Inter Press ServiceMario Osava – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 21 Jun 2018 20:57:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Brazil’s Agricultural Heavyweight Status Undermines Food Supplyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/brazils-agricultural-heavyweight-status-undermines-food-supply/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brazils-agricultural-heavyweight-status-undermines-food-supply http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/brazils-agricultural-heavyweight-status-undermines-food-supply/#respond Sat, 16 Jun 2018 00:45:50 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156253 Brazil is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and exporters, but its food supply has become seriously deficient due to food insecurity, unsustainability and poor nutrition, according to a number of studies. A week-long nationwide strike by truck drivers, that began on May 21, revealed the precariousness of the food supply, which practically collapsed […]

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A soybean plantation in Tocantins, a state in central Brazil, where this monoculture crop is beginning to cover the best lands, following in the footsteps of the neighbouring state of Mato Grosso, the largest producer and exporter of soy and maize in the country, which "imports" the food it consumes from faraway areas. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A soybean plantation in Tocantins, a state in central Brazil, where this monoculture crop is beginning to cover the best lands, following in the footsteps of the neighbouring state of Mato Grosso, the largest producer and exporter of soy and maize in the country, which "imports" the food it consumes from faraway areas. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 16 2018 (IPS)

Brazil is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and exporters, but its food supply has become seriously deficient due to food insecurity, unsustainability and poor nutrition, according to a number of studies.

A week-long nationwide strike by truck drivers, that began on May 21, revealed the precariousness of the food supply, which practically collapsed in the large Brazilian cities, at least in terms of perishable goods such as vegetables and eggs, said the National Agroecology Alliance (ANA).

Brazil ranks 28th out of 34 countries in the Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by the Italian Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition, together with the British magazine The Economist’s Intelligence Unit."Monoculture agriculture, without interaction with the ecosystems, is based heavily on imports of inputs, including oil; it degrades the environment, causes erosion and deforestation, in contrast to agriculture as it was practiced in the past, which valued soil nutrients." -- Paulo Petersen

In Latin America, Colombia (13), Argentina (18) and Mexico (22) are the best rated, according to this index based on 58 indicators that measure three variables: sustainable agriculture, nutritional challenges and food waste.

But the United States, the world’s largest producer of agricultural products, also ranks only 21st in the FSI, reflecting the same discrepancy between agriculture and sustainable food, which is also not directly related to the countries’ per capita income levels.

“The Brazilian food system is unsustainable in environmental, social and economic terms,” said Elisabetta Recine, head of the National Council for Food and Nutritional Security (Consea), an advisory body to the president of Brazil, with two-thirds of its 60 members coming from civil society.

“Production has become increasingly concentrated, as well as trade. This means food has to be transported long distances, driving up costs and increasing the consumption of durable, industrialised and less healthy food in the cities,” Recine, who teaches nutrition at the University of Brasilia, told IPS.

This is well illustrated by the four supermarkets of the Kinfuku chain in the region of Alta Floresta, in the northern part of the state of Mato Grosso, located on the southern border of the Amazon rainforest.

They sell food transported weekly by truck from the southern state of Paraná, more than 2,000 km away, owner Pedro Kinfuku told IPS at one of their stores.

Mato Grosso is the country’s largest producer of maize and soy, monoculture crops destined mainly for export or for the animal feed industry, which monopolise local lands, driving out crops for human food.

This “long cycle of production and consumption” is part of the system whose insecurity was highlighted by the truck drivers’ strike over the space of just a few days, said Recine.

A group of children eat lunch at a school in Itaboraí, 45 km from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where thanks to the National School Meals Programme (PNAE) the students in public schools eat vegetables and fresh food from local family farms. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A group of children eat lunch at a school in Itaboraí, 45 km from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where thanks to the National School Meals Programme (PNAE) the students in public schools eat vegetables and fresh food from local family farms. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This phenomenon also concentrates wealth, generates little employment and increases social inequality in the country, while environmentally it exacerbates the use of agrochemicals, she said.

Brazil, which had managed to be removed from the United Nations Hunger Map in 2014, has once again seen a rise in malnutrition and infant mortality, in the face of “budget cuts in social programmes, growing unemployment and the general impoverishment of the population,” the nutritionist lamented.

At the same time, “obesity is increasing in all age groups throughout the country, directly related to the poor quality of food and the lack of preventive actions, such as the creation of healthy food environments, with regulations that restrict certain products,” said the president of Consea.

“We have to consider the food system from the soil and the seed to post-consumption, the waste,” she said.

The “structural problem” of the mode of production, the transport, distribution and consumption of food in the world today, particularly in Brazil, is the result of “two disconnects, one between agriculture and nature and the other between production and consumption,” said agronomist Paulo Petersen, vice-president of the Brazilian Association of Agroecology.

Monoculture agriculture, “without interaction with the ecosystems, is based heavily on imports of inputs, including oil; it degrades the environment, causes erosion and deforestation, in contrast to agriculture as it was practiced in the past, which valued soil nutrients,” he said in an interview with IPS.

For Petersen, consumption is increasingly moving away from agricultural production in physical distance, and also because of the processing chain, which is generating waste and “homogenising habits of consumption of ultra-processed foods and excess sugar, sodium, fats and preservatives, leading to obesity and non-communicable diseases.”

A large line of trucks slows down traffic in Anápolis, a logistics hub in central Brazil, at an intersection, where thousands of trucks circulate daily transporting food, industrial products and supplies, in all directions in this enormous country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A large line of trucks slows down traffic in Anápolis, a logistics hub in central Brazil, at an intersection, where thousands of trucks circulate daily transporting food, industrial products and supplies, in all directions in this enormous country. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

All of this, he said, has to do with climate change, the loss of biodiversity, growing health problems, the concentration of land ownership and the dominant power of agribusiness and large corporations.

“It is necessary to reorganise the food system, to change its logic, and that is the State’s obligation,” said Petersen, also executive coordinator of the non-governmental organisation Advisory Service for Alternative Agriculture Projects (ASPTA)- Family Agriculture and Agroecology, and member of the executive board of the National Agroecology Alliance (ANA) network.

Brazil launched positive actions in the food sector, such as the government’s School Meals Programme, which establishes a minimum of 30 percent of family farming products in the food offered by public schools to its students, thus improving the nutritional quality of their diet.

In addition, family farming was recognised as the source of most of the food consumed in the country, and a low-interest credit programme was created for this sector.

The problem, according to Petersen, is that this financing sometimes foments the same vices of industrial large-scale agriculture, such as monoculture and the use of agrochemicals.

There is a growing awareness of the negative aspects of agribusiness and the need for agro-ecological practices, as well as initiatives scattered throughout the country, but the dominant agricultural sector exercises its power in a way that blocks change, he said.

The bulk of agricultural credit, technical assistance, land concentrated in the hands of a few large landowners, and influence on state power all favour large-scale farmers, who also have the largest parliamentary caucus to pass “their” laws, Petersen said.

A vegetable garden in Santa Maria de Jetibá, of the 220-member Cooperative of Family Farmers of the Serrana Region, the largest supplier of vegetables and fruit to schools in the municipality of Vitoria, in the southeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A vegetable garden in Santa Maria de Jetibá, of the 220-member Cooperative of Family Farmers of the Serrana Region, the largest supplier of vegetables and fruit to schools in the municipality of Vitoria, in the southeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In Brazil, there are 4.4 million family farms, which make up 84 percent of rural establishments and produce more than half of the food, according to official figures.

But they have little influence in the government in the face of the power of a few dozen large producers.

Food banks are also an example of good, albeit limited, actions to reduce waste and the risks of malnutrition in the most vulnerable segments of the population.

They emerged from isolated initiatives in the 1990s and were adopted as a government programme in 2016, with the creation of the Brazilian Network of Food Banks, under the coordination of the Ministry of Social Development.

In 1994, the Social Trade Service (SESC), made up of companies in the sector, also began to create food banks in its own network, which it named Mesa Brasil (Brazil Board). By the end of 2017, it had 90 units in operation in 547 cities.

That year, the network served 1.46 million people per day and distributed 40,575 tons of food.

It is the largest network of such centres in the country, but it has proven insufficient in a country of 208 million people and 5,570 cities.

Mesa Brasil makes use of food that would no longer be sold by stores, because of commercial regulations, but which is in perfect condition, and delivers it to social institutions.

“It also promotes educational actions for workers and volunteers from social organisations and collaborators from donor companies,” on food and nutritional security, according to Ana Cristina Barros, SESC’s manager of aid at the national level.

“One of our biggest difficulties is the legal obstacles that prevent food companies from making donations, which are increasingly interested in doing so,” she told IPS.

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A Natural Climate Change Adaptation Laboratory in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/natural-climate-change-adaptation-laboratory-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=natural-climate-change-adaptation-laboratory-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/natural-climate-change-adaptation-laboratory-brazil/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 23:19:23 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155880 The small pulp mill that uses native fruits that were previously discarded is a synthesis of the multiple objectives of the Adapta Sertão project, a programme created to build resilience to climate change in Brazil’s most vulnerable region. The new commercial value stimulates the conservation and cultivation of the umbú (Spondias tuberosa) and umbú-cajá (Spondias […]

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Two workers manually select umbús-cajás, in the factory of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, in Pintadas, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, while the fruit is washed. It is the slowest part of the production of fruit pulp from fruits native to the semi-arid ecoregion, in a project with only female workers. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Two workers manually select umbús-cajás, in the factory of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, in Pintadas, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, while the fruit is washed. It is the slowest part of the production of fruit pulp from fruits native to the semi-arid ecoregion, in a project with only female workers. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
PINTADAS, Brazil, May 22 2018 (IPS)

The small pulp mill that uses native fruits that were previously discarded is a synthesis of the multiple objectives of the Adapta Sertão project, a programme created to build resilience to climate change in Brazil’s most vulnerable region.

The new commercial value stimulates the conservation and cultivation of the umbú (Spondias tuberosa) and umbú-cajá (Spondias bahiensis) fruit trees of the Anacardiaceae family, putting a halt to deforestation that has already devastated half of the original vegetation of the caatinga, the semi-arid biome of the Brazilian northeast region, covering 844,000 square km.

“I sold 500 kilos of umbú this year to the Ser do Sertão Cooperative,” Adelso Lima dos Santos, a 52-year-old farmer with three children, told IPS proudly. Since he owns only one hectare of land, he harvested the fruits on neighbouring farms where they used to throw out what they could not consume.

For each tonne the cooperative, which owns the small factory, pays its members 1.50 Brazilian reals (42 cents) per kg of fruit and a little less to non-members. In the poor and inhospitable semi-arid interior of the Northeast, known as the sertão, the income is more than welcome.

“A supplier managed to sell us 3,600 kg,” the cooperative’s commercial director and factory manager, Girlene Oliveira, 40, who has two daughters, told IPS.

Pulp production also generates income for the six local women who work at the plant. It contributes to women’s empowerment, another condition for sustainable development in the face of future climate adversities, said Thais Corral, co-founder of Adapta Sertão and coordinator of the non-governmental Human Development Network (REDEH), based in Rio de Janeiro.

The pulp mill began operating in December 2016 in Pintadas, a town of 11,000 inhabitants in the interior of the state of Bahia, and its activity is expanding rapidly. In 2017, it produced 27 tonnes, a figure already reached during the first quarter of this year, when it had orders for 72 tonnes.

But its capacity to process 8,000 tonnes per day remains underutilised. It currently operates only eight days a month on average. The limitation is in sales, on the one hand, and of raw material, whose supply is seasonal and therefore requires storage in a cold chamber, which has a capacity of only 28 tons.

Girlene Oliveira, commercial director of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, monitors the fruit pulp packaging machine, with a capacity to fill a thousand one-litre containers per hour, but which is underutilised by a limitation in sales and in the storage of frozen fruit. But the initiative is still a success for family farmers from Pintadas in Bahia, in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Girlene Oliveira, commercial director of the Ser do Sertão Cooperative, monitors the fruit pulp packaging machine, with a capacity to fill a thousand one-litre containers per hour, but which is underutilised by a limitation in sales and in the storage of frozen fruit. But the initiative is still a success for family farmers from Pintadas in Bahia, in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

In addition to umbú and umbú-cajá, harvested in the first quarter of the year, the factory produces pulp from other fruits, such as pineapple, mango, guava and acerola or West Indian cherry (Malpighia emarginata), available the rest of the year. Also, it has five other kinds of fruit for possible future production and is testing another 16.

The severe drought that hit the caatinga in the last six years caused some local fruits to disappear, such as the pitanga (Eugenia uniflora).

The Productive Cooperative of the Region of Piemonte de Diamantina (Coopes), whose members are all women, is another community initiative born in 2005 in Capim Grosso, 75 km from Pintadas, to process the licuri palm nut (Syagus coronate), from a palm tree in danger of going extinct.

More than 30 food and cosmetic products are made from the licuri palm nut. Its growing value is also helping to drive the revitalisation of the caatinga, vital in Adapta Sertão’s environmental and water sustainability strategies.

This programme, focused on adapting family farming to climate change, has mobilised nine cooperatives and some twenty local and national organisations over the last 12 years in the Jacuipe River basin, which encompasses 16 municipalities in the interior of the state of Bahia.

It was terminated in April with the publication of a book that tells its story, written by Dutch journalist Ineke Holtwijk, a former correspondent for Dutch media in Latin America and for IPS in her country.

