Rural Development in Brazil: interfaces between public policy and social actors

From the 10th till the 28th of February Prof. Sergio Schneider of the Federal University of Rio Grande de Sul (UFRGS) in Brazil is visiting Wageningen under the agreement CAPES-Wageningen University. Sergio is Professor of Rural Sociology and Coordinator of the Post-Graduate Programme in Rural Development (PGDR). In his contribution to the Rural Sociology Weblog he briefly introduces his research domain. He will also present this at a research seminar of the Rural Sociology Group on Thursday 19 February at 16.00 hrs in room C70 of the Leeuwenborch building.

Sergio SchneiderBy Sergio Schneider – Since the 1990’s discussions on rural development in Brazil are no longer associated with policies to combat poverty. From these times onwards discussions on rural development have been related to themes like environmental sustainability, land reform, policies to support small family farming and more recently, the issue of food security. The discussion on rural development in Brazil has gained strong momentum …… with the creation of the Ministry of Agrarian Development (MDA) in 1996, and expansion of public policies aimed at land reform (rural settlements) and family farming (PRONAF). But social policies such as welfare measures (initiated in 1993) and the Bolsa Família (“family scholarship” begun in 2003) also contributed to improvement of living conditions in rural areas. In 2000, new public policies for rural development, with emphasis on the issue of food security, such as the Food Acquisition Program (PAA) and the use of resources of the National Found for Development Education (FNDE) for school feeding. The creation and implementation of these policies was only possible thanks to strong performance of social actors, mainly social movements as the Landless movement (MST) and rural unions National Confederation of Farm Workers (CONTAG) and Confederation of Family Farming Agriculture (FETRAF). In recent years, the process of decentralization and co-management of public policy is growing and involving the municipalities and actors of civil society like NGOs and others. Taking this scenario as a background, discussions and research on rural development is progressing rapidly in Brazil, with several analytical approaches. Nevertheless, the position of this field around the rural development approach is still weak and not very significant in comparison with the power and projection of those who defend the agribusiness model of agriculture in Brazil, generally identified by agribusiness.