Tag Archives: paraguay

Audio: The link between Paraguay, Monsanto and deforestation of the Gran Chaco

In this week’s Earth Segment on KPFK Pacifica radio’s Sojourner Truth show, Dr. Miguel Lovera, former National Secretary for Plant Safety of Paraguay discusses the recent Paraguay coup, the link to the expansion of GMO soy plantations and the logging of the Gran Chaco forest, home to the Ayoreo indigenous people.

Global Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show for Earth Segment interviews every Thursday.

To listen to or download the podcast, click here

To view Orin Langelle’s photo essay of the Ayoreo in the Chaco, click here

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean

Earth Minute: Paraguay coup endangers Gran Chaco forest

Global Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show every Tuesday for an Earth Minute and every Thursday for an Earth Segment interview with front line activists from around the world.

This week’s Earth minute focuses on the coup in Paraguay and its impacts on the great forest of the Gran Chaco ecosystem, including the Ayoreo People, some of whom represent the last uncontacted tribes in the Americas.

To listen to or download the show, click on the link below:

Earth Minute 3 July 2012

To view Orin Langelle’s photo essay of the Ayoreo in the Gran Chaco, click here

The text from this week’s Earth Minute is below:

Two weeks ago in Paraguay, elected left-wing President Fernando Lugo was ousted through a “Parliamentary coup.”

The UK Guardian likened the upheaval to the removal of President Manuel Zelaya from Honduras. “A progressive but imperfect leftwing leader ousted by rightwing forces determined to halt policies that threaten their business interests.

As always, the underlying politics revolve around land.  In this case, Paraguay’s Gran Chaco–a vast expanse of grasslands, forests and cactus that borders Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia. Home to some of the last uncontacted tribes in the Americas, the great forest of the Gran Chaco is being rapidly eaten away by the expansion of beef cattle ranches–with ten percent of the forest lost in the last 5 years.

These forests are home to the indigenous Ayoreo people, who, after decades of oppression, have been trying to recover both their culture and land rights.  Now, like Indigenous Peoples worldwide, the Ayoreo and their lands are threatened by the insatiable appetites of the global market.

For the Earth Minute and the Sojourner Truth show, this is Anne Petermann from Global Justice Ecology Project.

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Photo Essay: Paraguay Coup Connections

What will happen to the Indigenous Peoples?

Photographs by Orin Langelle/GJEP-GFC

In the Ayoreo settlement of Campo Lorro, Chaco, Paraguay

Paraguay’s right-wing coup that ousted Fernando Lugo’s government two weeks ago hardly made North American news.  Typical.  And how many people care anyway about that small landlocked nation?

Although the photos in this essay were taken in 2009, they show a community and a people struggling for survival.

To me the coup is personal, because I traveled to Paraguay in January of 2009.  I have friends there. GJEP is the North American Focal Point for Global Forest Coalition  which has their southern hemisphere office there.  I had the opportunity to tour Asuncion, the nation’s Capitol, and see where the poor live several hundred meters from the national government buildings. I traveled on long back roads surrounded by immense GMO soybean fields controlled by agribusiness (the soy mafia) and I visited and photographed the Ayoreo indigenous community of Campo Lorro (Parrot Field) in the Chaco region.

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Filed under Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, Political Repression

Natural History Museum expedition ‘poses genocide threat’ to Paraguay tribes

In early 2009, Global Justice Ecology Project’s Co-director/Strategist, Orin Langelle, went to the Gran Chaco region in Paraguay with Iniciativa Amotocodie and Global Forest Coalition with permission to take photographs in the Ayoreo community of Campo Loro, for a project with the community called: Sharing the Eye.  Campo Loro was targeted by American missionaries and one of the first Ayoreo communities to be colonized.   A community leader took Langelle through the village and pointed out important things to him and other Ayoreo that lived there, which Langelle photographed.  By mid 2009, the Ayoreo community of Campo Loro (near the town of Filadelfia) received the photographs where they were exhibited for the entire community.  You can view the exhibit Sharing the Eye by clicking here. GJEP is the North America Focal Point for Global Forest Coalition.

–The GJEP Team


Cross-posted from The Guardian

John Vidal, environment editor

Field trip to find new plant and insect species in the Chaco will endanger remote Indian tribes, anthropologists and indigenous leaders warn

Click the image below to watch the video from Survival International

Anthropologists and indigenous leaders have warned that a Natural History Museum expedition to Paraguay could lead to “genocide” and are calling for it to be abandoned. They fear that the scientists and their teams of assistants are likely to make accidental contact with isolated indigenous groups in the remote region they are planning to visit and could pass on infectious diseases.

The 100-strong expedition is due to set off in the next few days for two of the remotest regions of the vast dry forest known as the Gran Chaco, which stretches over northern Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina. The expedition organisers hope to find several hundred new species of plants and insects.

But the two sites where the British and Paraguayan teams of botanists, biologists and other scientists plan to stay in for up to a month are known to be home to groups of Ayoreo Indians. They live in voluntary isolation and reject and avoid all contact with Westerners, said Benno Glauser, director of leading indigenous peoples‘ protection group Iniciativa Amotocodie.