Having more than doubled milk production on some of the farms assisted by the programme, winning 10 awards and introducing technical innovations to overcome the six-year drought in the semi-arid ecoregion are some of the programme’s achievements.

 Thais Corral, co-founder of the Adapta Sertão project, autographs a copy of the book that tells the story of the initiative, for Josaniel Azevedo, director of the Itaberaba Agroindustrial Cooperative. The programme "broadened our horizons," based on a vision of environmental sustainability, says the farmer in Pintadas, in the northeast Brazilian state of Bahia. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Thais Corral, co-founder of the Adapta Sertão project, autographs a copy of the book that tells the story of the initiative, for Josaniel Azevedo, director of the Itaberaba Agroindustrial Cooperative. The programme “broadened our horizons,” based on a vision of environmental sustainability, says the farmer in Pintadas, in the northeast Brazilian state of Bahia. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Brazil’s semi-arid region covers 982,000 square km, with a population of 27 million of the country’s 208 million inhabitants. The region’s population is 38 percent rural, compared to a national average of less than 20 percent, who depend mainly on family farming.

The programme’s legacy also includes the training of 300 farming families in innovative technologies, the strengthening of cooperativism and a register of family farms to sustain production throughout at least three years of severe drought.

A focus on the long term, with adjustments and the incorporation of factors discovered along the way, was key to success, said Thais Corral about the programme, which was broken down into four phases over the last 12 years.

Starting in 2006, under the title Pintadas Solar, it tried to introduce and test solar pump irrigation, to meet the demands of women tired of transporting heavy buckets to water their gardens.

“But the solar panels and equipment were too expensive at the time,” said Florisvaldo Merces, a technician working for the programme since its inception and now an official of the municipality of Pintadas in the agricultural sector.

Problems such as salinisation of the soil because of the brackish water from the wells and the difficulty in maintaining the equipment were added to the emergence of other agricultural issues to extend assistance to small farmers and the area of intervention to other municipalities in addition to Pintadas.

Problems such as the salinisation of the soil by brackish water from the wells and difficulty in maintaining the teams were added to other agricultural issues of emergency to extend the assistance to small farmers and the area of intervention to other municipalities, in addition to Pintadas.

Credit, the production chain, cooperatives, water storage and climate change dictated other priorities and transformed the programme, including its name, which was replaced by Adapta Sertão in 2008, when the Ser do Sertão Cooperative was also created.

Florisvaldo Merces is an agricultural technician who has worked in the Adapta Sertão programme since its creation in 2006 and has specialised in water issues. Simplifying complex technologies ensures the success of the project to improve productivity and the lives of family farmers in the inhospitable Sertão, in Brazil's semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Florisvaldo Merces is an agricultural technician who has worked in the Adapta Sertão programme since its creation in 2006 and has specialised in water issues. Simplifying complex technologies ensures the success of the project to improve productivity and the lives of family farmers in the inhospitable Sertão, in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Research, conducted in partnership with universities, found that the temperature in the Jacuipe basin increased 1.75 degrees Celsius from 1962 to 2012, compared to the average global rise of 0.8 degrees Celsius, while rainfall decreased 30 percent.

The programme had to test its strategies and techniques in the midst of the longest drought in the semi-arid region’s documented history, as a formula capable of sustaining production and maintaining quality of life as climate problems worsen.

It tries to respond to the challenge with the Intelligent and Sustainable Smart Agro-climatic Module (MAIS), the model for planning, productivity improvement, mechanisation and optimisation of inputs, especially water, in which Adapta Sertão trained 100 family farmers.

The aim is to “turn farmers into entrepreneurs, who record all production costs,” said Thiago Lima, a MAIS technician in sheep-farming, who now intends to apply his knowledge to his 12-hectare farm.

“Transforming complex technologies into simple ones” is the solution, Merces told IPS.

“The promoters’ sensitivity to talking with local people, carrying out research and not coming with already prepared proposals, favouring actions in tune with local forces,” was the main quality of the programme, acknowledged Neusa Cadore, former mayor of Pintadas and now state representative for the state of Bahia.

“But there was a lack of alignment with the government. We did everything with private stake-holders, foundations, cooperatives and local authorities, always hindered by the government. Ideally, Adapta Sertão should be adopted as a public policy for climate-resilient family farming,” Corral told IPS.

The company Adapta Group, created by the other founder of the programme, Italian engineer Daniele Cesano, will seek to spread the MAIS model as a business.

But Corral disagrees with the emphasis on dairy farming, which has presented the best economic results, but which requires 18 hectares and large investments, excluding most families and women, who prefer to grow vegetables. Also, she says that not enough importance is placed on the environment and thus long-term resilience.

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Optimal Use of Water Works Miracles in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/optimal-use-water-works-miracles-brazils-semi-arid-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=optimal-use-water-works-miracles-brazils-semi-arid-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/optimal-use-water-works-miracles-brazils-semi-arid-region/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 15:49:14 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155678 Cattle ranching has been severely affected by drought in Brazi’s Northeast region, but it has not only survived but has made a comeback in the Jacuípe river basin thanks to an optimal use of water. José Antonio Borges, who owns 98 hectares of land and 30 cows in Ipirá, one of the 14 municipalities in […]

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José Antonio Borges is surrounded by the forage cactus, ready to be harvested, that he planted on his farm. It is the basis of the diet of their 30 cows, which allows them to produce 400 litres of milk per day, using an automatic milking system twice a day, in Ipirá, in the Jacuípe basin, in Brazil’s northeastern semi-arid ecoregion, where the optimal use of water is transforming family farms. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

José Antonio Borges is surrounded by the forage cactus, ready to be harvested, that he planted on his farm. It is the basis of the diet of their 30 cows, which allows them to produce 400 litres of milk per day, using an automatic milking system twice a day, in Ipirá, in the Jacuípe basin, in Brazil’s northeastern semi-arid ecoregion, where the optimal use of water is transforming family farms. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
IPIRÁ-PINTADAS, Brazil, May 8 2018 (IPS)

Cattle ranching has been severely affected by drought in Brazi’s Northeast region, but it has not only survived but has made a comeback in the Jacuípe river basin thanks to an optimal use of water.

José Antonio Borges, who owns 98 hectares of land and 30 cows in Ipirá, one of the 14 municipalities in the basin, in the northeastern state of Bahia, almost tripled his milk production over the last two years, up to 400 litres per day, without increasing his herd.

To achieve this, he was assisted by technicians from Adapta Sertão, a project promoted by a coalition of organisations under the coordination of the Human Development Network (Redeh), based in Rio de Janeiro.

“If I wake up and I don’t hear the cows mooing, I cannot live,” said Borges to emphasise his vocation that prevented him from abandoning cattle farming in the worst moments of the drought which in the last six years lashed the semi-arid ecoregion, an area of low rainfall in the interior of the Brazilian Northeast.

But his wife, Eliete Brandão Borges, did give up and moved to Ipirá, the capital city of the municipality, where she works as a seamstress. Their 13-year-old son lives in town with her, in order to study. But he does not rule out returning to the farm, “if a good project comes up, like raising chickens.”

Borges, who “feels overwhelmed after a few hours in the city,” points out as factors for the increased dairy productivity the forage cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica Mill), a species from Mexico, which he uses as a food supplement for the cattle, and the second daily milking.

“The neighbours called me crazy for planting the cactus in an intensive way,” he said. “We used to use it, but we planted it more spread out.” Today, at the age of 39, Borges is an example to be followed and receives visits from other farmers interested in learning about how he has increased his productivity.

Normaleide de Oliveira stands in front of the pond on her farm that did not even run out of water during the six years of drought suffered by Brazil's Northeast region. Water availability is an advantage of family farmers in the Jacuípe river basin, compared to other areas of the country's semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Normaleide de Oliveira stands in front of the pond on her farm that did not even run out of water during the six years of drought suffered by Brazil’s Northeast region. Water availability is an advantage of family farmers in the Jacuípe river basin, compared to other areas of the country’s semi-arid ecoregion. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

He started after being taken to visit another property that used intensive planting, in an effort to convince him, said Jocivaldo Bastos, the Adapta Sertão technician who advised him. “Actually I don’t use cacti,” Borges acknowledged when he learned about the innovative tecnique.

The thornless, drought-resistant cactus became a lifesaving source of forage for livestock during drought, and is an efficient way to store water during the dry season in the Sertão, the popular name for the driest area in the Northeast, which also covers other areas of the sparsely populated and inhospitable interior of Brazil.

Also extending through the semi-arid region is the construction of concrete tanks designed to capture rainwater, which cost 12,000 reais (3,400 dollars) and can store up to 70,000 litres a year. With this money, 0.4 hectares of cactus can be planted, equivalent to 121,000 litres of water a year, according to a study by Adapta Sertão.

But that requires attention to the details, such as fertilisers, drip irrigation, clearing brush and selecting seedlings. Borges “lost everything” from his first intensive planting of the Opuntia forage cactus.

Parched, hard-packed land without vegetation is now green and fertile thanks to farmer and livestock breeder José Antonio Borges, who regenerated the land, supported by technicians from Adapta Sertão. It is now what he refers to as "the forest" where he grows watermelons and fruit trees, in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Parched, hard-packed land without vegetation is now green and fertile thanks to farmer and livestock breeder José Antonio Borges, who regenerated the land, supported by technicians from Adapta Sertão. It is now what he refers to as “the forest” where he grows watermelons and fruit trees, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Then he received advice from agricultural technician Bastos and currently has three hectares of cactus plantations and plans to expand.

At the beginning, he was frightened by the need to increase investments, previously limited to 500 Brazilian reais (142 dollars) per month. Now he spends twelve times more, but he earns gross revenues of 13,000 reais (3,700 dollars), according to Bastos.

The second milking, in the afternoon, was also key for Normaleide de Oliveira, a 55-year-old widow, to almost double her milk production. Today it reaches between 150 and 200 liters a day with only 12 dairy cows, on her farm located 12 km from Pintadas, the city in the centre of the Jacuípe basin.

“It is the milk that provides the income I live on,” said the farmer, who owns 30 more cattle. “I used to have 60 in total, but I sold some because of the drought, which almost made me give it all up,” she said.

The Jacuípe basin is seen as privileged compared to other parts of the semi-arid Northeast. The rivers have dried up, but in the drilled wells there is abundant water that, when pumped, irrigates the crops and drinking troughs.

This concrete tank is being built on a large rock on the farm of Normaleide de Oliveira, in the municipality of Pintadas, to be used for fish farming. Stones were used to make the walls using cement, on top of a rock in order to facilitate irrigation by gravity, in an example of agricultural development that optimises the use of the scarce water in the Sertão eco-region in Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

This concrete tank is being built on a large rock on the farm of Normaleide de Oliveira, in the municipality of Pintadas, to be used for fish farming. Stones were used to make the walls using cement, on top of a rock in order to facilitate irrigation by gravity, in an example of agricultural development that optimises the use of the scarce water in the Sertão eco-region in Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Oliveira has the advantage of having two natural ponds on her property, one of which never completely dried up during the six years of drought.

Now she is building a concrete tank on a large rock near her house that she will devote to raising fish and irrigating her gardens. Its location up on a rock will allow gravity-fed irrigation for the watermelon, squash and vegetables that Oliveira, who lives with her daughter and son-in-law, plans to grow.

The pond was proposed by Jorge Nava, an expert in permaculture who has been working with Adapta Sertão since last year, contributing new techniques to optimise the use of available water.

Adapta Sertão’s aims are to diversify production and strengthen conservation, and incorporate sustainability and adaptability to climate change in family farming.

In Ipirá, Borges has a pond one metre deep and six metres in diameter, with 23,000 litres of water, surrounded by his cilantro crop. In the pond he raises 1,000 tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), a species increasingly popular in fish farming.

Nearby is what he calls “the forest” – several dozen fruit trees on sloping ground with contour furrows, where he already used to plant watermelons using drip irrigation, which now coexist with the new project.

José Antonio Borges' family members enjoy themselves in the 23,000-litre concrete pond built on his farm to irrigate the orchards and raise fish, taking advantage of the water in boreholes drilled on his land in Ipirá , in the semi-arid region of Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Courtesy of Jorge Nava.

José Antonio Borges’ family members enjoy themselves in the 23,000-litre concrete pond built on his farm to irrigate the orchards and raise fish, taking advantage of the water in boreholes drilled on his land in Ipirá , in the semi-arid region of Northeastern Brazil. Credit: Courtesy of Jorge Nava.

“In 70 days he harvested 260 watermelons” and soil that was so dried up and hardened that the tractor had to plow several times, by thin layers each time, is now covered in vegetation, said Nava. “In 40 days the dry land became green,” he stated.

Contour furrows contain the water runoff and moisten the soil evenly. If the furrows were sloping they would flood the lower part, leaving the top dry, which would ruin the irrigation, the expert in permaculture explained.

This “forest” will fulfill the function of providing fruit and regenerating the landscape as well as making better use of water, boosting soil infiltration and acting as a barrier to the wind which increases evaporation, he said.

These are small gestures of respect for natural laws, to avoid waste and to multiply the water by reusing it, making it possible to live well on small farms with less water, he said.

In critical situations it is only about keeping plants alive with millilitres of water, until the next rain ensures production, as in the case of Borges’ watermelons.

Nava attributes his mission and dedication to seeking solutions in accordance with local conditions and demands to what happened to his family, who migrated from the southern tip of Brazil to Apuí, deep in the Amazon rainforest, in 1981, when he was three years old.

