Entry Title: "Paraguay's land struggle"
Name: Jordi Ruiz Cirera , United Kingdom
Category and Expertise: Environmental|Deeper Perspective, Professional
Entry Description: Currently soy is a billion-dollar industry that spans continents, feeds millions of livestock and has become a key part of the global food chain. However this growing business is having dramatic effects on the local populations of the production poles. In the case of Paraguay, deforestation, land-grabbing, pollution and health issues are rising as a result of the massive-scale production of soy.
In this ongoing documentary work I focused on the effects of this production on the peasant population of Paraguay, and ultimately seeks to raise awareness of the challenges of a heavy industrialised global food chain.
Story: n the last decade Paraguay has been one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, reaching a historical 13% GDP growth in 2013, one of the biggest in the world, mostly due to a rise in exports of agricultural commodities such as soy and meat.
Currently soy is a billion-dollar industry that spans continents, feeds millions of livestock and has become a key part of the global food chain. This is due to a global increase, specially amongst emerging countries, in incomes and meat consumption as well as in urban population which has lead to a global increase in the demand for soybeans. In Paraguay, the surface devoted to Genetically Modified (GM) Soy has triplicated in the last 15 years, becoming nowadays the world's fourth biggest exporter of this legumes, which are mostly shipped for cattle feed in the EU or China.
However this apparently lucrative business is leaving little revenues on the country, since most of producers are foreigner, and soy barely pays taxes. National and international organisations claim its expansion is actually impoverishing the local population by strangling small producers and destroying the local market economy.
The pesticides used are extremely toxic, and due to a lack of environmental control, the air and the environment become severely polluted having important effects on animals and ultimately on human health. In rural areas where GM soy is planted some affections such as skin reactions, allergies, respiratory problems or gastrointestinal disease have become all too common, and the number of miscarriages and kids with congenital malformations has risen steadily. Recent studies held in the country relate it with the uncontrolled use of pesticides.
Deforestation and land grabbing are also on the rise when each year 9000 rural families are evicted by soy production, and nearly half a million hectares of land are turned into soy fields. Protests against fumigations are spreading in the country, leading to strong confrontations between police, peasants and large estate owners creating a tense situation. Death squads and target assassinations of peasant leaders have also been reported.
All this pressure creates a difficult environment for the peasants to live in, so many will be forced to sell their lands and leave their traditional lifestyle, most likely to end up in densely populated urban areas where future perspectives are scarce.
This project documents the consequences of the GM soy expansion in Paraguay, and ultimately seeks to raise awareness of the challenges of a heavy industrialised global food chain.