The Landless Workers’ Movement congress – in numbers

The Landless Workers’ Movement congress – in numbers

Date: 10 February 2014

I have just spent the week at the MST congress, in Brasília, having spent a few days in São Paulo trying to get to grips with a city that has more than 11 million inhabitants.

On my first day in the city, I set out to try and find the agrarian reform shop which was set up by the MST. When I finally made it to the address I had for it, after navigating the metro system and walking in 37 degrees heat, the shop wasn’t there. The shopkeeper next door told me that it had been closed for five years. Slightly disappointed, I headed back to my hostel and got chatting to a new arrival who would be staying in my room. I found out he was from Brasília and very familiar with the MST, having visited a few of the settlements and with a best friend who has been active in the movement for over 10 years (I have a detailed description of his friend should I bump into him among the 16,000 Brazilians at the congress this week).

As well as talking to Brazilians about how they see the MST, and its portrayal in the media (a range of responses; and very pejoratively). I also spent the time reading up on on Brazil’s largest social movement. I managed to finish Sue Branford and Jan Rocha’s book Cutting the wire: The Story of the Landless Movement in Brazil as I arrived in the city. Published in 2007, it’s a comprehensive account of the history of the movement, the challenges it faces and the historical international context in which it emerged. It’s a good read for anyone wanting to find out what the MST is about.

While scouring the MST’s website for recent news about the movement, I found some impressive statistics about the congress:

  • The area of the camp that has been constructed for the congress is the size of four football pitches (38 thousand square metres).
  • They are expecting 16,000 MST members from 23 Brazilian states,
  • And 250 international guests from 23 different countries.
  • It is expected that every day an average of 10,000 tonnes of food will be consumed and about 300 litres of water.

The camp includes:

  • Meeting spaces, support tents, health tents and a creche.
  • 280 showers and 400 chemical toilets.
  • 150 kitchens, where MST activists divided by their states will prepare food produced by the MST.

There will also be an exhibition of ‘culture and peasant production’ which will take place next to the camp with over 2000 metres of tents with regional produce.

Organising a gathering for over 16,000 people in a collective way is an incredible feat, and I’m excited (and in awe) to see how it unfolds.

You can find the full article in Portuguese at