4.2. Resignifying Agroecology
The nine films discussed above all include examples of framing strategies. Three films (Table 2
) specifically illustrate frame bridging
(i.e., linking different societal groups with a similar ideology). These three films mirror Brazilian society which is culturally heterogeneous and moreover has immense social inequality. (Rural) social movements emerged to fight for land reform and social equality and the young agroecologist filmmakers stress the urgency of these issues. To recognize and enhance the diversity of people as well as to grow the agroecological movement, bridges are created with social movements that share the same ideology.
In the film ‘Without agriculture there is no youth’ one of the interviewed female peasants stresses that agroecology is more than co-production of human activities with natural processes: “Agroecology for me is a way of treating people, animals, especially on the land that we take care of with love. Knowing how to treat the land, knowing that it has life, that it is not only something that we use and throw away, it is about knowing how to care, take this meeting today, this also shows the diversity of people, how these people interact, for me this is agroecology.” The young woman makes an analogy between the diversity of the ecosystem and care for land and recognizing the diversity of people and care for people. She is thus resignifying ‘care for land’ to ‘care for land and people’. A follow-up interview with a young peasant who participates in the youth group of Articulação Nacional de Agroecologia, (ANA) builds on this idea: “This group is very important because our agroecology today needs more young people, more women and I would say, she needs also more colors. She needs to have people of all ethnicities, she needs all people together, because at the end of the story, agroecology is about diversity.” In their eyes agroecology is not only about working with biodiversity but also about appreciating cultural diversity.
The most frequent framing strategy identified in the movies is frame amplification
), in which local values and beliefs are emphasized. Frame amplification
ensures that frames resonate with potentially interested people [31
]. Additionally, it is important that processes of transgressive learning start in social movement practices that valorize local culture [22
By re-establishing ancient relationships with nature, suppressed by modernity and the green revolution [17
], the meaning of agroecology in the film ‘Flowers to live’ is resignified from ‘co-production with nature’ to ‘co-production and interconnectedness of humans and nature’. The spoken words in the film and follow-up interviews reveal how people talk about agroecological farming and movement practices in terms of personal relationships. In the film ’
Flowers to Live’ one of the male characters states: “Because she is a flower… her color is not common in this region and because she is a flower of a very tasteful fruit, you can even make a farofa (typical Brazilian dish of baked cassava flour mixed with other ingredients), there are diverse forms you can feed yourself with her.
” The film shows how affinity with local nature and culture are interwoven.
The way local practices are filmed, showing complete production processes, close-ups of tools, all people involved, no visual effects, the pure esthetics of these practices (see Figure 1
and Figure 2
from the film ‘Making of Flour’) reveal how these practices are appreciated by the young filmmakers. The way they filmed it, shows that they are aware of their role of (re)producers of local knowledge on production, and of culture. The filmmaker of ‘Making of flour’ notes that he wants to continue with making flour, candies and rapadura (candy made from sugar cane). With the new knowledge acquired at LICENA
he resignified various farming practices at home. For example, he changed from the single cropping of beans to intercropping beans with corn and pumpkin and from using pesticides to using homemade liquids for natural pest management.
) is often a result of alignments between social movements which share a similar ideology but emphasizing different issues. The film ‘Prejudice in Two Acts
’ adds an image of a young female peasant receiving money for her work. The signification of ‘peasant autonomy’ [8
] is extended to mean ‘peasant autonomy for male and female peasants’ on their workforce. This type of alignment with the feminist movement present in the local family farmers union is essential for young female peasants. Literature on depeasantization in Zona da Mata [10
] shows that if gender issues are not tackled, depeasantization may take place, especially among young female peasants.
