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The increase in the cultivation of sugar cane endangers the survival of thousands of families in Central America

Tuesday, 4 June 2019
Rosa M. Tristán

GUATEMALA-APS-SANTA CRUZ DE BARILLAS-HIDROELECTRICA

  • Alliance for solidarity denouncing the untenable social and environmental conditions generated by a product that reduces aquifers and pollute basic rivers for life
  • Local organizations, supported by the Alliance, are calling for international support against a business expansion that destroys their environment

The Organization Alliance for solidarity, as motive of the world environment day, denounces the unsustainable environmental and social situation that generates the cultivation of sugar cane in Central America, where it threatens the survival of thousands of families due to water stress than general and the pollution of rivers and aquifers. Alliance prepares an investigation in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala which clarify the actual impacts in a population heavily affected by climate change: according to the latest data from the FAO, in five countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua) in 2018 more than 3, 8 million people have suffered acute food insecurity, mainly as a result of the climate crisis (global report""The food crisis"). Of them, 1.6 million live in the so-called 'dry corridor', one of the most vulnerable areas of the world to climate change, and require urgent action, even though the trend is the opposite: greater exploitation of water resources and aquifers for unsustainable crops. We must remember that sugar cane today is also grown in the region for biofuel (ethanol) and for use in alcoholic beverages that are exported to all over the world.

The impacts are repeated in all countries. In addition to the disastrous management of water, agro-toxicos pollution, which affects the health of workers and the nearby populations, deepening of wells in the groundwater, the toxicity in the air by the burning of the cane, the Weirs in rivers , etc. They are impacts on the population of communities, especially in women, since it is they who are responsible, in most cases, care for and ensure the planting and production of the orchards and family plots. This should add the labor exploitation and insecurity for people who lead the opposition to these business projects, at risk of their lives.

In the case of Guatemala, one of the four big exporters around the world, most of the population has been displaced to less fertile lands, while a few corporations have been made with the South coast, the country's richest agricultural area cultivating extensive sugar, banana, oil palm and rubber plantations. During the dry season, they monopolize water from rivers and aquifers, while when the rains come they practice pumping excess water, diverting it to community fields, exposed to severe flooding.

In this country there are 284,000 hectares planted with sugar cane, nearly all for 12 sugar mills. Although they generate employment, 90% of the workers does not reach the minimum wage, especially if they are women. In total, some 2,500 farmers are dedicated to this product on the rise, even though the industry is, almost in its entirety, in the hands of a few wealthy and powerful families.

In the case of El Salvador, even though 70% of the entire territory is susceptible to suffer droughts, in 2018 it increased the production of sugarcane by 5%, according to official data. This culture that is already more than half (55%) production that is exported and continues to grow because the National Energy Board has decided to promote biofuel production with this product, thanks to the support of institutions like the Organization of American States (OAS).

In Nicaragua, according to the National Committee of sugar producers (CNPA), 42% of the sown area is 800 independent producers and the remaining 52% is in the hands of four sugar mills. The growth of cane is an 8.5% annual: If 71.500 hectares were cultivated in 2012, 2019 are already more than 77,000 acres, figures which contrast with the climate alert launched by FAO.

Ana Cecilia third, Nicaraguan Association APADEIM, supported by Alliance for solidarity in the Department of Chinandega, said: "here we have two large sugar of powerful families that are generating much disease and misery. Aquifers are polluted and we suffer respiratory diseases without having any business social action in the communities. For $200 a month, are working 12 hours or more a day. And we see that they use large machines to make industrial wells that leave us dry, without any control of anyone. It's a tremendous social and environmental disaster."

Alliance for solidarity claims, within his campaign land, investments that are responsible for natural resources and the sugarcane in Central America is mortgaging its future. Remember that Spain imported 15,000 tons each year only in Guatemala. "We have to be aware of the environmental impacts that have this product we use to sweeten us life, for biofuels and spirits, and that is the bitter to millions of people on the other side of the Atlantic because it is associated with serious environmental deterioration, and" Therefore social, in a very fragile area. We must ask ourselves where it comes to eat and support people who fight in defense of their territory and which are invisible, but that without our support feel very alone", says Almudena Moreno, responsible for the campaign in the organization.


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