To go to school sometimes he had to travel nine days from his home, through the jungle. He became aware of the risk of desertification in the Amazon. The shallow-rooted forests are highly vulnerable to drought and deforestation, he learned.

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From Mega to Micro, a Transition that Will Democratise Energy in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/mega-micro-transition-will-democratise-energy-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mega-micro-transition-will-democratise-energy-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/mega-micro-transition-will-democratise-energy-brazil/#respond Tue, 24 Apr 2018 02:32:26 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155425 An energy transition is spreading around the globe. But in Brazil it will be characterised by sharp contrasts, with large hydroelectric plants being replaced by solar microgenerators and government decisions being replaced by family and community decision-making. “The future is solar, but it will be a difficult and slow process, because electricity concessionaires will not […]

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Pre-election Tension Threatens Free Speech in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/pre-election-tension-threatens-free-speech-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pre-election-tension-threatens-free-speech-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/pre-election-tension-threatens-free-speech-brazil/#respond Sat, 14 Apr 2018 21:26:57 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155277 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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A bullet hole (right), in one of the buses hit on Mar. 27 by gunfire during a caravan for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s campaign tour to the south of Brazil, in the tense days before his imprisonment on corruption charges. The caravan suffered attacks and harassment along its journey. Credit: AGPT / Public Photos

A bullet hole (right), in one of the buses hit on Mar. 27 by gunfire during a caravan for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s campaign tour to the south of Brazil, in the tense days before his imprisonment on corruption charges. The caravan suffered attacks and harassment along its journey. Credit: AGPT / Public Photos

By Mario Osava
RÍO DE JANEIRO, Apr 14 2018 (IPS)

Gunshots, eggs and stones thrown, blocked roads and other forms of aggression against politicians and journalists in recent weeks generated fears that the violence will increase the uncertainty over the October elections in Brazil.

Before going to prison, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was the main target, during the caravan he led through the country’s three southern states, which suffered attacks from adversaries that culminated in gunshots against two buses on Mar. 27, without any injuries.

On the other hand, the demonstrations in support of Lula in the days before he began serving his 12-year sentence on Apr. 7 targeted journalists."The main source of aggressions against journalists since 2013 has been the State, its security forces, as well as the judiciary, with actions that restrict freedom of the press." -- Maria José Braga

In the space of a few days there were “17 cases of attacks, intimidation and curtailment of professional activity,” said the Brazilian Press Association (ABI), in an official note of protest.

The threat to freedom of expression affects journalists and politicians alike, victims of harassment in the months leading up to the official start in August of the electoral campaign for the presidential, parliamentary and regional elections.

“The tendency seen in recent years has been a reduction in violence against journalists,” acknowledged Maria José Braga, president of Brazil’s National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj).

In 2017, there were 99 cases of attacks against journalists, 38.5 percent less than in 2016, when there were 161 acts of violence, according to Fenaj’s annual report on violence against reporters.

In fact, the violence had returned to the levels seen before 2013, when the figure had climbed to 181 attacks, against 81 in the previous year. The outbreak that year coincided with massive protests, throughout the country, against poor urban public services, which turned violent towards the end.

“In 2018 we have a different political scenario, with the country in a de facto state of emergency, in which the judicial branch and part of the media have been taking part, and this may result in an increase in attacks against journalists,” Braga told IPS.

The president of Fenaj shares the view of much of the left, especially of the Workers Party (PT), founded by Lula, and which ruled the country between 2003 and 2016, that the removal of former president Dilma Rousseff two years ago amounted to a coup d’état, with the complicity of judges and the major media outlets.

“Since then, institutions and the rule of law have been subject to threats, including freedom of expression, social movements, society in general, and that is a factor leading to more violence,” said the journalist.

“The main source of aggressions against journalists since 2013 has been the State, its security forces, as well as the judiciary, with actions that restrict freedom of the press,” she said.

A "democratic vigil" held Apr. 11 by supporters of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, near the headquarters of the federal police where he has been imprisoned since Apr. 7, in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba. Some journalists who covered events in defense of the leftist leader, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges, have been victims of assaults. Credit: Ricardo Stuckert / Public Photos

A “democratic vigil” held Apr. 11 by supporters of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, near the headquarters of the federal police where he has been imprisoned since Apr. 7, in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba. Some journalists who covered events in defense of the leftist leader, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges, have been victims of assaults. Credit: Ricardo Stuckert / Public Photos

For years, the police have been the main perpetrator of such violence, accounting for 19.2 percent of the total, Fenaj’s 2017 report says.

Two journalists arrested by the Military Police, one when covering a traffic accident in Campo Grande, capital of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and another while recording the way agents treated people suspected of harassing a woman in Vitoria, capital of the state of Espírito Santo, are examples mentioned in the report.

The second group of perpetrators of aggression are politicians, sometimes through their aides, and the third are judicial authorities, who use their power to restrict freedom of the press.

“We are now, six months before the elections, at the height of political tension,” which increases the abuses, violence and fears, said Fatima Pacheco Jordão, a sociologist who specialises in public opinion.

“The strong polarisation between the left and the right, aggravated by the great unpopularity of the government of President Michel Temer and the uncertainty with respect to the elections, accentuate the pessimism, but once it is clear who the candidates will be, and the electoral process is on track, the tension and violence will decrease,” Jordão told IPS.

In general terms, “elections contribute to freedom of expression, and reduce censorship in newspapers and newscasts,” she said. But when this is not the case, what happens is that the violence is accentuated and this can prevent the elections themselves, “which is worse for everyone,” she said.

The absence of Lula, who has become legally ineligible after his conviction was upheld on appeal, “reduces the polarisation since he exited the electoral battle at a moment of decline (of his leading role on the political scene), as his PT has been losing electoral strength for years,” she argued.

Supporters of Lula as candidate to president – about 35 percent of respondents according to the polls – “will be divided between several possible candidates, not just from the left,” when it is confirmed that the former president is out of the race, said the sociologist.

For Jordão, this confirms that Lula’s popularity is due more to his personal leadership than to a leftist idea or programme, since he is the poll favorite.

In addition, society in this country of 208 million people has shifted toward more conservative positions, as evidenced by the fact that 60 percent did not approve progressive ideas in recent polls, she said.

A change that, in her opinion, “seems natural in rich countries, such as in Europe, but not in Brazil, where we have so much inequality, violence against women and violations of rights, where the voice of society is outside the parties, which do not address their most pressing demands.”

Violence against politicians and journalists sometimes becomes lethal. One victim who shook the country was Marielle Franco, a city councilor for the leftist Socialism and Freedom Party in Rio de Janeiro, who was shot dead on Mar. 14, near the center of the city.

The apparent motive was her denunciation of crimes committed by police against poor Rio communities, although the investigations have not made progress in clarifying the murder of the emerging political leader.

“Violence tends to happen more in municipal elections than in national or state elections,” said Felipe Borba, who teaches politics at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro and is the author of a study that identified 79 candidates killed in Brazil from 1998 to 2016.

Of them, a majority of 63 were running for the municipal councils in small cities.

This year’s elections should be less violent because the heads of the executive and legislative branches are chosen at a national and state level, but the situation “is unpredictable, given the polarisation between ideologically opposed currents, which fosters violence,” he told IPS.

“It will depend on the attitude of the more radical candidates, who can fuel animosities,” said Borba, mentioning the case of Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right candidate who ranks second in the polls, where Lula is still favorite even after being imprisoned.

Bolsonaro is a retired army captain who openly defends the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, including its torturers.

That freedom of expression is often a victim of electoral violence, as well as of police repression against political demonstrations, is reflected by the notable increase in attacks suffered by journalists in 2013 and 2016, years of massive street protests in Brazil.

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Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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New Platform Will Support Youth Projects on Water and Climatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/new-platform-will-support-youth-projects-water-climate/#respond Fri, 23 Mar 2018 22:53:41 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155014 Young people around the globe with good ideas on how to deal with water and climate challenges now have a platform to show their projects to the world and attract funding and other contributions to realise their dreams. The Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform was formally launched during the 8th World Water […]

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People participate in the launch of the Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform during the World Water Forum in Brasilia. The initiative is promoted by the Global Water Partnership and other organisations, to connect young people from around the world dedicated to social and environmental projects that promote water security and climate change solutions. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

People participate in the launch of the Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform during the World Water Forum in Brasilia. The initiative is promoted by the Global Water Partnership and other organisations, to connect young people from around the world dedicated to social and environmental projects that promote water security and climate change solutions. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 23 2018 (IPS)

Young people around the globe with good ideas on how to deal with water and climate challenges now have a platform to show their projects to the world and attract funding and other contributions to realise their dreams.

The Youth for Water and Climate (#YWC) digital platform was formally launched during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia with the participation of a dozen country leaders.

The aim is to connect creative young people keen on helping to solve major environmental problems, in their communities or in wider areas, with potential funders and technical allies.

The idea is to promote “love at first sight” between these young people and potential supporters, that is, to accelerate the pairing between the two parties, according to a game that illustrates the idea of digital marketing of projects, the promoters of the initiative explained.

Marly Julajuj Coj, a 19-year-old indigenous woman from Guatemala, participated along with other young people from several continents in launching the platform, promoted by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and other partners of the initiative, on Thursday Mar. 22 at Switzerland’s country pavilion at the 8th World Water Forum.

Representatives from donor agencies in Europe and Africa were also at the event, to explain the support they offer and what kind of projects they are interested in. For example, they give priority to ones that involve gender issues, said the representative of Switzerland’s development aid agency.

The young Guatemalan woman’s project seeks to build “rainwater harvesting systems, tanks made of recycled and new materials, to provide clean water for 20 families, those in greatest need in a community of 80 families,” she told IPS.

“The local rivers are polluted, we have to find alternative sources of drinking water,” said the young high school graduate who learned English with a missionary from the U.S. This is her second trip outside of Guatemala; earlier she received training in public speaking in Belgium.

Economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, together with Pierre-Marie Grondin, of the French Water Solidarity Programme (pS-Eau), which will finance water and climate projects for young people around the world. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, together with Pierre-Marie Grondin, of the French Water Solidarity Programme (pS-Eau), which will finance water and climate projects for young people around the world. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“#YWC is a very useful tool, it helps to make my project known and to seek financing,” she said.

The platform is supported by a consortium of nine organisations from various regions and is operated by a Secretariat comprising the GWP, the International Secretariat for Water and AgroParisTech.

It is open to anyone who wants to submit a project or offer support. A committee evaluates the quality of the projects and gives a stamp of approval, after which they are published in order to attract funders and technical assistance.

This process enables the young social entrepreneurs to improve their projects, share tools and meet requirements, while ensuring results for donors.

On the platform people and organisations are free to choose their preferences and interests.

The advice, training and connection with supporters offered to young people is a fundamental part of #YWC, said Vilma Chanta from El Salvador, focal point in her country of GWP Central America, and a researcher in territorial development with El Salvador’s National Development Foundation.

“Young people are an important part of change in the world, they are committed, that is why it is important to train youth leaders, to help them perhaps to formulate a theory of change that every project must have, that helps to identify where to focus their efforts,” Chanta told IPS.

Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation of El Salvador, and focal point in that country of GWP Central America, worries about the pollution and deterioration of the Lempa river, key to the generation of energy and water consumption in the Central American nation. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Vilma Chanta, a researcher in territorial development for the non-governmental National Development Foundation of El Salvador, and focal point in that country of GWP Central America, worries about the pollution and deterioration of the Lempa river, key to the generation of energy and water consumption in the Central American nation. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

With regard to water problems in El Salvador, she mentioned the Lempa River, shared with Honduras and Guatemala, countries for which the river “is not as important as it is to us as a source of energy and water,” she said.

A drought in 2017 left cities without water for three weeks, although the worst effects occurred in rural areas where “there is water but no access to it,” she said.

“It is a limiting factor for women and girls who spend a large part of their days getting water for their households,” one of the vital gender issues in territorial development, said the young Salvadoran.

On the other side of the world, the young economist Mukta Akter, executive secretary of GWP Bangladesh, also tries to promote rainwater harvesting and training for women, but with an emphasis on income generation and the creation of companies to achieve economic growth.

“Water is a basic resource, indispensable for everything, even to obtain an income,” she told IPS. “In Bangladesh, water shortages prevent poor girls from going to school,” and guaranteeing access to water is essential to women’s education and financial future, she added.

“#YWC connects very diverse people, and is an opportunity for exchanging ideas and sharing know-how, which is important in my country,” she said.

Marly Julajuj Coj, a young indigenous woman from Guatemala, who at the age of 19 was one of the participants in the launch of the Youth Platform for Water and Climate in Brasilia, as leader of a project that seeks to ensure drinking water for her community of 80 families by harvesting rainwater. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Marly Julajuj Coj, a young indigenous woman from Guatemala, who at the age of 19 was one of the participants in the launch of the Youth Platform for Water and Climate in Brasilia, as leader of a project that seeks to ensure drinking water for her community of 80 families by harvesting rainwater. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Jelena Krstajic, president of the Youth Water Community, based in Slovenia and active in central and eastern Europe, sees #YWC primarily as a tool to seek financial support.

It is important “because we are all volunteers,” she told IPS in reference to the professionals who participate in the organisation.

A project in her community is the clean-up of the Ishmi river, in Albania, where there is an accumulation of plastic waste. Another project is to encourage the “voice of young people in the selection of policies” so that they can participate in decisions on social inclusion in Eastern Europe.

