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puce Newsletter November 2015. Editorial by Pablo Prado: the ecological disaster of La Pasión, a Guatemalan river

La lettre d'information du réseau Agter

The association AGTER runs an international network of people, exchanging and thinking together how to improve the governance of land, water and natural resources.The network selects and makes information available but it also formulates suggestions and alternatives to face the current great challenges. This quaterly newsletter is presenting the latest information available on our website : www.agter.asso.fr.

10 November 2015

Editorial November 2015

by

Pablo Prado *

At the beginning of June 2015, pollution levels increased dramatically in the La Pasión River within the Petén region (northern Guatemala). It caused mass death of fishes belonging to more than 23 different species and impacted, directly or indirectly, about 30,000 local poor rural families. A company producing palm oil was responsible for this disaster. A month later, affected people asked to open up a space for discussion at the University of San Carlos to give their version of events and to request the University support. They spoke about « ecocide », violent conflicts over water and underlined the social irresponsibility of the company and the state’s carelessness.

On 18th of September 2015, a new tragic event occurred, with the assassination of Rigoberto Lima Choc – known for his resistance to the polluting activities of the palm oil company and recently elected councillor of the Sayaxché town (Petén). The same day, few streets away from the murder scene, company’s former workers were demonstrating against the judicial decision to temporarily stop the company’s activities.

What has broad about this tragic situation leading to loss of human lives? How this conflict does reflect the inherent contradiction of the contemporary agrarian reconfiguration in Guatemala?

The most evident conflict has to do with the spirit of agrarian capitalism itself. That is to say, to its will to maximize profits for entrepreneurs considering neither the Earth’s biophysical limits, nor the negative social consequences of the industrialized agricultural production. In all logic, capitalist entrepreneurs seek only to maximize return on investment. But, who pay for the treatment of wastes created during their productive activities? What financial resources are allocated to compensate the affected populations? Who is the responsible for the costs and the irreversible damages caused by the unlimited exploitation of nature? Finally, it is a conflict between profit maximization for few and the right of peoples to live a life of dignity and freedom, in a sound and well-preserved environment. The mistake is to confuse entrepreneurial success and sustainable development of the entire society. It is the task of civil society and governments, from the local to the international level, to establish rules and regulations to avoid this confusion and to prevent such dramatic events. In this sense, rural communities and indigenous peoples can play an essential role, if we recognize their right to decide how to manage their territory.

The palm oil company launched a major media campaign to refute its involvement in the assassination of the activist and counsellor. The justice has to clarify who have been culprit. Nevertheless, it is obvious that, given these aforementioned facts – the river pollution, temporary cessation of company activities, and dismissal of local workers – conditions are met to create a conflict between workers and ecologists. It comes as no surprise that people who ventured to denounce the ecological disaster caused by the company, these “everlasting rebellious”, have been accused of the backwardness, precariousness and material poverty in which live millions of rural Guatemalan. This has fanned the fire of intolerance and violence in a context already characterized by conflict. This conflict has agrarian roots and it is typical of post-conflict societies that continue to postpone structural solutions to their domestic problems.

These two events illustrate the consequences of the countryside’s agrarian reconfiguration in Guatemala, which face a differentiated integration to global markets. The agrarian dualism in Guatemala goes on, although the agricultural export model is no longer the single axis of the national economy. The resounding failure of Guatemala regarding the Millennium Development Goals shows that the current agrarian reconfiguration is perpetuating the domination of the peasant majority and the concentration of agricultural wealth in the hands of a few. New economic conglomerates facilitate the rural exodus to disordered cities unable to provide the minimum conditions for a decent life. Regrettably, we are witnessing to a new circuit of rural life precariousness, fuelled by the global demand for agricultural products, as part of a completely economically useless consumption system, socially irresponsible and ecologically disastrous.

The ecological martyrdom of Rigoberto Lima Choc is not without reminding us that of Chico Mendes. Two lives lost. Two conflicts between capital and life. Two reasons for indignation, social struggle for land and hope.

*Pablo Prado is a member of AGTER and works in the Faculty of Agronomy at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala.

Miscellaneous

We point out that the new website "Access to Land" is available on line. This website deals specifically with the question of access to land in Europe. One of the main promoters of this website is the association Terre de Liens, which is a member of AGTER.

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article(s)

QUEL AVENIR POUR LES COMMUNAUTES LOCALES MALGACHES AFFECTEES PAR L’EXPLORATION DE TERRES RARES DE LA SOCIETE TANTALUS ?

