AFTRAJ’s mission is to provide services and contribute to the defense of economic, social and cultural rights of its members, contributing to the promotion and organization of agricultural, livestock and extractivist activities. Established in December 2005, the association had as its initial activity the support to sugar cane processing for the production of ‘rapadura‘ (1) and brown sugar, as well as to the extraction of native fruits in partnership with the ‘Grande Sertão’ Agroextractivist Cooperative . In 2006 it began to support the fight of communities to create a ‘Resex’ – Extractive Reserve – in the northern cities of the State – Montezuma, Vargem Grande do Rio Pardo and Rio Pardo de Minas.
Currently, the group’s work is focused precisely on preserving the way of life of the Geraizeiro(2) people, who live in the Serra do Espinhaço, extreme north of Minas Gerais, border with Bahia. Cerrados(3) and rocky fields predominate in the region and make contact with the caatinga(4) and the rainforest. These people practice cultivation of extremely diverse small plots, associated with fruits harvesting, medicinal plants, wild flowers and livestock in areas of communal use. These remaining communities take their goods to markets using donkey troops, since they live in places where access to other means of transportation is still extremely precarious.
The territories of these traditional communities were partially expropriated between the decades of 1970 and 1980, when the Government of Minas and the Federal Government leased extensive areas of land to companies of eucalypt reforestation. From the year 2000 two new fronts have been taking possession of their lands: mining companies and state parks.
Through the implementation of training activities and the production of a documentary, the project aims to give visibility to the resistance of the traditional people who live in the high mountains of the Serra do Espinhaço. The plan is to mobilize the 35 communities that are fighting for the Resex creation – about 2,700 families – so they can ensure access to traditional territories using the legal frameworks that guarantee their land and socio-environmental rights.
The documentary will be shown at conferences of the Geraizeiros in several municipalities in the north of Minas, and to the Regional Commission of Traditional Peoples and Communities, so it can reach other communities who are fighting for territorial rights.
(1) N.T.: ‘rapadura’ is a type of hard sugar candy.
(2) N.T.: ‘Geraizeiros’ are peoples located on the right bank of the São Francisco River n the north of Minas Gerais. The name comes from ‘Gerais’, ie, plateaus, hills and valleys of the Brazilian savannas (‘cerrados’).
(3) N.T.: ‘cerrado’ is a type of vegetation formation which could be simplified as a Brazilian savanna.
(4) N.T.: ‘caatinga’ is a type of vegetation found in a semi-arid area of the Brazilian northeast.
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