Antônio is from the rural municipality of Altos, in Piauí, and carries out community registrations on the Tô no Mapa app
Son of family-scale farmers, Antônio Chaves do Nascimento started working on the farm when he was around 14, in the rural area of Altos, Piauí. The land, he says, wasn’t theirs, as it was owned by a rancher who left an indelible mark on him. “He even denounced my father for stealing water on the property, because we collected water on a nearby spring. On our way home, our gourd started leaking and he tracked the water down until he found us. Years have passed and I’ll never forget what happened to me and to my family”, he shares.
The feeling is not one of resentment, though. Antônio started his struggle for land when he was young and it was during his first contact with the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) that his life as a resistance community leader began. During this journey, he received death threats and was arrested three times defending those who needed land to survive. Today, he works as the director of Piauí’s Family Farmers State Association.
“These incidents caused emotional damages in my life and one even gets emotional when talking about everything that has occurred. But, thank God, nothing has ever happened. Even though they threaten our very lives, even shooting at us, we are still here, fortunately. I will never forget that, but I don’t hold any sorrow, grief, or resentment in my heart”, he says. Inhaling deeply, he continues: “At the same time, with each day, to become a more humane and humbler person, I try to find a way to encourage others to say that it is possible for us to live well if we believe in our potential, trust in God, and fight alongside each other”.
“Seu” Antônio highlights the importance of the land for those reaping their sustenance from it and defends that every person should one day have the right to, as he puts it, have organic, varied, healthy, and pesticide-free food on the table.
“The example is what we are living today, building dreams, having a good time, and enjoying good nourishment from what we plant organically without harming the environment. We can no longer consume products loaded with chemicals that damage our cells. For breakfast, I enjoy the bounty of having juice, cake, banana, beiju (a manioc starch cake), watermelon, cashew, and many other organic foods, and that is very good. May God help everybody to one day attain similar freedom”.
In Tô no Mapa, Antônio is a registration leader helping communities self-map their territories on the app. For him, one of the main benefits the communities enjoy with the Tô no Mapa app is the bonding and unity. “People feel more encouraged and understand little by little that this is not just happening here, with our organisation, but that we have many distant partners that are committed to helping us in the regularisation process, and who are contributing immensely to ensure legal safety and education to improve people’s lives”.
Of the many communities the farmer has helped register on the Tô no Mapa app, quilombola and family farmers are becoming engaged in actions on behalf of the collective. They have started to internally organise their territory by building roads, for example, or even working on the commercialisation of their agroecological produce. As a cell phone app promoting self-mapping of the territories of traditional peoples and communities of Brazil, with an emphasis on the Cerrado, Tô no Mapa represents the first step to put territories to the map, to multiply voices and join forces down the path towards land legalisation and the safekeeping of rights.
Antônio gives an example of how registering on the app can aid territories that don’t yet own official recognition and regularisation: “When the time comes to use the land, the state’s financial officer will request documentation and then we will have the map to show them, with a list of families, proof of actual use created by the organisation. It is a very good initiative to prove the legal possession of the land”.
He leaves a clear message for communities to register themselves on the Tô no Mapa app:
“The message is that people should respect the elders, but not be afraid of what’s new. If an opportunity that allows people to go further arises, embrace it. Especially when we are talking about people who present new proposals, who fight and struggle for social measures. It is important to join hands with these people and with the Tô no Mapa app. Let people not be afraid of challenges, because our world exists today. Yesterday has passed and brought us good lessons. Tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. So let us live the present and face the challenge in a coordinated way, so we can have hope and live with our rights assured”.