


Augusto’s thriving farm began to blossom several kilometers away on a small plot of land outside of Uberlandia in the state of Minas Gerais. This plot of land is more than just open space in a vast Brazilian countryside. It is a source of life to the thousands of landless and settlement farmers.


Shopping Park is a small farm operated by APR and is home to sugar cane, 10 types of beans, corn, and cassava, which is an important crop in Brazil.


The seeds harvested from this farm are distributed to landless camps and settlement farms so that the men and women can plant and harvest their own food. The farmers will then supply a portion of their seeds to other camps and a small portion back to APR, which then adds on to its resources.


“We take some seeds back and work with it to see what works best, what grows best,” said Murilo, who is the technical coordinator for APR. Murilo, 29, works to organize the projects and does most of the labor at Shopping Park.


“It is so nice to know that this is going to help entire camps to eat,” he said. “It feels good doing this and teaching them how to survive and giving them the supplies to do it.”


Shopping Park is roughly 20,000 square meters and is the center of the agronomy for the poor farmers in Brazil. Without proper maintenance, the supply of quality seeds for the landless men and women and settlement farmers will diminish.


Currently, Murilo watches over Shopping Park. He hand-plants each fruit and vegetable, monitors the growth and takes care of weeds and other threats. But, with limited available time, Murilo cannot spend the time needed to properly maintain the growing farm.


“It’s hard because I spend so much time going to the camps and meeting with the people,” he said. “When I’m gone, no one really can do much here. I planted just about everything here. Someone has to do the work here, but right now, we just don’t have the money.”


For someone to spend the proper amount of time at Shopping Park, Murilo estimated that the cost would be roughly $150 per month. Without the money, however, Shopping Park goes unattended when Murilo is absent. When he is available to tend to the farm, the workload is too much for one man to handle in such a short period of time.


Without the proper care, Shopping Park’s ability to provide a food source to thousands of poor farmers will dwindle. The projects created so that these farmers could experience even the most basic of human rights may begin to dwindle without help.


And the smile so brightly displayed on Augusto’s face certainly would begin to fade into a tired, hungry frown.

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