Food Voices: Youth Prepared for the Future

In this installment of the “Food Voices” series, we hear from two young women who are doing their part to change the local food system.

WhyHunger is pleased to be partnering with Andrianna Natsoulas, longtime food sovereignty activist and author of the forthcoming book Food Voices: Stories of the Food Sovereignty Movement. In 2010, Andrianna began a journey across the Americas to capture the stories of people working towards and living a just and sustainable food system. As she continues her journey, spanning from Nova Scotia to Ecuador to Brazil and beyond, we will feature highlights of the stories she gathers. 

Gleyse Martins Rocha and Maria Naiza Mendes Silva are farmers from Assentamento Palmares, in the state of Ceara in Brazil. They are both active in a youth group that focuses on raising chickens and is organized though the Movement of Landless Workers of Brazil (MST). Through the youth group, Gleyse and Maria take on new responsibilities and are inspired to continue farming.

Gleyse Martins Rocha:

The youth group has 11 members between the ages of 13 and 25, it and began in 1997. It was a good opportunity for youth with no regular income, because it motivated us to stay on the settlement. It helps the youth stay in the countryside, so we don’t have to leave for the city to find work.

What motivates me is the responsibility involved. I’m the coordinator of the youth group. It’s a big association, and it’s a lot of fun. We work a lot, and we’ve had a lot of victories, including good profit from raising chickens. The obstacles were that because we were young, we were criticized by society. The youth are frowned upon and seen as different, as irresponsible, but thanks to this project we are able to show that the opposite is true.

For me food sovereignty is to eat well—to feed myself well, without risk. For me it is a way to generate income for the workers, and we are certain that we are eating delicious food with no agrochemicals, no poisons.

In the future I intend to study agronomy, land, and nature. And I’m going to get married and have kids, and I am going to educate them to do this work.

Maria Naiza Mendes Silva:

It’s been four years since I entered the youth group. We divide the tasks, we organize, and we plan. I am very motivated by this group activity. It is really good for us to organize ourselves and to work. This is a good experience for our lives. I like what I do.

I consider myself a conscious youth. And my goal is to be prepared for the future, conscious about what is right and wrong, and the harm and good I can do. My biggest obstacle at first was to take responsibility, because in the beginning I didn’t pay a lot of attention. Now I’m more responsible. I participate more, I coordinate, I help other people.

Food sovereignty is the food that we produce for our consumption, and for other people, with consciousness, with assurance that the food is healthy, without using agrochemicals and other products that can damage our health.

One day I’d like to get a degree, have a family, and educate my kids. And if some day my kids can do what I do, I’ll be happy, because I consider myself a conscious youth.