Fire is an element of nature that has been managed wisely and carefully by indigenous peoples and quilombola, traditional, and peasant-based communities in the Amazon, Cerrado, and Pantanal regions for millennia. The knowledge garnered over many generations, adapted to diverse ecosystems, and inherited by these peoples and communities has enabled the conservation and proliferation of biodiversity and the long-term management of their agro-forestry landscapes.
With quite opposite intentions and on an entirely different scale, the agribusiness chain uses fire in a way that is directly or indirectly associated with deforestation and land grabbing, to promote and consolidate the expansion of the agricultural frontier. The forest fires they set in this process cause environmental devastation and, at the same time, are used as weapons to threaten and expel peoples and communities from their territories of life.
The Brazilian Coalition AGRO é FOGO is made up of social movements and organizations that have worked for decades to defend the Amazon, Cerrado, and Pantanal regions, their peoples and communities. It emerged as a network to coordinate reactions to the forest fires that ravaged Brazil in the last two years. From the infamous Day of Fire in 2019 to the wildfires that swept through the Pantanal wetlands in 2020, we watched in astonishment as the government lied about the causes and its own responsibility for what had happened. We are moved not only by the need to heighten the quality of public debate, but above all to share more than satellite images and deforestation statistics, bringing out the dimension of people’s experiences on the ground of the forest and backlands.
In this sense, we are reminded that as we regret and protest the devastation, we must recall and draw inspiration from the spirit of struggles by rubber tappers like Chico Mendes in the Amazon standoffs; from the struggles by women babassu nut breakers like Dona Raimunda, Dona Dijé, and others today throughout the Cerrado in defense of babassu groves; and the many heroes and heroines of the indigenous peoples and the quilombola, traditional healers, pastoralists and riverine communities as well as land reform settlement communities who, over time, have defended the native forests and vegetation with their own bodies.
It is to honor those women and men, and their “untold history,” that the groups in this network affirm their commitment to memory, truth, and justice. We will not be silent in the face of rehashed old authoritarian stratagems that incite hatred and racism and perpetuate farces and crimes against peoples’ rights.
If the Pantanal, Cerrado, and Amazon are still standing, it is because these peoples have stood firm in their territories, defending the forests, waters, animals, and biodiversity!
To them: our gratitude!
With them, we march in defense of their territorial rights, which is also the defense of the commons!