Young people will be decisive in the face of water and climate challenges, “they have energy and are more sensitive to the issues” and will be able to do more if they are connected internationally, said Pierre-Marie Grondin, director of the Water Solidarity Programme, a network of French organisations that finance projects in the developing South, especially Africa.

“#YWC is a good idea, it disseminates new ideas, promoting dialogue and coordination,” he told IPS, speaking as a donor.

The digital platform and the decision to support young people’s capacity for innovation are the result of ties forged among several national and international organisations since the December 2015 climate summit in Paris.

At the summit – the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), which gave rise to the Paris Agreement – the youth-led White Paper on Water and Climate, based on interviews in 20 countries from all continents, was presented.

During the World Water Forum, there were several initiatives aimed at young activists in water issues. One was the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, sponsored by Sweden, which chose a Brazilian project to attend the Water Week in Stockholm, in August of this year.

Meanwhile, participants in the Brazilian National Youth Parliament for Water presented their studies and projects at the Citizen Village, venue of the Alternative World Water Forum (FAMA), a parallel event.

The World Water Forum, organised by the World Water Council and the Brazilian government, drew 10,500 delegates from 172 countries, according to the organisers. They took part in 300 thematic sessions, and an Expo that was visited, according to their estimates, by more than 85,000 people.

FAMA focused on environmental education and attracted some 3,000 people from 34 countries, mostly students, plus tens of thousands of visitors who visited the fair.

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Working Together Is Key to Meeting Water Targets by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/working-together-key-meeting-water-targets-2030/#respond Thu, 22 Mar 2018 21:44:52 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154996 Mutual collaboration and coordination among the various stakeholders are tools to accelerate the actions necessary to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the 2030 Agenda, which states the need to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all. The Global Water Partnership (GWP), an international network created in 1996 to promote integrated […]

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A crowd, mainly of students, has filled the Citizen Village, the building where the new generations are educated in environmental and water issues, with cinema, facilities, toys and talks, every day during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A crowd, mainly of students, has filled the Citizen Village, the building where the new generations are educated in environmental and water issues, with cinema, facilities, toys and talks, every day during the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 22 2018 (IPS)

Mutual collaboration and coordination among the various stakeholders are tools to accelerate the actions necessary to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the 2030 Agenda, which states the need to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all.

The Global Water Partnership (GWP), an international network created in 1996 to promote integrated water resources management (IWRM), calls for working and thinking together as a key to fulfilling SDG number 6, of the 17 goals that make up the Agenda, agreed in 2015 by the world’s governments within the framework of the United Nations.

To this end, on Mar. 20 it launched the campaign “Act on SDG 6” in Brasilia, during an event emphasising the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships to promote water security, in the context of the Eighth World Water Forum, hosted by Brasilia Mar. 18-23.

“To integrate the different sectors and organisations at the national and regional levels, to implement solutions and improve water indicators” is what we are seeking in order to advance towards the targets, said Joshua Newton, senior GWP network officer in charge of coordinating the work of SDG 6 and global water political processes, governance and stakeholder engagement.

“We facilitate, through partnerships, the search for funds for projects, connecting governmental actors, international organisations, and leaders,” he told IPS.

The campaign is close to concluding an initial phase of monitoring indicators to identify “where we are” in relation to SDG 6, Newton explained.

The second phase, which “is about to begin” is to “design responses, how to act to meet the goals,” followed by the third, the implementation phase, which requires financing: “the most difficult part,” he said.

Nor is it easy to drum up political will, integrate human beings and sectors with different interests, reconcile different uses of water, such as for agriculture, energy and human consumption, but “we try to bring people together to address water problems,” he added.

Another difficulty arises from the diversity of conditions: “IWRM is not present in all countries and water governance varies greatly between countries, and these are things that we seek to harmonise,” concluded Newton, an expert in international relations who has been dedicated to water issues since 1995, when he was living in Argentina.

For the GWP, the 5th of the six specific targets included in SDG 6 is of particular importance, as it states the need to “implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate,” by 2030, coinciding with the mission of the network, which has more than 3,000 members worldwide.

Gladys Villarreal, in charge of the care of water basins in Panama’s Environment Ministry, believes that water unites people despite their diversity and helps them to understand each other. She believes it will not be difficult for Panama to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal, which seeks to make access to clean water and sanitation universal by 2030. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Gladys Villarreal, in charge of the care of water basins in Panama’s Environment Ministry, believes that water unites people despite their diversity and helps them to understand each other. She believes it will not be difficult for Panama to meet the 6th Sustainable Development Goal, which seeks to make access to clean water and sanitation universal by 2030. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The GWP is made up of governmental and intergovernmental institutions, international, non-governmental and academic organisations, companies and public service providers.

“I do not think it is difficult to reach SDG 6 in my country, we have already collected a great deal of information about our water and we started to implement IWRM in surface and underground sources,” said Gladys Villarreal, director of Hydrographic Basins at Panama’s Environment Ministry, at the launch of the GWP campaign.

In addition, “we have a 2015-2050 Water Security Plan,” with five strategic goals to guarantee water for domestic use, sanitation, healthy basins, with monitored water quality, all of which are sustainability targets, she told IPS.

But there is much to be done, she admitted. Of the 51 basins in Panama, there are organised water committees in only 14, and groundwater resources have hardly been studied. However, Villarreal pointed out that Panama has a Water Law, in force since 1965, and in the process of being updated.

Guatemala, on the other hand, does not have a specific law and has been facing water conflicts since 2016, between local communities, the government and private companies.

But “the tension is decreasing” and solutions are moving forward with technical committees oriented by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the creation of committees in micro-basins, said Álvaro Aceituno, head of the Department of Water Resources and Watersheds.

There are 38 basins in Guatemala, with numerous sub-basins and micro-basins. For the latter, community-based monitoring has begun, with complaints filed in the Ministry, in the attempt to ensure quality water for the communities, he told IPS.

The country also has a Basin Authority in the existing 38 basins, which works together with the micro-basins committees, establishing a monitoring system in the headwaters. The National Forestry Institute also works to prevent deforestation, requiring permits for logging, and protecting endemic plant species.

Chilean Aldo Palacios, who chairs GWP South America, takes part in the launch of the "Act on SDG 6" campaign by the World Water Partnership (GWP) in Brasilia, in the context of the eighth World Water Forum. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Chilean Aldo Palacios, who chairs GWP South America, takes part in the launch of the “Act on SDG 6” campaign by the World Water Partnership (GWP) in Brasilia, in the context of the eighth World Water Forum. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“In Guatemala, indigenous culture has considerable weight. In indigenous areas, forests are protected and we know that taking care of them means caring for water,” which favours agriculture, said Aceituno.

In this respect, he noted that there are communities where indigenous pressure benefits the water and the environment, but added that they also generate problems because their communities are independent “and follow their own laws.”

Villarreal and Aceituno consider the campaign beneficial for promoting actions to fulfill SDG 6. “Some countries, including Panama, seek to stand out,” and obtain incentives and support to achieve the goals, said Villarreal.

In South America, Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Peru are the countries that have shown the greatest progress with regard to SDG 6, said Aldo Palacios, president of GWP South America.

However, there are still major challenges. “There are cities where the drainage systems stopped working four or five decades ago, leading to heavy floods. In Chile, the loss of drinking water is close to 48 percent. We must accelerate management mechanisms, there are ideas but the answers are slow in coming,” he told IPS.

Climate change aggravated everything, with extreme weather events, such as more intense, longer droughts, excessive rainfall in short periods, and water-borne diseases.

“Many are entrenched, irreversible problems, against which reactions or attempts to adapt have fallen short. That is why we propose changing the mindset in our countries and adopting a resilience approach,” said Palacios.

That means ongoing, rather than isolated actions, with a medium to long-term – and preventive if possible – focus, with the aim of recovering or maintaining good living conditions.

As an example, he cited the actions taken by Germany and the Netherlands against the rising ocean level, which coastal cities around the world must undertake before they are flooded due to global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps.

He anticipated that resilience, at the core of IWRM, is a concept that goes beyond risk management, insofar as the risks are permanent. That, as well as the decentralisation of approaches, are ideas that the region intends to take to the GWP, as part of a reflection process.

“We are the region with the most rivers and the greatest water reserves, which is a distinctive factor to enhance, through shared leadership,” Palacios concluded.

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We Must Take Care of Nature, Because Without Rain There Is No Fresh Waterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/must-take-care-nature-without-rain-no-fresh-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=must-take-care-nature-without-rain-no-fresh-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/must-take-care-nature-without-rain-no-fresh-water/#respond Wed, 21 Mar 2018 16:02:37 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154931 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Water Day on Mar. 22.

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"Waters of the Planet," an installation of the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, exhibited in the Citizen’s Village at the 8th Water Forum, held in the capital of Brazil, is a large cube with satellite photos showing the Earth’s seas, rivers and lakes from space. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

"Waters of the Planet," an installation of the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, exhibited in the Citizen’s Village at the 8th Water Forum, held in the capital of Brazil, is a large cube with satellite photos showing the Earth’s seas, rivers and lakes from space. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Mar 21 2018 (IPS)

Confidence in large rivers and giant aquifers plummeted in many parts of the world, in the face of the expansion of water crises after intense and prolonged droughts in the last decade.

Water resources in the soil and subsoil do not hold up if the dry season lasts longer than usual for several years, as seen in several parts of Brazil and in other countries such as India, South Africa and Australia.

Brasilia, which hosts the 8th World Water Forum on Mar. 18-23, is a prime example, because no one could have imagined that the Brazilian capital, nicknamed the “birthplace of the waters” for its three large basins, would have to endure water rationing since early 2017.

“High levels of population growth, scarce investment in infrastructure and three years of below-average rainfall caused a water crisis,” said the governor of the Federal District, Rodrigo Rollemberg, at the official opening of the Forum, on Mar. 19, before highlighting works carried out by his government to ensure supply in the near future.

“Rain is the source of fresh water, sometimes moisture in the air is overlooked, because it’s not visible to the eye,” said Gerard Moss, a pilot who from 2007 to 2015 conducted the Flying Rivers project, which studied the air currents that carry water vapour through the Amazon basin.

“It is essential to maintain the rains and forests are indispensable in this sense, helping the moisture from the ocean to reach the interior of the continent. The ocean water would not travel 2,500 or 3,000 km to produce the rains that allow estate owners in Mato Grosso (in east-central Brazil) to produce two or three harvests a year,” he told IPS.

Moss’s research, which identified “flying rivers” in the Amazon rainforest that supplied several cities in Brazil, was discontinued, but it serves as a tool for the environmental education of children and adults, promoted by his wife Margi Moss, an initiative that will be moved to Europe.

Knowledge of the phenomenon of humid air currents that carry water to the rainforest provides a further argument to the theme adopted by UN-Water this year for World Water Day, which is celebrated on Mar. 22: “Nature for Water”.

UN-Water says nature-based solutions are the answer to many problems related to water, such as droughts and floods that are alternating with increasing frequency around the world, and to pollution.

The 8th World Water Forum began on Monday, Mar. 19, in the Ulysses Guimarães Convention Centre in the capital of Brazil. Credit: EBC

The 8th World Water Forum began on Monday, Mar. 19, in the Ulysses Guimarães Convention Centre in the capital of Brazil. Credit: EBC

Reforesting and conserving forests, restoring wetlands and reconnecting rivers with floodplains are some of its recommendations.

It’s about “not reinventing the wheel to deal with extreme weather events,” Glauco Kimura, a World Water Forum consultant, said regarding the campaign. “There is natural infrastructure, such as mangroves and other ecosystems, that help curb the impacts of hurricanes and excess rainfall,” he told IPS.

“Without forests around the springs and aquifers, there is less water, as discovered by São Paulo,” which was hit by severe shortages in 2014 and 2015, Kimura said.

To coexist with drought, the consultant recommended learning from the inhabitants of Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, who have built tanks to collect and store rainwater to get them through the dry season. “In central and southern Brazil that culture does not exist,” he lamented.

During the drought that has lasted since 2012 in the Northeast, there has been no massive exodus of desperate people to cities to the south, where they even looted shops during earlier, less severe, droughts.

This is largely due to social programmes such as Bolsa Familia and pensions for workers and disabled people, but also to the more than one million water tanks built mainly by the Articulação no Semi-Árido Brasileiro (roughly, Networking in Brazil’s Semiarid Region – ASA), a movement of some 3,000 social organisations working on behalf of rural families vulnerable to drought.

Another example of nature-based solutions is the Cultivating Good Water Programme, promoted by Itaipú Binacional, the company that operates the second largest hydroelectric plant in the world (in terms of installed capacity), shared by Brazil and Paraguay on the Paraná River.

Some 23 million trees were planted, restoring 1,322 km of riverbank forests, and 30,000 hectares of land received protection, on the Brazilian side, said Newton Kaminski, director of coordination in Itaipu.

Protests against the governor of the Federal District, Rodrigo Rollemberg, accused of being responsible for water rationing in Brasilia. The water crisis broke out after he took office in 2014, but it was an inherited problem, which now resonates in the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in the capital of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Protests against the governor of the Federal District, Rodrigo Rollemberg, accused of being responsible for water rationing in Brasilia. The water crisis broke out after he took office in 2014, but it was an inherited problem, which now resonates in the 8th World Water Forum, held Mar. 18-23 in the capital of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“The key was the river basin management, with integrated actions on all fronts, not just restoration of water sources and groundwater recharge areas. Reforestation without conservation of the soil does not bring about major results. Also necessary are social participation, education, and agriculture that does not deteriorate the soil,” Kaminsky told IPS.