10 November 2015, by Collectif TANY
Une concession de 300 km2 a été attribuée par l’Etat malgache dans le Nord-Ouest de Madagascar à la société TANTALUS dont le siège se trouve en Allemagne, pour l’exploitation de terres rares sur la péninsule d’Ampasindava, dans les régions Diana et Sofia. La société minière est connue dans le district d’Ambanja sous le nom de sa filiale locale TANTALUM RARE EARTH MALAGASY (TREM) [1]. Les terres rares figurent parmi les minerais stratégiques utilisés pour la haute technologie dont les milieux informés (…)

IIIème Congrès Mésoaméricain de Foresterie Communautaire : « Le modèle forestier du Petén : un apport pour le monde et le climat ».

29 October 2015
L’Association des Communautés Forestières du Petén (ACOFOP) et l’Alliance Mésoaméricaine des Peuples et Forêts (AMPB) organisent le IIIème Congrès Mésoaméricain de Foresterie Communautaire sur le thème : « Le modèle forestier du Petén : un apport pour le monde et le climat ». L’objectif central de cet événement est de reconnaître et valoriser l’apport politique et technique du modèle de gestion forestière communautaire du Petén, dans le but d’améliorer la gestion forestière en Amérique Latine.

Ce congrès, tout (…)

Lancement du site "Access to land"

26 October 2015
Terre de Liens et ses partenaires européens lancent un site web sur l’accès à la terre en Europe !

Pour consulter ce site, cliquez sur le lien suivant : www.accesstoland.eu.

Intégralement en anglais, le site web fournit des informations et des ressources pratiques sur les enjeux d’accès à la terre en Europe, sur les initiatives citoyennes qui se sont développées pour y répondre et sur les leçons tirées de nos expériences de terrain. Il est destiné à des organisations paysannes et de développement (…)


III Congreso Mesoamericano de Forestería Comunitaria: “El Modelo Forestal Comunitario de Petén: un aporte para el mundo y el clima”

29 October 2015
La Asociación de Comunidades Forestales de Petén (ACOFOP) en conjunto con la Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques (AMPB), organizan el III Congreso Mesoamericano de Forestería Comunitaría « El Modelo Forestal de Petén: un aporte para el mundo y el clima », un evento que tiene como objetivo central reconocer y valorar el aporte político y técnico del modelo de Manejo Forestal Comunitario de Petén, para mejorar la gestión forestal en América Latina.

Este congreso, al igual que las ediciones (…)

Lanzamiento del sitio web "Access to land"

27 October 2015
La asociacion francesa Terre de Liens y sus colaboradores europeos lanzan un sitio web sobre el acceso a la tierra en Europa !

Para consultar esta pagina web : http://www.accesstoland.eu/

Íntegramente en inglés, el sitio web proporciona informaciones y recursos prácticos sobre el acceso a la tierra en Europa, sobre las iniciativas ciudadanas que se desarrollaron para responder a eso y sobre las lecciones tiradas de las experiencias de las organizaciones de terreno. Este sitio es destinado a (…)


Analysing Agricultural Investment Projects that Affect Land and Property Rights : From International Principles to Operational Tools

9 November 2015, by Amel Benkahla

Reinstating Economic Evaluations as a Means of Determining whether Agricultural Investment Projects Will Serve the Common Interest

9 November 2015, by Samir EL OUAAMARI

Third Mesoamerican Community Forestry Congress : " The Model Forest Peten: a contribution to the World and Climate "

29 October 2015
The Association of Forest Communities of Petén (ACOFOP) in conjunction with the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB) are organizing the Third Mesoamerican Community Forestry Congress called " The Model Forest Peten: a contribution to the World and Climate " the 17 and 18 November.

The Mesoamerican III Community Forestry Congress will be dedicated to recognizing and valuing the contribution of Community Forest Management model of Peten and in turn show the world how this model (…)

Launch of the website "Access to land"

27 October 2015
The french association Terre de Liens and its european partners launch a website on access to land in Europe !

To consult the website and get informations and practical resources on land access issues in Europe click on the following link : http://www.accesstoland.eu/

"Preserving land for local, agroecological farming is a growing issue in many parts of Europe. The amount of agricultural land is declining, as a result of urban and infrastructure development. Competition for land use is (…)

video

La foresterie communautaire au Guatemala, l’experience d’ACOFOP. Conférence de J.R. Giron. (avec synthèse vidéo)

7 November 2015

La forestería comunitaria en Guatemala, la experiencia de ACOFOP. Conferencia de J.R. Giron. (Con síntesis video)

7 November 2015

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