By Zoe Brent, January 2, 2014. Source: Upside Down World
This article is an excerpt from Food First’s Land & Sovereignty Series. Click here to download the full report.
Following Argentina’s economic crisis in 2001, the country leaned heavily on mining and large-scale agribusiness (especially soy) to reinvigorate its ailing economy. The expansion of these industries requires the accumulation of new lands and the violent displacement of rural communities. Many farmers and indigenous communities don’t have titles to their lands, leaving them vulnerable to displacement or criminal charges for squatting. Peasant movements like Argentina’s National Peasant and Indigenous Movement (MNCI) are resisting this assault on their lands and fighting to transform the system through political education and collective action.
Background: Argentina’s Soy and Mining Explosion
Since the legalization of genetically modified soy in Argentina in 1996, the crop has exploded to cover over half (59 percent) of the country’s cultivated land. Ninety-nine percent of this soy is transgenic and 95 percent is for export. Similarly, mining exports increased by 434 percent between 2001 and 2011. Andean provinces—those located along the western edge of the country—are particularly affected by the expansion of mining. Jujuy, for instance, experienced a 1,948 percent increase in mining investments since 2003.
While the soy and mining sectors are often credited for fueling the country’s economic rebound after the 2001 crisis, the expansion of these sectors has displaced rural communities and led to numerous conflicts over territorial rights.
Nationally, nearly a quarter of Argentina’s farming families are engaged in some kind of dispute over their land, 64 percent of which began within the last 20 years. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, there are 857 distinct conflicts over land, affecting 63,843 family farms, covering nearly 23 million acres. These high levels of conflict indicate that lands recently incorporated into soy production, while often untitled, are not unclaimed or empty by any means—most are inhabited by small-scale peasant farmers or indigenous communities.
The social costs of this boom have been devastating. In order to free up new lands for development, private security forces hired by new land claimants often use violence to evict peasant farmers. In the past three years 11 farmers and indigenous people have died, all of whom opposed the incursion of large-scale developments on their lands. Some were murdered in cold blood, while others died in mysterious traffic accidents that their families claim were also premeditated.