The president of Cape Verde, Jorge Carlos Fonseca, stressed in his speech before nine other government leaders participating in the opening of the World Water Forum that learning to “live in symbiotic harmony with nature” was fundamental to overcoming the hunger and thirst suffered by his people in recent years because of drought.

“Preserving nature and making rational use of the resources that it provides us, changing the relation of human beings with nature,” is the lesson learned from this experience, he said. “We broke the dry season-hunger tandem,” he said.

Sea water desalination and rainwater collection contributed to the improvement of the water situation, and the goal is to ensure 90 liters per person per day, below the 110 liters recommended by the United Nations.

Reforesting and conserving recharge areas and combating the degradation of soil due to change in use are the recommendations of Fabiola Tábora, executive secretary of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) in Central America.

Droughts in Central America have a worse impact along the Pacific west coast, which concentrates 70 percent of the sub-region’s population and is known as “the dry corridor”. That hurts food security and hydropower generation, which accounts for half of the national energy supply, she told IPS.

Another positive experience was the recovery of the La Poza micro-basin, in the southwest of El Salvador, involving broad community participation in integrated management, Tábora mentioned.

In Costa Rica and Guatemala, she highlighted the work with private companies and the government to generate environmental funds, which are invested in the management and conservation of watersheds.

These were cited as solutions in response to numerous references to world tragedies during the initial sessions of the 8th World Water Forum: nearly 700 million people without access to water in the world, two billion people drinking contaminated water, 3.5 billion without sanitation, a thousand children dying a day because of poor water quality and projections that the situation will worsen in the future.

The government leaders that were present followed the World Water Forum theme “Sharing Water”,by making continuous calls for cooperation and exchange of knowledge and experiences, since 40 percent of the world’s population depends on transboundary waters.

The post We Must Take Care of Nature, Because Without Rain There Is No Fresh Water appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Water Day on Mar. 22.

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Women Lead the Fight for Housing in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-lead-fight-housing-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-lead-fight-housing-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/women-lead-fight-housing-brazil/#respond Wed, 07 Mar 2018 18:24:35 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154687 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, which this year has as a theme: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women's lives.”

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Cheila Patricia Souza, who participated in the São João 588 Occupation of an old hotel converted into housing for 80 families, stands in front of a collage of photos of the protagonists of the struggle for a home of their own, in the centre of São Paulo, Brazil. As in similar battles, most of the people involved were women. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Cheila Patricia Souza, who participated in the São João 588 Occupation of an old hotel converted into housing for 80 families, stands in front of a collage of photos of the protagonists of the struggle for a home of their own, in the centre of São Paulo, Brazil. As in similar battles, most of the people involved were women. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
RÍO DE JANEIRO/SÃO PAULO, Mar 7 2018 (IPS)

“Here we empower women and we do not tolerate domestic violence, which we treat as our own, not as an intra-family, issue,” says Lurdinha Lopes, a leader of the squatting movement in Brazil.

She emphasises the rules of the Charter of Principles governing the Manoel Congo Occupation, through which decent housing was secured for 42 poor families, in the heart of the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Other rules encourage children to stay in school and prohibit drugs and alcoholic beverages in the hallways and common areas of the 10-story occupied building, she told IPS at the site. The more than 120 residents include 27 children.

Women make up the immense majority and “about 90 percent of the owners” of the apartments in the building, which was a squat when it was occupied in 2007 by the National Housing Struggle Movement (MNLM).

“Some of the women were escaping abuse from their ex-partners,” others have gone back to school, said Lopes, ahead of International Women’s Day, on Mar. 8, given the theme this year by UN Women: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.”

The squatting movement in Rio de Janeiro is less well-known than the one in São Paulo. They occupy abandoned buildings, arguing that the Brazilian constitution of 1988 stipulates that all property must fulfill a social function.

“Rio de Janeiro has a tradition of squatting, but the occupations are not very visible because they occur outside the city centre,” said Lopes, local coordinator of the MNLM, most of whose activists are women.

The Manoel Congo Occupation, named in honour of the leader of a black slave rebellion in 1838, is a milestone for its success in settling poor families in a key central part of the city. The building is right next to the city council, and just 30 metres from Cinelândia, the popular name of a major public square where the largest political demonstrations are held in the centre of Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s a miracle to win a place in the capital’s central corridor,” said Elizete Napoleão, a member of the MNLM’s national leadership and one of the heads of the movement in Rio.

The building originally belonged to the National Social Security Institute (INSS).

The 42 apartments have been renovated and have all the necessary amenities. All that remains is to rebuild the ground floor, which Lopes believes will be ready “in a month or a month and a half.”

 Elizete Napoleão (L) and Lurdinha Lopes, coordinators of the National Housing Struggle Movement (MNLM), lead the Manoel Congo Occupation, which provided a home for 42 poor families in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS


Elizete Napoleão (L) and Lurdinha Lopes, coordinators of the National Housing Struggle Movement (MNLM), lead the Manoel Congo Occupation, which provided a home for 42 poor families in the heart of Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

It is the result of a long battle that included numerous street marches, invasions of the Caixa Econômica Federal – a state bank that is an agent of federal government social policy – and occupations of the INSS offices.

After occupying the property, resisting pressure and eviction orders, and winning ownership for social housing purposes, the movement finally obtained financing to reform the building and adapt it for housing.

In 2007, the political scenario was favourable. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, of the leftist Workers’ Party, was beginning his second consecutive term and two years later he would launch the “My House My Life” programme, a new attempt to reduce the housing deficit in Brazil, currently estimated at six million units.

Finding alternatives in vacant buildings in the centre or central neighborhoods of large cities is the approach taken by the MNLM and similar movements.

“In the port area and the centre of Rio de Janeiro there are two or three hundred unoccupied buildings,” Napoleão told IPS.

In the city centre there is access to services, schools, hospitals, jobs and the best places for working as street vendors, said Lopes.

Meanwhile, neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, where the poor are generally forced to move, are controlled by drug traffickers and militias – armed bands led by former police officers who control services and demand monthly “protection” payments by merchants.

Women also lead the struggle for housing in São Paulo

Repopulating the centre helps to revitalise run-down historic districts in the big cities of Brazil, said Antonia Ferreira Nascimento, a coordinator of the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) in São Paulo.

Her group occupied the old Columbia Hotel in 2010, on Avenida São João, a key reference point in Brazil’s largest city. Of the 80 families living in the hotel, “70 percent are headed by women,” estimated Ferreira, a married mother of three who has been involved in the struggle for housing for homeless families for 24 years.

“Our goal is not just housing itself, but to denounce the housing deficit, demand public policies, ensure rights, health and education for everyone,” she told IPS during a visit to the building, explaining her organisation’s struggle for urban reform.

The facade of the building occupied by 42 homeless families since 2007 in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to low-cost housing, its residents celebrate having escaped from the poor outlying neighbourhoods that are at the mercy of the violence of drug trafficking and vigilante gangs of former or off-duty police. Now they have access to public services, schools and better jobs. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The facade of the building occupied by 42 homeless families since 2007 in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to low-cost housing, its residents celebrate having escaped from the poor outlying neighbourhoods that are at the mercy of the violence of drug trafficking and vigilante gangs of former or off-duty police. Now they have access to public services, schools and better jobs. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

She estimates that the centre of São Paulo has 20,000 available housing units that have been empty for years and can thus be expropriated by the public authorities to serve “the social interest” of offering housing to those who need it.

Nazaré Brasil, a painter, promotes cultural life in the new community. Her unit is an example of how to adapt a simple hotel room into a comfortable apartment where she and her elderly mother live.

At her initiative, the squat receives artists and activists who stay for a few weeks to learn about the experience and, eventually, reflect it in art or articles.

A larger-scale and more complicated case is the so-called Mauá Occupation, in a hotel near the Luz railway station, where 237 families lived for 10 years under threat of eviction, until they were finally granted permission to live there in November 2017.

The city government agreed with the former owner to purchase the six-story building which has three U-shaped wings, for the families squatting there. The struggle was headed by Ivanete Araujo, of the Movement for Housing in the Struggle for Justice (MMLJ).

There are dozens of activist groups in São Paulo, a good part of them assembled in the Front for Housing Struggles (FLM), which launched an offensive in October 2017, when 620 homeless families occupied eight buildings in and around São Paulo.

Many of the leaders at the forefront of the movement are women, who are the main victims of the housing deficit and the main interested parties in public sector housing policies.

Felicia Mendes, an activist for 40 years, coordinates the FLM on the south side of São Paulo.

She is currently leading the struggle to obtain land to settle 868 families living in precarious conditions in the so-called Parque do Engenho Occupation, actually a wooden shack camp in Capão Redondo, a neighbourhood of almost 300,000 people at the southern end of the city of São Paulo.

Mendes obtained housing in a previous occupation, of Chácara do Conde, also in the south, but closer to the city centre than Capão Redondo.

“In addition to housing, people need to be offered a livelihood,” said the activist who “ran away from home at age 17,” lived in several Brazilian states, had “the privilege of studying theatre” and lost her husband because of her dedication to the struggle for housing, but remains committed to the cause of the homeless.

The post Women Lead the Fight for Housing in Brazil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, which this year has as a theme: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women's lives.”

The post Women Lead the Fight for Housing in Brazil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Wars, Crises and Catastrophes Drive Immigration to Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/wars-crises-catastrophes-drive-immigration-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wars-crises-catastrophes-drive-immigration-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/wars-crises-catastrophes-drive-immigration-brazil/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 00:13:58 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154125 The war in Angola, the earthquake in Haiti, Venezuela’s political crisis and shortages and the political repression in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the main driving factors behind the recent waves of immigration to Brazil. The largest and most populous Latin American country is no longer the major recipient of immigrants that it […]

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Haitian cultural producer Bob Montinard and his French wife, Melanie, are seen at the Haitian food stand they run at the monthly refugee food fair in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, where the couple and their two children have been living since 2010 and where they created Mawon, an organisation dedicated to helping immigrants. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Haitian cultural producer Bob Montinard and his French wife, Melanie, are seen at the Haitian food stand they run at the monthly refugee food fair in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, where the couple and their two children have been living since 2010 and where they created Mawon, an organisation dedicated to helping immigrants. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 2 2018 (IPS)

The war in Angola, the earthquake in Haiti, Venezuela’s political crisis and shortages and the political repression in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the main driving factors behind the recent waves of immigration to Brazil.

The largest and most populous Latin American country is no longer the major recipient of immigrants that it was until the mid-twentieth century, which gave it its well-known ethnic and cultural diversity, with large European, Arab and Asian inflows.

Brazil, with a current population of 208 million inhabitants, had only 713,568 foreign residents in 2015, equivalent to just 0.3 percent of its population at that time, according to the World Migration Report 2018 published in December by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Almost nothing compared to Argentina and Venezuela, where immigrants represent 4.5 and 4.8 percent of the population, respectively, IOM Brazil project coordinator Marcelo Torelly told IPS.

But Brazil again became an attractive destination this century, especially in the current decade, when the number of foreign-born inhabitants grew 20 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to the IOM.

“The main flow of immigration is now South-South from Haiti, Africa and Asia, not the flows from bordering nations, and surpassing those from the North,” academic Leonardo Cavalcanti, scientific coordinator of the Observatory of International Migration (OBMigra), a joint studies group of the Ministry of Labour and the University of Brasilia, told IPS.

There was an upsurge after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which claimed more than 220,000 lives, displaced 1.5 million people and destroyed the local economy.

Tens of thousands of Haitians sought a chance to rebuild their lives in Brazil, making up the largest foreign group in the formal labour market since 2013.

Brazil already had close relations with Haiti prior to the earthquake. In addition to sending thousands of soldiers and being in charge of the military command of the multinational United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, between 2004 and 2017, it also carried out social projects in the Caribbean island nation.

Among the Brazilians killed in the earthquake was Zilda Arns, who brought to Haiti the experience of the Pastoral Care of Children, a Catholic organisation that she founded, and which was instrumental in reducing child mortality in Brazil.

Bob Montinard, a 42-year-old Haitian, was working in Port-au-Prince on disarmament, conflict mediation and reintegration projects for juvenile offenders after their release, promoted by the U.N. and the Brazilian non-governmental organisation Viva Río, when the earthquake destroyed his house and his left leg was broken as debris fell.

Worried about the malnutrition of their children – including their unborn baby - due to food shortages in their country, this Venezuelan woman - who asked to preserve her anonymity – and her husband decided to migrate to Brazil. They sold their home to finance their trip to Rio de Janeiro, where she received excellent healthcare in childbirth, her husband has already found work, and the children are impressed with the number of playgrounds. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Worried about the malnutrition of their children – including their unborn baby – due to food shortages in their country, this Venezuelan woman – who asked to preserve her anonymity – and her husband decided to migrate to Brazil. They sold their home to finance their trip to Rio de Janeiro, where she received excellent healthcare in childbirth, her husband has already found work, and the children are impressed with the number of playgrounds. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Surgeries in France and the need for ongoing physiotherapy made him decide to move to Río de Janeiro, where he has lived since 2010 with his French wife and their children aged eight and nine, as a cultural producer and activist.

Last year he founded an organisation called Mawon, which in the Haitian Creole language means chestnut colour but was also the name given to black slaves who fled to freedom, like the “quilombolas” in Brazil.

