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puce Tribute to Eugenio C. Peixoto, tireless defender of Brazilian family farmers
Michel Merlet

I learned with deep sadness last week of the death of Eugenio C. Peixoto, by reading a message on Facebook from Arilson Favareto.

I met Eugenio in 2001 at the first World Social Forum in Porto Alegre (Brazil). A workshop on agrarian and land reforms of 4 half-days was organised by the APM Network Family farming, society and globalisation supported by the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind and the CONTAG (National Confederation of Agricultural Workers of Brazil). Eugenio Peixoto, CONTAG’s International Relations Advisor at the time, and I, on behalf of the APM networks, prepared and facilitated this workshop. The 60 to 70 participants, activists and recognised specialists from several continents, had already clearly denounced the extent and unacceptable nature of land inequalities in the world and the seriousness of the crisis of small-scale peasantry, not only for peasants, but also for humanity as a whole. The 2 photos below of Eugenio Peixoto were taken during this WSF 2001 workshop.

Eugenio Peixoto. Atelier sur les réformes agraires et foncières. FSM 2001. Porto Alegre.

I then kept in touch with Eugenio, who a few years later became the Vice-Minister in charge of agrarian reorganisation of the Brazilian Ministry of Agrarian Development (Secretário de Reordenamento Agrário - MDA). I lost track of him when he became a consultant.

Eugenio Peixoto’s commitment to family farmers in Brazil has always been unfailing. The exchanges that several founding members of AGTER had with him before the creation of the association in 2005 undoubtedly contributed to the construction of our associative project.

In his message of tribute to Eugenio, Arilson Favareto, a member of AGTER, aptly describes his struggles and his personality in a few words. With his agreement, I have included a few extracts here.

« On Saturday, on my way back from the demonstration against Bolsonaro, I heard the sad news of the death of Eugenio Peixoto, whom many of my friends on this facebook network have met. As we mourned the death of 500,000 people from the epidemic, we lost another. In his case, it wasn’t Covid, he died ′suddenly′, as they used to say. Yesterday I was told he had a pulmonary embolism. But ’suddenly’ here mostly conveys the feeling of surprise. Eugenio was one of those guys you don’t think can disappear.

He was always in a good mood. I have been in close contact with him on two occasions - when we were both advisors to rural social movements in the 1990s, in different organisations; and recently, as a professor and researcher on issues related to rural spaces, when Eugenio was one of the main facilitators of the Forum of Secretaries of Family Agriculture of the Northeast (one of the main institutional innovations of recent years).

He was very fond of contradicting and arguing, but he always did it in a loving and committed way, without any equivocation. We didn’t agree on everything. But when we disagreed, he would put his hand on my shoulder and patiently begin with a ′′ Look ...’. And when it was the other way around, I would always start to respond to what he said with a ′′ You see ... ′′ and the conversation was always useful and interesting. It was always like that with everyone. Dialogue above all else. From A to Z. I have learned to respect that. And we have both laughed a lot in the 30 years since we first met. (...)

In the last few months he wrote a book on family farming and public policy in the Nordeste, his passion. He was very enthusiastic and wanted to publish it. He invited me to write the preface. When I sent it to him, he called me grateful and said ′′ My bastard, you made me cry reading that thing ...’. I hope someone has the manuscript and will publish his book as a tribute, a well-deserved tribute. »

4 July 2021


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