Frame extension of agroecology to include feminism was seen to be enhanced by social movement building. In the municipalities where women are organized and embrace feminist ideology, the gender issue is more prominent in the films made by young people. One of the mothers of a young filmmaker, who received an award from former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff for her agroecological work with women in Zona da Mata, explains how the last decade they have been organizing women in Zona da Mata Mineira together with the Centre for Alternative Farming, CTA. She notes that the women came together to talk about violence against women, including structural violence: “Look, the women also have the right to speak, to participate when the money comes in from the production, because many times the women don’t participate, they harvest the coffee, they just work, but they don’t have their own money, they work in order for other people to have money, this is violence
.” The young people visualize this perspective and bring it into the spotlight. This is less the case in municipalities where women are not organized, as the film ‘Dois Amigos/Two Friends’
shows. In this film, women have a passive role and men literally fill up the place (Figure 20
and Figure 21
) happens when old meanings are significantly re-signified. In the film ‘Two Friends’ the word ‘remedy’ for pesticides (the word used by the conventional farmer) is transformed to the word ‘poison’ for pesticides (the word used by the agroecological farmer). This type of resignification of farming practices is meaningful. The filmmakers, students from conventional and agroecological farms, note that the transition toward agroecology started at their farms with using less pesticides, often because of health issues. The students are the first generation within their families who study at Educação do Campo,
and parents of the students ask, as one of the filmmakers notes: “you are studying at the EFA, so you can explain to me about the ideal practices for planting
”. Others are more reluctant as one of the female students of EFA notes: “He would put it like this: what is this, girl? You don’t know nothing, let me use my product here that I know. No, Dad, but you will kill the plant. Oh, no, this is good for the plant. But where he used, crops decreased a lot.
Other students from conventional farms also stated in their interviews that one of the first things they succeeded at, was to convince their parents to use less or no pesticides. Afterwards they introduced various other agroecological practices into their homes, such as crop diversification, natural pest management and so on. This critical place based education, ‘Educação do Campo
’ and the teachers vocational training for this type of education, LICENA
explains partly the observation of Cacho et al. [9
] that young people have a more agroecological vision than the previous generation in the region.
Notably, young farmers also used the word resignify (resignificar) in the interviews. As another student from LICENA stated in an interview: “what made the difference, to be at peasant to peasant meetings, to go to another community and to see that it works there, let’s bring it to our place, but let’s resignify, some things, a syrup for natural pest management, sometimes the ingredients, the resources we had were not the same as at the place of the meeting, lately we don’t talk about resources but about the kindness of nature.” To talk about the kindness of nature instead of nature as resources is also an example of frame transformation, the meaning significantly changed to express the interconnectedness of humans and nature.
4.3. Reflecting on Resignification
Equivalent chains, as described by Laclau and Mouffe [45
], can be identified in many of the 85 films. There are equivalent chains made with conventional farmers who care about their health and with traditional farmers who already work with a set of agroecological practices. As one of the interviewed woman in the film ‘Without Agriculture There Is No Youth’ stated: “Persons, without knowing what agroecology is, know how to manage the land without agro-toxics as this has been passed on from generation to generation
.” A specific contribution of the youth is that they put a spotlight on young, female, black and LGBT farmers who are also making the transition to agroecology. By bridging the agroecological movement with the feminist and black movement, social differences among farmers are equated: they are all agroecological farmers.
Many films made by the young people show that agroecology is not only about producing healthy food, but also about producing other natural based products such as medicinal plants. The filmmaker of ‘medicinal plants’ and the women from the local women’s group she initiated are starting to produce clothes, popular art and biodegradable cleaning, and body products. The agroecological peasants are producing non-food end products which usually tend to be processed in urban areas. For these young peasants, agroecology is not only about producing food, but also about producing all kinds of nature based products which have been made in co-production with nature and with people in the community.
Several of the young peasants explained in the interviews why mostly young and female peasants are involved in processing and selling food and non-food raw materials. These groups often do not have their own land to make a living, so they explore options in the processing of natural materials: “Young people sold some handicraft, cleaning products, soap, some fruit and vegetables. The young people because they aren’t yet the owners of the land, they don’t have a guaranteed production.” In addition to the financial autonomy these women and youth thus achieve, they have the affinity, knowledge, and skills to produce these things which used to pertain to peasantry. The filmmaker of ‘medicinal plants’ explains that the idea to start a production collective of women emerged during an excursion of LICENA to another women’s organization in the region.
Multiple framing strategies were often depicted in a single film and thus clearly form a topic of relevance for the young filmmakers. For example, the film ‘Medicinal Plants’ is an example of the simultaneous use of frame amplification, frame extension and frame transformation. Frame amplification, because the women make products which used to pertain to peasantry. Frame extension, as agroecological products are more than food and, as such, the meaning of agroecology transforms from the ecology of the food system to the ecology of the system of natural products.