“Mawon is neither black nor white, it is Creole, meaning escape and now migration, diversity, mixture, and against racism,” defined Montinard, explaining that the organisation is active in social issues, welcoming immigrants and helping them get settled in Brazil, and also has a business side.

“Migrants bring their culture, their food and their music. It is what they produce, share and sell in the destination country. Everyone wins: immigrants get an income, while they offer enriching knowledge for all,” he told IPS.

Cultural production is the best way to integrate immigrants, especially in Rio de Janeiro, he said while frying typical Haitian plantain snacks at a food stand.

Aryadne Bittencourt is legal protection agent for refugees in Caritas in Rio de Janeiro, a Catholic organisation that assists some 150 foreigners per week, to whom it provides a small financial aid stipend, job training and Portuguese language courses, to help them survive and integrate in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Aryadne Bittencourt is legal protection agent for refugees in Caritas in Rio de Janeiro, a Catholic organisation that assists some 150 foreigners per week, to whom it provides a small financial aid stipend, job training and Portuguese language courses, to help them survive and integrate in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

He was at the refugee food fair, held monthly in Botafogo, a Río de Janeiro neighbourhood, with support from the local Anglican church, which provides outdoor patios, from the Catholic organisation Caritas, and from the Local Board, a group that connects producers and consumers, to offer healthy meals at fair prices.

In recent years there has also been an increased influx of Africans, such as Congolese and Senegalese, as well as Syrians, while more recently there has been an inflow of Venezuelans, all fleeing poverty or violence.

In the past, the largest number of African immigrants came from Angola, a country that shares the Portuguese language, fleeing from the civil war that ended in 2002 after 27 years of conflict.

There are also economic reasons behind the shift in immigration flows, since the 2008 international financial crisis weakened the appeal of the United States and Europe, while Brazil’s booming growth offered many employment opportunities, said Cavalcanti, who is also a graduate studies professor at the University of Brasilia.

However, that scenario changed when Brazil fell into recession in 2015, and employment fell, which reduced the flow of immigrants, except for Africans. It also failed to curb the wave of Venezuelans, who, sometimes hungry, cross the border into the state of Roraima.

Garcia Malunza, 25, together with her year and a half old daughter, fled the war in Angola and took refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which she left in 2006 to migrate to Brazil, "for personal reasons." She sells African dresses and fabrics at the refugee fair held monthly in the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Botafogo. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Garcia Malunza, 25, together with her year and a half old daughter, fled the war in Angola and took refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which she left in 2006 to migrate to Brazil, “for personal reasons.” She sells African dresses and fabrics at the refugee fair held monthly in the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Botafogo. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

This was the case of the couple who, with two young children and with her pregnant, sold their house in Venezuela to travel overland to Roraima, and from there by plane to Río de Janeiro, where they were assisted by Caritas, which helps refugees and migrants in several Brazilian cities.

“We decided to leave because I didn’t have the food or vitamins to prevent my baby from being undernourished, and the children were only eating cassava and sardines. Our business went bankrupt because of inflation and we suffered threats because we were not supporters of the government,” said the woman, who preferred to remain unidentified because they still have family in Venezuela.

“I do not see any crisis in Brazil, nothing compared to what we experienced in Venezuela,” she said, praising the good treatment she received during her daughter’s birth, the possibility of freely buying enough food and “of living without fear.”

Initially they received aid from Caritas, equivalent to 95 dollars a month for a few months, and Portuguese language courses. With her husband employed in a hotel, she hopes to “settle down and provide a decent life for our children,” who love the many playgrounds and beaches that they were unable to enjoy in their country.

The IOM, which only opened its office in Brasilia in 2016, opened another one in 2017 in the capital of Roraima, Boa Vista, in the face of the humanitarian emergency situation arising from the mass flight of Venezuelans.

Its Displacement Tracking Matrix platform began to be used in that northern state in January, to help the Brazilian authorities manage the influx, with clear data on the immigrants, Torelly reported.

Of the 33,865 refugee claims in Brazil last year, 52.7 percent were filed by Venezuelans.

Refuge for political or humanitarian reasons offers a path to legal residency in Brazil. It has been the means of entry for about one-third of foreigners in recent years. But few applications are approved.

The National Committee for Refugees, the interministerial body responsible for the approvals, only granted refuge to a little over 9,000 people, and has more than 55,000 pending applications, according to Aryadne Bittencourt, legal protection agent for Caritas Rio refugees.

A new law, passed in 2017, aims to facilitate immigration and refugee status, but the way it is being regulated would tend to continue imposing obstacles, as does the red tape, she lamented.

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Expansion of Soy Resurrects Key Railway Line in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/expansion-soy-resurrects-key-railway-line-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=expansion-soy-resurrects-key-railway-line-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/expansion-soy-resurrects-key-railway-line-brazil/#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 21:44:44 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153893 The railroad can contribute to the economy, making transportation cheaper, but it is unlikely to foment equitable development in and of itself, apart from facing complex construction obstacles in countries like Brazil. The North-South Railway (FNS) is an excellent example. Thirty years after the start of its construction and three years after the central stretch […]

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A train and biofuel storage tanks seen in the yard of the North-South Railway in Porto Nacional, final point of the stretch in operation since 2013, which is using only half of its capacity, most of it to carry soybeans and by-products for export. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A train and biofuel storage tanks seen in the yard of the North-South Railway in Porto Nacional, final point of the stretch in operation since 2013, which is using only half of its capacity, most of it to carry soybeans and by-products for export. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
PORTO NACIONAL, Brazil, Jan 16 2018 (IPS)

The railroad can contribute to the economy, making transportation cheaper, but it is unlikely to foment equitable development in and of itself, apart from facing complex construction obstacles in countries like Brazil.

The North-South Railway (FNS) is an excellent example. Thirty years after the start of its construction and three years after the central stretch began to operate, its viability is uncertain, even though it runs across an area of expanding soy production, which requires large-scale logistics to export.

“It only strengthens agribusiness, it offers nothing to family farms but environmental impacts,” said Messias Vieira Barbosa, one of the coordinators of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Tocantins, a state in north-central Brazil, crossed from end to end by the FNS.

Nor does it benefit the population in general, since it does not provide the passenger transport demanded by a movement to that end, said the activist, a geographer with postgraduate studies on land reform.

Tocantins is a new agricultural frontier, where soy accelerates the concentration of land in the hands of a few landowners, in a process that will intensify with the railway, whose primary function is to transport grains to the northern port of Itaqui to be exported across the Atlantic Ocean.

But even those who benefit directly complain about this new means of transport.

“The freight is still expensive, farmers are not happy because it has not brought down their costs,” complained Mauricio Buffon, president of the Association of Soy and Corn Producers of the State of Tocantins (Aprosoja).

A sea of soy is seen near the city of Porto Nacional, on the right bank of the Tocantins River. The expansion of soy in Tocantins resurrected the North-South Railway, designed in the 1980s with the abstract objective of integrating railway lines east to west, crossing the centre of Brazil, which had little production at that time. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A sea of soy is seen near the city of Porto Nacional, on the right bank of the Tocantins River. The expansion of soy in Tocantins resurrected the North-South Railway, designed in the 1980s with the abstract objective of integrating railway lines east to west, crossing the centre of Brazil, which had little production at that time. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

“It is necessary to end the monopoly” of the concessionaire that operates the railway, said the farmer, who moved eight years ago to the city of Porto Nacional from Mato Grosso, the neighbouring state to the west, that produces the most soy and corn in Brazil.

“I came here because the land is cheaper,” he explained. Despite this, Tocantins is not producing soy at lower final prices than Mato Grosso, and the railway did not help in that, he lamented.

Modifying the existing model or making it more flexible, opening the rails to independent logistics operators, is necessary to boost rail transport in Brazil, currently limited to 25 percent of total cargo, and even to reactivate lines that are now abandoned because the companies that control them are not interested in using them.

For the North-South railway, change is indispensable because it is a rail line designed as a “backbone” of the networks in the centre of the country, depending on other lines to deliver their cargo to the port.

“From the middle of nowhere to nowhere” would be its route, according to the sarcastic reaction by experts and the press to the announcement of the project by then president José Sarney in 1986.

At that time the states that it crossed, Maranhão, Tocantins and Goiás, did not have production levels to justify a railway in any foreseeable future. Soy was a crop almost unknown in those territories.

Despite everything, construction began in 1987 and then faltered, with lengthy interruptions, allegations of corruption and decay of stretches already built. But it became a reality along two stretches that total 1,574 km.

It seemed destined to become another white elephant among the many megaprojects that have failed in the last ten years in Brazil, but it started to make sense with the agricultural boom, led by soy, in Tocantins and neighbouring states, such as Bahia, Goiás and Maranhão.

In 1988, Tocantins produced only 47,000 tons of soy, according to the National Supply Company (CONAB) under the Ministry of Agriculture. Twenty years later, by 2008, it climbed to 911,000 tons, and this year the total reached 2.82 million tons.

This is little compared to the 30.5 million tons produced in Mato Grosso, whose exports are transported by truck traveling about 2,000 km to Santos Port, to the southeast, or just over 1,000 km north to Miritituba, a river port from where they continue by waterway to the Atlantic Ocean.

“The current demand (in Tocantins) still does not make the railway financially viable,” but having that infrastructure promotes new productive investments; it depends on how it is managed, said Lilian Bracarense, a professor at the Federal University of Tocantins (UFT) who has a PhD in transport.

Milton Cavichioli Junior, business manager of Granol’s industrial plant in Porto Nacional, estimates the savings made possible with the FNS at 20 percent. That is why the company exports soy bran by train and uses trucks only when there is an express delivery.

Soy producer Elio Rossato, who together with two brothers, all from the extreme south of Brazil, grow the crop on more than 6,000 hectares in Tocantins, after 15 years in the state of Bahia, where the lack of electricity and roads frustrated their goals. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Soy producer Elio Rossato, who together with two brothers, all from the extreme south of Brazil, grow the crop on more than 6,000 hectares in Tocantins, after 15 years in the state of Bahia, where the lack of electricity and roads frustrated their goals. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Granol can be an important user of the FNS because it has another plant in Anapolis, next to the rails, and demands double-track railway, since it buys grains and sells bran and biodiesel, he said.

The logistics in Porto Nacional have an additional cost for those who cross the Tocantins River to transport their products to the railway on the left bank.

The bridge built in 1979 withstands only 30 tons. Today’s large trucks, which carry more than twice that weight, have to go over a sturdier bridge in Palmas, the capital of Tocantins, 60 km away.

“A new bridge will be built in 2018 and will be completed in 1,000 days,” said Olimpio Mascarenhas, secretary of Production and Development in the Porto Nacional city government.

“What increases costs is not the distance, but crossing Palmas in limited hours and at the risk of fines,” complained Elio Rossato, who together with two brothers has grown more than 6,000 hectares of soy on lands that they own or lease, 20 km from the city of Porto Nacional, for the past five years.

The brothers, who migrated from the extreme south of Brazil, lived for 15 years in the state of Bahia, east of Tocantins. “We used to suffer there, without roads or electricity; this is the best place in the world,” he said, praising the roads and the railroad that are now available.

But he pointed out obstacles to growing soy in the low-lying state of Tocantins, about 260 m above sea level in average, which is less than the ideal altitude that soy needs, and the presence of nematodes or roundworms, a disease still without proven remedy.

Solutions may be on the way, as five agricultural research companies are carrying out studies in Porto Nacional and will be able to overcome these problems and diversify production, especially of fruit, he said.

And according to Mascarenhas, the future of the municipality is promising, because it has a great deal of land for agricultural expansion, water to irrigate three crops a year, people trained by three local universities and ideal logistics, with railways, an airport and roads within a radius of 60 km.

But Tocantins will not be “another Mato Grosso”, where soy dominated the countryside, displacing peasants and food production. “Here family agriculture is still resisting: 520 agrarian settlements were created with 28,448 families, from 1987 to 2015,” said Messias Barbosa.

“It depends on public policies to diversify the economy, which are still timid,” argued Thiago de Oliveira, who has a PhD in Regional Development from the UFT. He pointed out that the Belém-Brasilia highway, inaugurated in 1960, dictated the direction taken by Tocantins, with landowners taking over land and displacing peasants to the cities.

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Tocantins, a River of Many Dams in Central Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/tocantins-river-many-dams-central-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tocantins-river-many-dams-central-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/tocantins-river-many-dams-central-brazil/#respond Fri, 12 Jan 2018 02:12:26 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153844 Tocantins, the newest of Brazil’s 26 states, which was created in 1988 to seek its own paths to development in central Brazil, fell into the common plight of expanding borders, based on soy and hydroelectricity. The area owes its name to a river that crosses the state from south to north, but which has been […]

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Access stairway to the Tocantins River in the central Brazilian state of Tocantins, which no longer has flowing water since it was dammed to generate electricity, mostly to be used in other parts of the country, and which contributes very little to local development. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Access stairway to the Tocantins River in the central Brazilian state of Tocantins, which no longer has flowing water since it was dammed to generate electricity, mostly to be used in other parts of the country, and which contributes very little to local development. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
PALMAS and PORTO NACIONAL, Brazil, Jan 12 2018 (IPS)

Tocantins, the newest of Brazil’s 26 states, which was created in 1988 to seek its own paths to development in central Brazil, fell into the common plight of expanding borders, based on soy and hydroelectricity.

