Mate & Politics

This weekend I went to a celebration in the country side of Berlin in Binnenwerde. It is a farm run by food activists. They are a collective and deliver to alternative food shops in Berlin, including the one near our house, the BioKraftKeller, Schwedterstr. 253A in Berlin.

The celebration had a Demo character and two focuses where important for me:

=> Awareness on Food Production Environmental Impact and Food sovereignty.

=> The war in Syria and the situation of its refugees in Europe.

With our Mate lens we blog here on food and later on Syria in a separated blog issue.

There was one information point with excellent material on agriculture and climate disruption showing the failure of mass production and monocultures that according to the Peasant Confederation Climate always leads to greenhouse gas emissions. As alternative it was presented “ Peasant Agriculture and Food Sovereignty. This alternative works with nature proposing respectful agricultural practices, protecting plants and animal bio-diversity, whether wild or domestic cultivated.

Among the papers presented there was a short “UN-unmasking Climate Smart Agriculture” from La Vía Campesina – International Peasant Movement and a more complete discussion paper from CIDSE revealing the “Climate-Smart Agriculture – the Emperor´s new clothes?” proposed by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN).

This more complete paper is available in english, french and spanish at .

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 14.24.50For consumers and small producers I strong recommend to read “Peasant Agriculture – A guide for the perplexed”.

It is made as a cartoon, easy to read and understand, it helps to help transmission farms showing the dead end road done in Europe. In Brazil, specially in the south where we produce our mate we still face different stages of development where small family run farms are either dreaming with or taking steps into moving toward the industrial driven specialization transforming their lands and farms into input and productivity intensive units, loosing on product and life quality. Wish we can translate this paper and offer to the farmers there.

I was surpriesed to see an Flag of the Movimento Sem Terra (MST) hanging there in this context. MST delivers Yerba-Mate Organic certified for El Puente which supplys this as the raw material for the anti-fa Kolle Mate from Dresden and for the excellent tasty and healthy Maki Mate from Leipzig.

Been a Mate Activist and have contacted and evaluated the MST at request from Kolle Mate It was with dispise that I saw an movement that uses the means of standard industrial production put in connection with such movement as the Peasant Agricultural. I have heard good but also contraversory about the MST in Brasil, and do not want in any way disregard their work regarding the distribution of land for farmers, but the way they are producting erva mate does not fit with the papers exposed, more in the other way around fits for the “Climate Smart Agriculture” proposed by the FAO.

By looking at the info point at Binnenwerde, it gave the impression that all products coming from the MST follow those ecological and family based small scale principles. This misleading is often taken specially and the mate field by warm hearted and good meaning mate producers in Germany. Mate being but a fuel for consentration and unity among activists in Germany it is fair that we transparent present how it is been processed to avoid such misunderstandings.

=> MST Mate production uses industrial processing (120.000 Kgs green leafy / ca 60.000 Kgs dry yerba mate per month)

  • By using stanard industrial facility for covering the overheads and machinery usage it does not respect the nature cycles of season harvesting, what risks the quality of the product and longevity of the trees.

=> MST producing Mate cooperative prioritizes the MST farmers but gives its right to purchase outside the raw material

  • Uncontrolled purchase can lead to mate forest buy out, deforestation and land grabbing. Those are normally only happens to small farmers that do not processe their own erva but sell to industry. In case of descentral hand made processing they are proud of the quality of their production and tend to not cut their trees in the wrong time or sell the forest to convert into soja or eucalyptus monoculture.

=> MST producing cooperative sources the wood for drying out of eucalyptus monocultures.

  • By doing this industrial model it does not allow farmers autonomy but it is also not autonomous itself, needing high input from outside and fostering the use of eucalyptus which brings disastrous impact both for nature and rural society in south Brazil. For details See the document linked.

The ecological food printing of Mate industrial processed and family based artisanal has still to be calculated, and that is one of the issues I attempt to discuss on the 12th September next coffeinehackathon trying to find out what is fair in the drink industry. I hope this blog is a contribution to stimulate the thinking about the origens of our food and specially our mate, and welcome you to put your commentaries below.

Not forget, there was also an exhibition and concert about Syria, and a next Blog called Mate & Politics II will portray the views of a Syrian Refugee on the Situation there and teach us how mate is seen and drink on the fronts over there. Drop us line via email if you like to receive updates on our products and activities.

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