Glauser, with the backing of Ayoreo leaders who have left the forest in the last 20 years, has sent the museum more than 40 pieces of data showing the presence of isolated peoples in the Chovoreca and Cabrera Timane regions.

“According to our data, the expedition you plan constitutes beyond any doubt an extremely high risk for the integrity, safety and legal rights of life and self-determination of the isolated Ayoreo, as well as for the integrity and stability of their territories. There exists a considerable menace and risk also for the safety of the scientists taking part of the expedition, as well as the rest of expedition participants,” says Glauser in a letter to the museum.

Until about 1950 it is estimated that around 5,000 Ayoreo lived in the Chaco forest as isolated hunter-gatherers without contact with the ranchers and religious groups who were given land by the Paraguayan government. Since then almost all have left the forest after being targeted by American missionaries. It is estimated that there are now only six or seven isolated groups numbering around 150 people in total. It is now the only place in South America outside the Amazon where uncontacted Indians still live.

Ayoreo leaders who have settled near the town of Filadelfia in northern Paraguay this week appealed to the president of Paraguay and the Natural History Museum to abandon the expedition, saying that their relatives were in grave danger.

“Both of these regions belong to the Ayoreo indigenous territory … We know that our people still live in the forest and they don’t want to leave it to join white civilisation.”

He said there are at least three uncontacted groups in the area. “If this expedition goes ahead we will not be able to understand why you prefer to lose human lives just because the English scientists want to study plants and animals. There is too much risk: the people in the forest die frequently from catching white people’s diseases – the get infected by being close. Because the white people leave their rubbish, their clothes, or other contaminated things. It’s very serious. It’s like a genocide,” they said in a statement.

According to Survival International, an NGO that campaigns for the rights of tribal peoples, contact with any isolated Indians would be disastrous for either party. “Contact with isolated groups is invariably violent, sometimes fatal and always disastrous,” said Jonathan Mazower, a spokesman. “It is highly likely that there are small groups of isolated Indians scattered throughout the Chaco. The only sensible thing to do is err on the side of caution because any accidental contact can be disastrous. This has happened before [in the Chaco]. On two previous occasions, in 1979 and 1986 expeditions were sent in by US missionaries to bring out Indians and people were killed on both occasions.”

The expedition, one of the largest undertaken by the museum in more than 50 years, has taken several years to plan and is believed to be costing more than £300,000. It hopes to map and record species of thousands of plants and insects, which will then go to local Paraguayan museums. Until last month, the museum’s website had claimed that the area the scientists will visit “has not been explored by human beings”.

This created consternation in the Ayoreo communities. “Some people say they are going to places in which no human being has ever been. That means we Ayoreo are not human beings,” said one of the leaders in a statement to the Guardian. “Our uncontacted brothers have the right to decide how they want to live – if they want to leave or not.”

The Chaco, known as “green hell” is one of the least hospitable but most biologically diverse places on Earth. The barely populated expanse of almost impenetrable forest is twice the size of the UK, but home to at least 3,400 plant species, 500 bird species, 150 species of mammals, 120 species of reptiles, and 100 species of amphibians. Jaguars, pumas, giant anteaters and giant otters are common.

In a statement, the Natural History Museum said it had planned the expedition in conjunction with the Paraguayan government and would be working with Ayoreo Indians: “We recognise the importance of the concerns which have been taken into account during the planning of the expedition. They form part of the ongoing consultations that are still taking place with the Paraguayan authorities. The information and specimens collected on this trip will help scientists to understand for the first time the richness and diversity of the animals and plants in this remote region and the governments and conservation groups are able to use such information to better understand how to manage fragile habitats and protect them for future generations.”

It continued: “We are delighted to be working with representatives of the indigenous people. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to combine traditionally acquired knowledge with scientifically acquired knowledge to our mutual benefit. As with all expeditions, the team is continually reviewing the situation. Our primary concern is for the welfare of the members of the expedition team and the people of the Dry Chaco region.”

Uncontacted tribes around the world

There are around 100 remaining groups of isolated, or “uncontacted” people, including 40-67 in Brazil, 15-18 in Peru, 15-30 in Papua and others in Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia, and the Andaman islands of India. As oil companies, loggers and farmers go deeper into the remotest forests, evidence of more groups is being discovered.

A few groups may have no idea of country or other languages and no one has come close to them. Some are the descendants of tribes contacted more than 100 years ago by colonists who fled deeper into the forest in fear of enslavement or decimation by disease. Others shun all contact with western civilisation but have a good idea of life outside the forest and may have machetes or other tools which they could have acquired from contact with other groups.

According to Survival International, these tribes all remain in isolation because they choose to, and because encounters with the outside world have brought them only violence, disease and murder.

Isolated tribes are the most vulnerable people on Earth, having no immunity to the diseases brought in by outsiders. Colds and flu can become killers, and 50-90% of tribe members commonly die from first contact with outsiders.

Epidemics of measles, smallpox, yellow fever, whooping cough, influenza and later malaria have all had devastating effects.

