CAFOD calls for urgent action after eviction of over 450 Brazilian families during coronavirus pandemic

18 August 2020

Landless families in Quilombo Campo Grande are being evicted

450 landless families in Quilombo Campo Grande, Minas Gerais, Brazil, are being evicted, having been under siege for more than two days from 250 military police. 

CAFOD has heard from our partner, Instituto Cultivar, that 450 landless families in Quilombo Campo Grande, Minas Gerais, Brazil, are being evicted, having been under siege for more than two days from 250 military police.

The families, who have lived and farmed the land in the area for more than 20 years are at imminent risk.

Kezia Lavan, CAFOD’s Brazil Programme Officer, said:

“450 landless families are at risk of police violence, Covid infection, homelessness and loss of livelihoods as a result of eviction from homes and lands they have farmed for 22 years.

“The families have bravely resisted police intimidation during a siege which has so far lasted for more than two days, during which time they have seen their school bulldozed, neighbours forced out and crops burnt by police.

“Governor Romeu Zema should follow the Brazilian Council of Justice’s guidelines to halt all evictions during the pandemic and suspend the eviction.”

Following the news of the eviction, #SalveQuilombo and #despejozero was trending on social media.

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Hundreds of families made homeless

Our partner has told us that the police surrounded the encampment, bulldozed the community’s school, evicted three families and set fire to crops. They forced members of the clergy and journalists to leave.

The families, who have nowhere else to go, have been reportedly told to take shelter in the nearby town of Campo Grande.

This small municipality already has cases of Covid-19 and does not have the infrastructure to cope with the rise in coronavirus cases that would likely result from a sudden influx of people.

"Governor Romeu Zema should follow the Brazilian Council of Justice’s guidelines to halt all evictions during the pandemic and suspend the eviction."

Kezia Lavan, CAFOD’s Brazil Programme Officer

No evictions during the pandemic

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a state of emergency has been declared in Minas Gerais, which has had 160,485 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and more than 3,783 deaths.

The day the siege began, the state registered 170 deaths in 24 hours – a record in the daily increase in deaths in the state.

Within the Quilombo Campo Grande community, many people – including older people, chronically sick, and pregnant women - are considered highly vulnerable to Covid-19 infection.

CAFOD is calling on the Governor of the state of Minas Gerais, Romeu Zema to suspend the eviction immediately, and to follow the guidelines of the National Council of Justice that there should be no eviction during social isolation.

We are also calling for the damage done to families' crops and buildings to be repaired, and the Governor to continue the process to regularise the land title of the families.

Let us protect the caretakers of our common home

The Quilombo Campo Grande Encampment is situated on the site of an abandoned sugar factory.

Over the past two decades, families have planted 40 hectares of allotments, 60,000 native trees and 60,000 fruit trees.

Today, families annually produce 510 tonnes of organic coffee, 8 tonnes of honey, cereals, greens, fruits, natural remedies, dairy products, jams and fruit pulps. They have successfully commercialised their organic produce, including the well-known coffee Café Guaii.

Many now regard Quilombo Campo Grande a model example of environmentally friendly agroecological production.

Kezia concluded:

“This is a tragedy for this thriving community, who in the past two decades have turned this area of once degraded pasture into a model example of agroecological farming.

“They have farmed in harmony with nature, growing enough food to eat and sell, including high-quality coffee.

“We cannot standby and watch while these families, who have worked so hard to build a thriving community, see it all destroyed overnight.”

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