The area owes its name to a river that crosses the state from south to north, but which has been converted into a sequence of dams to generate electricity, almost entirely for other states. With no industries and with a population of just 1.5 million, consumption in this state is very limited.

“The lake is beautiful, but it left us without the tourism potential of the river and the electricity is more expensive for us than elsewhere,” complained journalist and writer Edivaldo Rodrigues, editor-in-chief of the newspaper O Paralelo 13, which he founded in 1987 in Porto Nacional.

The Lajeado hydroelectric power plant, with a capacity of 902.5 megawatts and which is officially named after former member of parliament Luis Eduardo Magalhães, who died in 1998, submerged beaches, crops and houses with its 630 square km reservoir, along a 170-km stretch of the Tocantins river.

“We had beaches in the dry season, islands of white sand that attracted many tourists”, and it was all lost when the water level rose, Rodrigues lamented, at his home in the city’s historical district, a few metres from the shore of the lake.

The journalist, who is the author of 12 books, chronicles, memoirs and novels, is a privileged witness to the transformations in Tocantins, especially in Porto Nacional, the cultural cradle of the state, with a population of about 53,000 people.

His historical novels show the violence of old landowners, the “colonels” appointed by the National Guard, a paramilitary militia that was disbanded in 1922, who dominated the region of Tocantins, as well as the advance in education brought by Dominican priests who came from France in 1886 to spread Catholicism from their base in Porto Nacional.

“They brought knowledge from Europe, they created schools, turning Porto Nacional into a cultural centre, and today a university town, with three universities and students from all over the country,” said the journalist who studied Communication and History in Goiania, capital of the neighboring state of Goiás.

Edivaldo Rodrigues, editor-in-chief of the newspaper O Paralelo 13, from Porto Nacional, a cultural and university centre in central Brazil with a population of 53,000 located on the right bank of the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Edivaldo Rodrigues, editor-in-chief of the newspaper O Paralelo 13, from Porto Nacional, a cultural and university centre in central Brazil with a population of 53,000 located on the right bank of the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The river, which was part and parcel of the city, more than doubled in width when it became a lake, but now it is farther away from the population. Now there are ravines between the coastal avenue and where the water starts, accessed only through two stairways.

Some old families from the city were resettled away from the shore of the lake and indemnified, but most of the displaced were peasant farmers who lived on the other side, on the left bank, where the reservoir was extended the most across the plain.

Anesia Marques Fernandes, 59, is one of those victims.

“We lost the river, the beaches, the tourists, the nearby fish and the fertile lands which we sowed in the dry season,” recalled the peasant farmer, who was resettled along with her mother 21 km from the river in 2000, before the reservoir was filled the following year.

“My mother is the one who suffered the most and still suffers today, at 80 years of age,” after having raised her five children on her own in the flooded rural community, Carreira, because her husband died when she was pregnant with their fifth child, Fernandes said.

In the Flor de la Sierra Resettlement community, home to 49 displaced families, the four hectares of land that were given to them are not even a tenth of what they had before, she said. “But the houses are better,” she acknowledged.

The most important thing, however, was community life, the solidarity among “neighbours who helped each other, shared the meat of a butchered cow. We were one big family that was broken up,” she lamented. In the resettlement community there are only three families from her old village.

Bernardete Batista de Araujo stands in front of the house where she was relocated in Palmas, together with others displaced by the Lajeado hydroelectric dam in central Brazil. The high walls and a street muddy because of the rain make her miss Vila Canela, her old village on an island that no longer exists on the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Bernardete Batista de Araujo stands in front of the house where she was relocated in Palmas, together with others displaced by the Lajeado hydroelectric dam in central Brazil. The high walls and a street muddy because of the rain make her miss Vila Canela, her old village on an island that no longer exists on the Tocantins River. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

That is the same complaint voiced by Maria do Socorro Araujo, a 56-year-old retired teacher, displaced from Canela, a submerged beach community, 10 km from Palmas, the capital of the state of Tocantins.

“The community was fragmented, it dispersed, it forgot its culture, its unity and its way of live,” said Araujo, who was resettled in 2001 on block 508 in the north of Palmas, with her husband and three children.

“We lost our land, tranquillity and freedom, there were no fences there; here we live behind high walls,” complained her neighbour Bernardete Batista de Araujo, referring to the house where she was resettled in the capital.

She is pleased, however, to have a roof over her head, a solid three-bedroom house, better than her rustic dwelling in Canela, which had been rebuilt after the river flooded and destroyed it in 1980.

In her small yard, she now tries to compensate for the loss of the many fruit trees in the village flooded by the reservoir, planting papaya, mango and pineapple.

“The bad thing here is the dust in the dry season and the mud when it rains because of the unpaved roads,” a long-standing complaint by the inhabitants of La Cuadra, who are demanding that the road be paved.

Palmas, with a current population of 290,000, is an artificial city, planned according to the model of Brasilia, with wide avenues and squares to accommodate large numbers of cars and blocks arranged by numbers and cardinal points.

Founded in 1989, it took years of construction before becoming in practice the administrative capital of Tocantins.

Antonio Alves de Oliveira, 63, is proud to have been “the third taxi driver” in Palmas, when the city, in its second year, “had nothing but dust and huge numbers of mosquitoes.”

“Fried fly” was the nickname given to an improvised restaurant, he recalled.

Where Palmas is located, the Tocantins River now has an 8.4-km bridge which crosses the reservoir – almost eight times the width before the construction of the Lajeado dam, 50 km downstream (to the north).

The environmental impact study carried out by Investco, the company that built the Lajeado hydropower plant between 1999 and 2001 and has a concession for 35 years, registered only 1,526 families, of which 997 are rural, directly affected by the dam and reservoir.

But Judite da Rocha, local coordinator of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), believes that the real number is close to 8,000 families.

Many groups were not recognised as affected, such as the Xerente indigenous people, boatmen, fishermen, potters, dredgers who extracted sand from the river and seasonal workers, such as “barraqueros” who set up stands to sell beach products in the tourist season, she argued.

But the “worst and most complex situation” is that of the Estreito hydroelectric plant, inaugurated in 2012 in the north of the state of Tocantins, with an installed capacity of 1,087 megawatts.

There are “almost 1,000 families displaced and without compensation”, scattered in seven camps, so that the total number of people affected could reach 12,000, according to Rocha.

MAB estimates that there are 25,000 families in total who suffer the consequences of the hydroelectric power plants built in the state of Tocantins, four of which are on the Tocantins River. Added to three other large plants built in other states, the Tocantins River has a generation capacity of 12,785 megawatts.

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Landlocked, a Railway Remains Idle in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/landlocked-railway-remains-idle-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=landlocked-railway-remains-idle-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/landlocked-railway-remains-idle-brazil/#respond Sat, 06 Jan 2018 00:13:37 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153765 The rails have been laid – thousands of km of rails deteriorating due to lack of use, to the despair of those who believe that a country as vast as Brazil can only be developed by means of trains. Brazil built 37,000 km of railways up to six decades ago, but their use has declined […]

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Several underused tracks of the North-South Railway near Anápolis, an industrial city in Brazil that can expand its economy as a logistics hub, thanks to the confluence of rail, road and air transport, together with its proximity to Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Several underused tracks of the North-South Railway near Anápolis, an industrial city in Brazil that can expand its economy as a logistics hub, thanks to the confluence of rail, road and air transport, together with its proximity to Brasilia. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
ANÁPOLIS, Brazil, Jan 6 2018 (IPS)

The rails have been laid – thousands of km of rails deteriorating due to lack of use, to the despair of those who believe that a country as vast as Brazil can only be developed by means of trains.

Brazil built 37,000 km of railways up to six decades ago, but their use has declined since then. Today about one- third of the network is abandoned and another third is underutilised.

This stands out in the North-South Railway (FNS). Its longest stretch, in Brazil’s geographical centre, was inaugurated in May 2014, but it still does not operate regularly in this country of 8,515,770 square km and 208 million inhabitants.

The 855-km FNS, which runs from the north-central state of Tocantins toAnápolis, 130 km from Brasilia, will be extended by an additional 682 km – a project that is in the final phase of construction and will reach Estrela D’Oeste, in the interior of São Paulo, the most developed state in Brazil.

“It’s a mess, a series of errors and bottlenecks,” according to Edson Tavares, former superintendent of the Anapolis Dry Port and transport consultant. With terminals far from the sea, the FNS depends on more railways to become viable, he told IPS.

The Dry Port is an inland port or multimodal logistics centre or terminal connected to seaports by rail.

The chosen route of the FNS includes “curves that make it necessary to cut in half the intended speed of 80 km per hour” and moves away from busy loading areas such as mines and cement factories, complained the expert, who believes it will take “much more time” for the new railway to take off.

Construction began in 1987 and suffered frequent interruptions and allegations of corruption. The first section, to the north,did not start operating until 2013, and the concession is held by VLI, a logistics company controlled by Vale, the world’s largest exporter of iron ore.

Trucks fill the streets of the Anápolis Agribusiness District, in Brazil, loading or unloading products and raw materials, next to the North-South Railway, which is practically unused, waiting for the concession to be granted to an operator in 2018. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Trucks fill the streets of the Anápolis Agribusiness District, in Brazil, loading or unloading products and raw materials, next to the North-South Railway, which is practically unused, waiting for the concession to be granted to an operator in 2018. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

This 720 km-stretch is able to operate thanks to having “right of passage” through the Carajás Railway, which reaches the Port of São Luis, through which Vale ships iron ore from the Carajás range, in the north of Brazil.

This makes it possible to transport to a port soy and other products from Tocantins, a state in the northern region of Brazil, which contrasts with the other six northern states because only nine percent of its territory is in the Amazon rainforest and the rest in the Cerrado, the Brazilian savanna.

But the southern stretch of the FNS has been left unresolved.

“With the railway operating, Anápolis will become the main logistics centre in Brazil, since it is also the kilometre zero (start) of the Belém-Brasilia highway, crossing two other national roads, and it will have an important cargo airport which in its final phase of construction”, said Vander Barbosa, secretary of Development and Agriculture in the city government.

That city in the state of Goiás also has the most important industrial district in the west-central region of Brazil, with a pharmaceutical hub of 20 companies, a car-making and engine factory run bySouth Korea’s Hyundai and food, beverage and construction materials firms.

Many of these companies produce their own heavy and bulky goods for railway transport. The Granolcompany, for example, processes soybeans and was the first of the few companies that used the new railway to sporadically export their bran.

Since its plant is right next to the rails, it can load the trains through a short pipeline that carries the bran directly to the wagons. Biodiesel is another of its products transportable through the FNS.

A plant belonging to the Granolcompany, which produces soy branand biodiesel, next to the North-South railroad, in Brazil, where a pipeline from the factory makes it possible to load the wagons directly. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A plant belonging to the Granolcompany, which produces soy branand biodiesel, next to the North-South railroad, in Brazil, where a pipeline from the factory makes it possible to load the wagons directly. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Anapolisis also set to be a storage and shipment point of grains for much of the central-west, the region with the highest agricultural production, especially of soy, corn and cotton. For this purpose, the FNS Intermodal terminal still has plenty of available space.

The military defense equipment industry is also strong in the city, which has a strategic air base for the protection of Brasilia, 130 km away as the crow flies.

The idea that transport routes, whether roads or railways, “attract development” does not always automatically come true; “it requires other policies in an integrated manner to generate economic growth,” said Lilian Bracarense, a professor of post-graduate studies in Regional Development at the Federal University of Tocantins.

“The Central-West, North and Northeast regions of Brazil have a lack of infrastructure, but that does not always justify private investments in the sector, as occurs in the South and Southeast, where there is an established demand,” she told IPS.

“The vicious circle that without demand infrastructure is not built, and without infrastructure demand is not generated”, according to the researcher who has a PhD in transport, seems to be broken by the government decision to introduce the railway that runs across the centre of the country from north to south.

Tocantins, with a population of 1.5 million, has an agricultural production limited to about 4.5 million tons of various grains, but the state of Goiás, population 6.8 million, recorded a harvest this year of almost 22 million tons, according to the National Supply Company (Conab) attached to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The idea behind the FNS is to create loading and unloading terminals throughout Goiás, especially in Anápolis due to the importance of industry there, and to attract productive investments as well. But that is where rail transport runs into obstacles.

The city and state of Goiás is more integrated with the economy of the Brazilian Southeast, more developed and closer to the port of Santos, more than 1,000 kilometers away by road, than with the northern ports, which are all at least 1,600 km away.

As a railway without an outlet to the sea, but with an “extensive area of influence”, the North-South railway, and the Brazilian rail system in general, need three conditions to operate satisfactorily, according to José Carlos Medaglia, CEO of the Planning and Logistics Company, attached to the Transport Ministry.

“The right of passage”, which allows logistics operators and a railroad concession company to transport cargo by rail from another company, is already legal but has to be fulfilled in practice, that is the first requirement, Medaglia told IPS.

To be effective, the railways must also have “surplus”transport capacity to provide to third parties, and standardised operation, with rails, equipment, personnel and other uniform technical requirements, of the same level of quality and training, so that they can operate on the railways of other companies, he said.

“All that was unimaginable in the past in Brazil”, which has a tradition of a “vertical” railway system, where the company that holds the concession for the infrastructure is its only operator.

This does not prevent competition, said Medaglia, who added that what is needed in any case is “good regulation,” to enforce the right of passage, and investments to expand capacity and modernise the system.

This can be achieved by negotiating with the country’s five railway networks new operating conditions to extend their concessions that will expire in the coming years.