More than 20% of the Yanomami Indians of northern Brazil died in the 1980s and 90s when they came into contact with goldminers who brought in illnesses. Ninety per cent of Indians in the Javari valley in Amazonas state in Brazil, including six uncontacted tribes, suffered from malaria or hepatitis brought into the area in 2006.

The result, says Survival, is that entire cultures that have taken centuries to evolve can be being wiped out in days as disease invades a population.

Anthropologists now take precautions including wearing masks to avoid accidentally passing on diseases.

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Paraguay: “Pause” Farming Expansion in Gran Chaco, Say Activists

Mother and child in the Gran Chaco. photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

The following is of great interest to Global Justice Ecology Project.  GJEP is the North American Focal Point for Global Forest Coalition.  GFC thas it’s southern hemisphere office in Asuncion.  After the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil last year, GJEP’s Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle visited the Asuncion office.  While in Paraguay, Langelle was invited to the Gran Chaco region by the Ayoreo for a photo project entitled “Sharing the Eye .”

“Pause” Farming Expansion in Gran Chaco, Say Activists
By Natalia Ruiz Díaz

ASUNCION, Jun 17, 2010 (Tierramérica) – Extensive cattle farming in northwestern Paraguay is the leading cause of deforestation in the Gran Chaco, one of the world’s leading regions in biodiversity and South America’s second largest forested area, after the Amazon.

The non-governmental Guyra Paraguay Association reported to the Secretariat (ministry) of Environment (SEAM) that deforestation last year totalled 267,000 hectares, 17 percent more than in 2008, just in the northern provinces of Boquerón and Alto Paraguay.

The association’s study also found that in the first quarter of this year, 18,000 hectares of forested land disappeared from this rich ecosystem, located in the centre of South America, with 80 percent of that loss occurring inside Paraguayan territory.

The Gran Chaco is a semi-arid expanse of dense thorn scrubland that covers more than one million square kilometres: 25 percent in Paraguay, 62 percent in Argentina, 12 percent in Bolivia, and the remaining one percent in Brazil.

Eladio García, director of integrated environmental monitoring at SEAM, told Tierramérica that government regulation of the area is difficult due to the lack of resources.

“There is a complete lack of awareness about respect for natural resources,” said García, who noted the private landowners’ violations of the country’s existing land-use and land management laws.

Forestry Law 422/73, which regulates management and use of renewable natural resources, establishes that 50 percent of forests must be maintained on farms that are in preservation zones, and 25 percent on farms that are not.

The Pojoauju Association, an umbrella of dozens of non-governmental organisations, issued a statement earlier this month urging an “ecological pause” to logging in the area in order to establish a balance between economic production and forest preservation.

The association’s argument is that “the landowners and the agro-export companies are deforesting areas of the Chaco to transform the land towards livestock production and genetically modified soybean cultivation.”

“They are carrying out a process of grid-mapping the Chaco for a system that already destroyed the natural resources in the eastern region” of Paraguay, Víctor Benítez, an expert with the organisation Alter Vida, told Tierramérica.

The farmers in this process fail to take into account the location of fragile areas of biodiversity, protected areas or “uncontacted” indigenous groups, he added.

According to SEAM figures, there are just one million hectares remaining of the 3.5 million hectares of forest that existed in the 1970s in the eastern region, which encompasses 14 of the country’s 17 provinces, and where 97 percent of the 6.2 million Paraguayans live.

“It isn’t a call for a zero-deforestation law, but rather for the government, through its institutions, to declare an ecological pause,” said Benítez, though he did not specify how long the moratorium should last.

Law 2524 was enacted in 2004, prohibiting activities that transformed or converted forest-covered areas in the eastern region. The policy remained in force until 2006, and was then extended to 2013.

With that legislative tool, Paraguay was able to reduce logging 85 percent in that area, but it pushed farm expansion to the Chaco, as part of the development dream for that region.

A SEAM investigation found that most of the rural landowners of deforested areas are Brazilian, and are located in ancestral indigenous territory, in the extreme north of the Chaco.

Benítez believes there must be dialogue between the farmers and ranchers and the institutions representing the indigenous communities’ social, environmental and cultural interests.

About 51 percent of the national indigenous population — some 108,000 people — lives in the Chaco or western region, which covers 60 percent of the 406,752 square km of Paraguayan territory.

The Ayoreo community is one of the principal indigenous groups of the Gran Chaco, numbering about 5,600, with 2,600 in Paraguay and the rest in Bolivia.

The 2009 report “Paraguay: The Ayoreo Case,” prepared by the Amotocodie Initiative and the Native Ayoreo Union of Paraguay, indicates that about 100 of these indigenous peoples still live in the Chaco forests, outside of contact with the rest of Paraguayan society.

“In the Chaco there are areas that are clearly for livestock, to which we have no objection at all, and that is why we are calling for an end to land-use changes in the indigenous zone,” said Benítez.

The 2008 Agricultural Census found that in the western region there were about 3.9 million head of cattle, 37 percent of the national total.

The environmentalists say the responsibility for saving the Paraguayan Chaco lies with the authorities and depends on a commitment from society.

(*This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.)

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