Images of production were emphasized in many of the films. This can be explained as a strategy for dealing with existing prejudices locally and in the mass media against women, peasants, African descendants, and MST. As a young filmmaker in Espera Feliz states: “I don’t care much but when it’s too much I say, “Everything comes from the fields, the rice you eat comes from the countryside, the beans that you eat, nothing comes from the industry. It might come from food industry but it is first produced at the farm.” And: “When you have to present, they ask what’s your name, where do you come from? My name is.., I’m from Vargem Grande (neighborhood at the countryside), so everyone starts like this “he is from the countryside”, and everyone keeps repeating this.” One of the interviewed males in the film ‘Without agriculture there is no youth’ refers to prejudices against farmers in the film: “My message to youth is to not be ashamed for being at the countryside, too make dirty your hands in the earth, to sweat the entire day, to do hard work because the entire society depends on us, without us nobody eats, wears clothes, there’s no other way.” The variety of natural products shown in the films is not only frame extension: Agroecology entails more than producing sustainable food: it is also a strategy to transform the negative connotation of peasantry into a positive connotation.
The filmmaking process created many moments of reflection for the young farmers themselves, some of which were fed into and transformed peasant and social movement organizations. One of girls noted during the editing of another film about prejudices: “We do not like to talk about it. It’s difficult to say, for example, in a school environment, when you have a lecture about pride, about racism, this person is practically speaking alone, it’s very difficult for somebody to express themselves about these issues, even for fear of repression by their colleagues.
” In the course of the production of the film ‘Prejudices in Two Acts’ discussions on gender, racialized bodies and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) (farmers) popped up without intervention from the researcher. A young peasant who participates in the youth group of ANA and is descendant of the indigenous group Puri explains that it are the young people who put issues such as cultural diversity on the agenda of ANA: “Look, what we already put on the agenda is the participation.. a higher participation of black people, indigenous people, the traditional populations, this was the claim we put there. Also the participation of LGBTs (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgenders), this was also stressed. These are demands that come from the youth, but also from other groups.
” At the regional preparation meetings in Zona da Mata for the national meeting on agroecology, the IV ENA in May 2018, it were also the young people who were publicly stating that feminism, the struggle against racism and homophobia are an essential part of agroecology. Through these actions the youth reaffirmed themselves as protagonists [10
] in social movement organizations and broadened the social and environmental justice spectrum in which these organizations work.
Educação do Campo
, critical place-based education based on the work of Freire [24
] played a significant role in the recognition of local sustainable farming practices as agroecology. This type of education acknowledges and valorizes local knowledge on agroecological farming and the diversity among agroecological farmers. Students of this education are engaged to re-work local knowledge and experiment in their community via a ‘personal professional project’. The filmmaker of the ‘Film at Quilombola Macaúbas Palmito without title’ explains that she learned at LICENA that their farming practices are agroecological practices: “The community didn’t know the term agroecology but those who have access to school and outsiders recognized the agroecological practices
.” In the same interview another student from the same Quilombola states that she wants to start an agroforestry system after the excursion of LICENA
to an agroforestry system: “In relation to the community I have the desire to become an ecologist, I have to be able to buy a bigger piece of land and to make a PP area, which is an area of Permanent Preservation within my property
Finally, the music of the movies was carefully selected by the filmmakers. The film ‘Flowers to Live’ starts and ends with a song about flowers. In the song references are made to spiritual experiences: “I am a little flower of Jesus, I am a little flower of Jesus, open your mouth to sing…” The flowers are a metaphor to express people’s place on earth. Comparisons with nature are used for expression of local culture, in which spiritual references are also used to articulate their relation with nature. The music of the film ‘Making of Flour’, called ‘Pausada de Boiadeiro’ of Tião Carreiro e Pardinho underlines the importance of memories “I remember this of my childhood”, and of culture “the guitar becomes the compass of my heart”. At the union’s school for rural youth in Espera Feliz a young female filmmaker noted that instruments such as guitar and accordion are characteristic for their culture. The music is in line with the content and images of the film, such as the images of the mutirão which show the use of frame amplification, the building on local culture. The song in the film ‘Medicinal Plants’, (Brandão) affirms the interconnectedness of humans and nature: “It is mother nature who ensures that we are going to be cured.”