The consolidation of the democratic institutions inBrazilin the last twenty years has been followed by the empowerment of the popular organisations that started to demand the implementation of projects of land reform and rural settlements by means of the installation of camps [ acampamentos ] in the vicinity of the areas in dispute. The effectiveness of these strategies led to the creation of rural settlements for nearly 500 thousand families. This book evaluates the main aspects of the Brazilian agrarian history and analyses the restoration of work and agricultural production in the Settlement Fazenda Reunidas , started in 1987 in themunicipalityofPromissão(São PauloState).
Chapters 2 and 3 underline the demographic dimension of the agrarian question and evaluate the policies of slave importation during the colonial period and some experiences, in the nineteenth century, aiming at the underpinning of free work relations, especially with European immigrants. The permanence of land concentration was associated to a kind of social and political control. A population increase in the countryside as well as in the city is noticed. This began to change in the midst of the twentieth century: the rural complex was being gradually decreased and an agroindustrial complex took place, together with the modernisation of agricultural production and a rapid and massive exodus of rural workers towards regional and national urban centres. The unbalance between the reduction in rural employment and the capacity to generate employment in the urban-industrial sector resulted in a rapid increase urban poverty and misery.
Chapter 4 shows that in the transition from the military regime to the democratic-parliamentaryone, the modernisation process was maintained, despite the attenuation of the State intervention in agricultural production. On the other hand, the emergence of popular organisations, the spread of the camps and the occurrence of social confrontations led to a broadening of state policies for land distribution. The conditions and limits of land distribution and credit policies for family farming and rural settlements are analysed in their relation to the social and political conflicts resulting from popular mobilisations.
Chapter 5 evaluates the land policies which resulted in the settlement of nearly ten thousand families in the State of São Paulo till the end of the 90's, with an emphasis on the local disputes which originated the Settlement Fazenda Reunidas, in the municipality of Promissão.
Some theoretical and political considerations on the local forms of individual and collective action as related to modernisation of the agricultural production as well as to endogenous development practices in the agriculturalproduction,are among the subjects introduced in Chapter 1 and rediscussed along the other chapters, especially in those that bring the results of the field research. Chapter 6 emphasises that the state-owned credit lines for the settlement of Promissão imply a certain channelling into the modernisation of the agricultural production, through the production of grains and fibres on large scale, in which there is a dependency in relation to the supply of external/mercantile technologies and inputs originating from agro-industry. The inconsistencies and contradictions of such policies, founded on the specific short-term credit lines, caused a high insolvency among the settlers.
In this problematic political and institutional context, the settlers developed production processes that increased the absorption of labour and intensified the generation of income per unit of land and/or of product. Chapter 7 analyses these productive processes through the concept of endogenous development. There is an emphasis on the importance of different means of labour within the agricultural productionprocess,special attention is given to the accumulation of a permanent basis of productive resources. This is illustrated, for example, by the growth of permanent crops (coffee and fruit) and animal breeding (notably dairy farming), and the making of buildings and installations (fences, stables, greenhouses, warehouses, a farmyard for drying coffee), that demand not only an intensive use of family labour, but also the investment of a certain amount of financial resources for the acquisition of raw material, machinery and equipment (irrigation, grinders, micro-tractors, hydraulics systems, means of transportation). These productive processes also admit the elaboration of several initiatives aiming at the substitution of the use of short cycle agro-industrial inputs for activities carried out with relative autonomy inside the lots, especially regarding the reproduction or improvement of soil fertility.
Chapter 8 indicates some of the social impacts of this historical process of interaction and confrontation between the government policies and the production projects delineated locally by the settlers in Promissão. Empirical information derived from a sample of 55 families lead to estimate that there is, on average, the generation of approximately three direct jobs in agricultural production for a group that represents somewhat more than 60% of the total of the settled families. As for the other families, almost 40% of the total, the absorption of work inside each lot did not reach one person full time. Through these estimates it is possible to interpret phenomena such as the lease of land in the settlement (mainly for the external actors connected to the production of grains and fibres or to the extensive cattle breeding), the evasion of youngsters and the proletarianisation of part of the families.
The development of endogenous practices of agricultural production articulates in an interesting way with the production of food for self-consumption. Chapter 9 demonstrates that the families that are most successful in commercial agricultural production are also those that are obtaining high yields and considerable diversification in the production of food for family consumption. Information gathered in the settlement proved that the improvement in food autonomy increases substantially the indices of nutritional adequacy among the settlers.
Chapter 10 focuses on the interaction of the local organisations with state policies and the relations of the settlers with the market agents. It is noted that the state policies for the strengthening of the co-operatives in the settlement were also marked by a strong guidance on the large-scale production of grains, through a prescription of the acquisition of machinery and equipment. Similarly, the formulation of development projects by the most important organisation at national level (also present the settlement), the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem-Terra (MST), evidenced a centralisation in the planning of the activities and an alignment with the technological patterns of agricultural modernisation, although proposing at the same time the collectivisation and the agro-industrialisation of the activities. The field research examines the creation and transformations of the local organisations in the settlement, highlighting their political interactions and their potential for transforming the production processes and the relations between the settlers and the market agents.