In March 2002 Martyn travelled to Rio in the company of Christian Aid singer/songwriter Martin John Nicholls and BBC Radio Wales to observe the work of the MST of Brazil. Founded in 1984 the Movmento dos Sem Torra was formed in response to one of the world’s most unequal societies where almost half of all farmland is in the hand of just one per cent of landowners and 25 million peasants struggle to survive on tiny plots.
“It was an amazing trip of deep emotion, rich experience and challenge. One of the moments I will never forget was by the side of the road in a place called Campos. There at an MST encampment, I saw the reality of the struggle for a group of courageous people, intent on obtaining justice and a piece of land on which to plant crops, raise homes and build a community. I made a promise to them that I would do whatever I could to tell their story.”
The MST, a partner of Christian Aid, has taken the campaign for fair land reform on to the city streets organising mass demonstrations to raise awareness of the land reform issue. The MST’s strength comes from it’s focus on community and working together. The people on the settlements are encouraged to set up co-operatives taking responsibility for sanitation, health, education, security and social life. Redistributing land alone is not enough to solve Brazil’s extreme social problems. Christian Aid has been supporting the work of the MST since 1986 and in 2001 Martyn, Martin John Nicholls and the poet Stewart Henderson highlighted the work in their “World of Difference” tour. But now as Martyn says “I’m seeing it first hand and it’s heartbreakingly moving.”
On returning from Brazil Martyn decided the best way to keep the promise he’d made was to record a CD with the song “Till the end” written whilst in Rio, which deals with, amongst other things, the murder of 19 MST members by the police in April ’96. Asking Tom Robinson, Steve Knightley, Ricky Ross and Stewart Henderson to donate tracks the end result also included a video version of the track “Till the End.” As folks kindly gave freely of their time and costs were cut to a minimum nearly all the monies raised from the sale of the CD went directly to the MST.
Finally some of Martyn’s observations on an incredible trip: “What a privilege and how fortunate I have been to learn huge lessons in the presence of these people. I should not be surprised. For a long time I have known that to sit with the poor brings extraordinary blessing andinsight.”