Tag Archives: Plan Mesoamerica

Colombia’s breadbasket feels the pinch of free trade

By Helda Martínez, April 8, 2014. Source: Inter Press Service

The home of a poor farming family in the mountains of Cajamarca, in the central Colombian department of Tolima. Photo: Helda Martínez/IPS

The home of a poor farming family in the mountains of Cajamarca, in the central Colombian department of Tolima. Photo: Helda Martínez/IPS

“Things are getting worse and worse,” Enrique Muñoz, a 67-year-old farmer from the municipality of Cajamarca in the central Colombian department of Tolima, once known as the country’s breadbasket, said sadly.

“Over the past five decades, the situation took a radical turn for the worse,” activist Miguel Gordillo commented to IPS, referring to what is happening in Tolima, whose capital is Ibagué, 195 km southwest of Bogotá.

“Fifty years ago, Ibagué was a small city surrounded by crops – vast fields of cotton that looked from far away like a big white sheet,” said Gordillo, head of the non-governmental Asociación Nacional por la Salvación Agropecuaria(National Association to Save Agriculture).

“In Tolima we planted maize, tobacco, soy, sorghum and fruit trees, and the mountains that surrounded Cajamarca were covered with green coffee bushes protected by orange trees, maize and plantain, and surrounded by celery,” Muñoz said.

His voice lost in the past, he said the farms in the area also had “piggies, chickens, mules, cows; everything was so different.”

Gordillo said, “In the north of the department we had fruit trees of all kinds, and the rivers were chock full of fish. There’s still rice, some maize, coffee…but even the fish have disappeared.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, Politics, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Colombia farmers’ uprising puts the spotlight on seeds

Note: For more on the nation-wide uprising in Colombia, as well as the violent crackdown that has been initiated by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, click here.

In Colombia, we see the very real implications of privatization and free trade.  The neoliberal doctrine threatens lives and livelihoods in the most tangible way when peasants and union leaders are murdered by state or private security forces, and when largely popular movements are met in the streets with military force.

-The GJEP Team

September 4, 2013. Source: GRAIN

On 19 August, Colombian farmers’ organisations initiated a massive nationwide strike. They blocked roads, dumped milk on cars and basically stopped producing food for the cities. The problem? Farmers are being driven out of existence by the government’s policies.

Colombia-ProtestasCacaoculturasThe state provides almost no support for the small-scale farming sector.1 Instead, it embraces a social and economic model that serves the interests of a wealthy elite minority. Recent free trade agreements (FTAs) signed with the US and the EU are undercutting Colombian producers, who can’t compete with subsidised imports.2 The Colombian government has been actively promoting land grabbing by large corporations, many of them foreign (Monica Semillas from Brazil, Merhav from Israel, Cargill from the US), to promote export-oriented agribusiness at the expense of family farming oriented towards food sovereignty.

But the farming sector needs real support, especially in the form of access to land and lower costs of production, protestors argue. Otherwise, Colombian potato and coffee farmers, dairy and meat producers, not to mention small fishers, will not be able to keep up. They are being evicted and exterminated.

With their backs against the wall, a movement of mobilisation began in one part of the country in June and grew into a coordinated national action for August. The farmers’ strike was soon supported by other sectors: oil industry workers, miners, truckers, health sector professionals and others. On 29 August, ten days into the strike, more than 20,000 students joined the movement and shut down the capital city, Bogotá.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression

Think twice before sending flowers this Valentine’s Day

By Vladimir Nardin, February 12, 2013.  Source: pissedconsumer.com

Valentine’s Day reminds us each year that romance isn’t dead. We hope.

1_400x300Ah, but that red rose you receive will be dead in days. Its petals will wilt and fall, its novelty will wear off. Its innocence died long before. Your sweetheart did not pick the rose from a neighbor’s lawn; more likely it was picked in Colombia or Ecuador by an underpaid and possibly underage laborer, then imported and marked up for the masses.

From Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, 2012, the United States Customs and Border Protection agency processed approximately 842 million cut flower stems grown abroad. Sixty-seven percent came from Colombia and 23 percent came from Ecuador. Its country of origin isn’t stamped on each petal, but a Valentine’s flower is like a garden-variety cell phone or designer shoe: Rarely made in the USA.

The reason, of course, is cheap labor. In 2003, the International Labor Rights Forum launched the “Fairness in Flowers campaign” in response to the substandard working conditions in South America. There, ILRF reports a litany of labor issues. The right to organize is routinely denied. Sexual harassment and forced pregnancy tests are part of the “office culture.” Toxic pesticides and fungicides cause health problems – particularly in Ecuador, where an estimated 20 percent of the flower workers are children.
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Filed under Corporate Globalization, Industrial agriculture, Latin America-Caribbean, Youth