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Moralist Upsurge in Brazil Revives Censorship of the Artshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/moralist-upsurge-brazil-revives-censorship-arts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=moralist-upsurge-brazil-revives-censorship-arts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/moralist-upsurge-brazil-revives-censorship-arts/#comments Tue, 02 Jan 2018 15:34:35 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153706 It is not yet an official policy because censorship is not openly accepted by the current authorities, but de facto vetoes on artistic expressions are increasing due to moralistic pressures in Brazil. The offensive affects the artistic world in general, not just the shows or exhibitions that have been directly canceled in recent months. “This […]

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"Criança viada", by Bia Leite, attracted a wave of moralistic attacks on the grounds that it promotes pedophilia. But the author explains that it is a denouncement of violence against children, humiliated as "queers" (viada) if they do not behave as required by the dominant machista culture. Credit: Courtesy of QueerMuseu

"Criança viada", by Bia Leite, attracted a wave of moralistic attacks on the grounds that it promotes pedophilia. But the author explains that it is a denouncement of violence against children, humiliated as "queers" (viada) if they do not behave as required by the dominant machista culture. Credit: Courtesy of QueerMuseu

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 2 2018 (IPS)

It is not yet an official policy because censorship is not openly accepted by the current authorities, but de facto vetoes on artistic expressions are increasing due to moralistic pressures in Brazil.

The offensive affects the artistic world in general, not just the shows or exhibitions that have been directly canceled in recent months.

“This affects all our work, because it dissuades us from fear of reactions and the sponsors will now think ten thousand times before supporting a work of art,” said Nadia Bambirra, an actress, theater director and acting coach.

This exacerbates the problems facing the cultural sector, at a time that is already fraught with difficulties due to declining public funds and an economic crisis causing a decrease in spectators and audience as well as in private financial support, she told IPS."So, what lies ahead is devastating, rather than worrying," because "the world is facing a surge of conservatism, and Latin America is not immune to that phenomenon, as seen in Argentina and Brazil, which are confirming the return of winds that seemed to have faded in the past." -- Eric Nepomuceno

The wave of repression became dramatic since September, when the Santander Cultural Centre canceled the exhibition “QueerMuseu, Cartographies of Difference in Brazilian Art”, a month before it was to end, after accusations of promoting pedophilia and zoophilia and of blasphemy.

The exhibition, made up of 264 paintings, drawings, sculptures and other works by 85 Brazilian artists, was inaugurated on Aug.15 and was scheduled to close on Oct. 8 in Porto Alegre, capital of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

A campaign on the social networks was driven mainly by the Free Brazil Movement (MBL), which takes radical positions against social rights, such as housing, even though they are enshrined in the constitution, while supporting extreme right candidates in politics.

The Santander Bank decided to cancel the show at its cultural centre because “it was considered offensive by some people and groups” who thought it was “disrespectful toward symbols and beliefs,” according to the bank’s “message to clients” to explain the measure.

Protests by artists, intellectuals and sexual diversity movements accused the Spanish bank of exercising censorship, by yielding to accusations against some works that have already been well-known for decades.

But the protests failed to prevent the exhibition from also being canceled in Rio de Janeiro, where it was set to open in October.

Mayor Marcelo Crivella, bishop of an evangelical Christian church, banned its exhibition at the Museum of Art, a municipal institution that partners with a private foundation, in response to the accusations aimed at the QueerMuseu in Porto Alegre.

“No more censorship!” protested filmmakers and actors at the Festival do Rio, an international film festival held Oct. 5-15. The mobilisation of artistic and cultural media failed to reverse the decision or, so far, to attain a new venue for the exhibition.

The work of art "Crossing Jesus Christ with the goddess Shiva", by Fernando Baril, aroused the ire of people who considered it blasphemous and disrespectful to religions, while the artist explained that it was a mixture of religious figures and objects that represent Western consumerism. Credit: Courtesy of QueerMuseu

The work of art “Crossing Jesus Christ with the goddess Shiva”, by Fernando Baril, aroused the ire of people who considered it blasphemous and disrespectful to religions, while the artist explained that it was a mixture of religious figures and objects that represent Western consumerism. Credit: Courtesy of QueerMuseu

The moralistic outbreak was fueled in the southern metropolis of São Paulo, where the Museum of Modern Art inaugurated its 35th Panorama of Brazilian Art with a performance by a naked artist.

A video showing a girl touching the hand and leg of a man who was lying down triggered a flood of protests, and allegations of pornography and pedophilia.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office is investigating whether there was a violation of Brazil’s Statute on Children and Adolescents by those who disseminated the video, exposing the girl and her mother who took her to the presentation allegedly inappropriate for children.

Actions of intolerance against freedom of artistic expression have proliferated in Brazil this year.

Dancer Maikon Kempinski was arrested for a few hours on Jul. 15 by the police in São Paulo for presenting a performance in which he removed his clothes. Two months later, a play was banned by the judicial authorities in Jundiaí, 60 kilometers from São Paulo, because Jesus Christ was played by a transsexual actress.

The theatre group was able to perform in nearby cities in the following days, drawing a large audience and intense applause, which shows that censorship is from isolated groups. But in late October the play was again banned in Salvador, capital of the northeastern state of Bahía.

The Rio de Janeiro city government, imbued with the evangelical bias of its mayor, continues to obstruct cultural activities, taking care not to fall into widespread, official bans.

“My boyfriend had his painting censored in the ‘short circuit’ visual arts exhibit on sexual diversity,” which could not be held on the scheduled dates in October, said Bruna Belém, a dancer and body arts researcher who is earning a Master’s Degree in Contemporary Art Studies.

The city government secretariat of culture prevented the exhibition in a municipal cultural centre, alleging

Besides, “eight works disappeared and were only returned two weeks later,” Belém told IPS, referring to suspicions of sabotage of the “October for Diversity” programme, which also included plays that were suspended.

"Scenes from the Interior II", painted 23 years ago by Adriana Varejão, one of Brazil’s most respected and award-winning artists, only now drew accusations of inciting zoophilia by critics who only divulged the part containing two people with a goat. The artist explained that she mixed different sexual practices associated withBrazil’s colonisation and slavery. Credit: Courtesy of QueerMuseu

“Scenes from the Interior II”, painted 23 years ago by Adriana Varejão, one of Brazil’s most respected and award-winning artists, only now drew accusations of inciting zoophilia by critics who only divulged the part containing two people with a goat. The artist explained that she mixed different sexual practices associated withBrazil’s colonisation and slavery. Credit: Courtesy of QueerMuseu

“The manipulative capacity” of the government, in this case the municipal government, “has been turned against freedom of expression,” lamented the dancer and activist. “The first ones attacked were the artists who work with their body, performances, photographic displays, theatre, dance,” she said.

To illustrate, she mentioned her dance instructor, who presented a performance that includes nudity in an event after the closure in the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Art. The audience was limited to their peers, excluding the outside spectators they had hoped to reach.

These subterfuges show that the current conservative authorities, especially in the municipalities of Brazil’s largest cities, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, do not dare to directly ban artistic expressions after three decades of re-democratisation of the country, affirming freedom of expression.

“There is resistance,” Belém said.

In light of the “moral patrol”, the tendency is to limit the arts to musical shows and innocuous works of art, abandoning uncomfortable avant-garde pieces of art, Bambirra fears. “But in the midst of that neo-Nazi wave, something surprising, transformative, can emerge in the search for new spaces,” she said hopefully to IPS.

With the current government, headed by Michel Temer as president since May 2016, “the conservative wave was consolidated and extended to all institutions, especially the National Congress and sectors of the Judicial branch,” according to Eric Nepomuceno, a writer and former Secretary of Exchange and Special Projects of the Ministry of Culture.

Temer belongs to the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement party, but is considered a conservative in religious, social and gender issues. The 77-year-old politician is surviving corruption scandals with just three percent popular support, according to the latest polls.

His government depends on the parliamentary support of right-wing parties and specific alliances, such as that of ruralists (landowners) and evangelists who demand conservative measures and laws, such as flexibilisation of labour and environmental regulations, as well as the fight against slave-like labour.

To the episodes of censorship and extremist movements such as the MBL is added “Temer’s government’s contempt for culture, a kind of revenge on the fact that almost all artists and intellectuals reject him,” Nepomuceno told IPS.

“So, what lies ahead is devastating, rather than worrying,” because “the world is facing a surge of conservatism, and Latin America is not immune to that phenomenon, as seen in Argentina and Brazil, which are confirming the return of winds that seemed to have faded in the past,” he concluded.

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Indigenous People, Guardians of Threatened Forests in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/indigenous-people-guardians-threatened-forests-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-people-guardians-threatened-forests-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/indigenous-people-guardians-threatened-forests-brazil/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 18:33:52 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153313 Indigenous peoples, recognised as the best guardians of the world’s forests, are losing some battles in Brazil in the face of intensified pressure from the expansion of agriculture, mining and electricity generation. The Brazilian indigenous lands (TI), called “reserves” or “reservations” in other countries, are the most protected in the Amazon rainforest. They cover 22.3 […]

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Brazilian Indigenous people during one of their regular protests in Rio de Janeiro demanding the demarcation of their lands and to be taken into account in environmental and climate measures. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Brazilian Indigenous people during one of their regular protests in Rio de Janeiro demanding the demarcation of their lands and to be taken into account in environmental and climate measures. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO , Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

Indigenous peoples, recognised as the best guardians of the world’s forests, are losing some battles in Brazil in the face of intensified pressure from the expansion of agriculture, mining and electricity generation.

The Brazilian indigenous lands (TI), called “reserves” or “reservations” in other countries, are the most protected in the Amazon rainforest. They cover 22.3 percent of the territory and the deforested portion represented just 1.6 percent of the total deforestation in the region up to 2016, according to the non-governmental Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA)."They are destroying our culture, our consciousness and our economy by destroying our forests, which we defend because they are our life and our wisdom." -- Almir Narayamoga Suruí

The conservation units, under state protection for research, limited sustainable use or as biological reserves, suffered much higher losses, although deforestation has declined drastically in recent years.

The expansion of these two preservation instruments would be decisive for Brazil to fulfill its nationally intended determined contribution to the mitigation of climate change: to reduce greenhouse gases by 43 percent as of 2030, based on 2005 emissions, which totalled just over 2 billion tons.

But deforestation in indigenous reserves demarcated in the Amazon increased 32 percent in August 2016 to July 2017, compared to the previous period, while throughout the Amazon region, made up of nine states, there was a 16 percent reduction.

It is little in absolute terms, but it has other dramatic effects.

“They are destroying our culture, our consciousness and our economy by destroying our forests, which we defend because they are our life and our wisdom,” protested Almir Narayamoga Suruí, a leader of the Suruí people in the September Seven TI, where nearly 1,400 indigenous people live, in northwestern Brazil.

The destruction is caused by loggers and “garimpeiros” or informal miners of gold and diamonds that have invaded the Suruí land since the beginning of 2016.

The complaints and information offered by the indigenous people have not obtained any answers from the government, said Almir Suruí, who became internationally known, as of 2007, for using Google Earth technology to monitor indigenous lands with the aim of preventing invasions and deforestation.

“It’s a good alliance, we have access to a tool that facilitates and allows us to have key information. But the government is not cooperating,” he said in a conversation with IPS.

Deforestation due to the expansion of livestock farming dominates the landscape near Alta Floresta, a southeastern gateway to the Brazilian Amazon. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Deforestation due to the expansion of livestock farming dominates the landscape near Alta Floresta, a southeastern gateway to the Brazilian Amazon. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

His suspicion is that government corruption, widely revealed in the last three years through investigations by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, weakens the government agencies that should fight the invasion of indigenous lands: the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources and the National Indian Foundation (Funai).

This is also dividing his people, with some of its members “co-opted” by loggers and “garimpeiros” to facilitate the illegal exploitation of natural resources, Suruí lamented.

The special rapporteur speaks

Indigenous peoples will be among the main victims of climate change, although their way of life practically does not contribute to the environmental crisis, but rather to solutions, according to the United Nations special rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

In addition to the fact that many of them live in localities subject to extreme weather events, some projects pointed out as solutions, because they reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, directly affect indigenous life, as is the case of biofuels and hydroelectric power plants, which impact their territories.

In her reports and presentations, Tauli-Corpuz repeatedly calls for compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and International Labour Organization Convention N° 169, to give indigenous people greater participation in decisions that affect them, such as climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

“It is in fact what divided the Suruí people, some of their leaders were involved in the theft of timber with the support of Funai,” said Ivaneide Bandeira, project coordinator of the Kanindé Association for Ethno-Environmental Defence, a non-governmental organisation based in Porto Velho, capital of the northwestern state of Rondônia.

“And the Uru-ue-wau-wau people are facing an even worse situation,” she told IPS.

They are a small community, which has shrunk as a result of massacres and epidemics brought by the invaders in the last four decades, and is now suffering the invasion of thousands of farmers trying to illegally take possession of lands in the reserve west of the Suruís, in Rondônia.

“In Brazil, the TI’s play an important role in curbing the advance of deforestation and in preserving biodiversity, complementing the National Conservation Unit System,” philosopher Marcio Santilli, founder of the ISA, where he coordinates the Politics and Law programme, told IPS.

But some of these lands in the Amazon suffer greater deforestation, given “the intensity of the nearby territorial occupation, the execution of major works, the presence of roads, agricultural expansion fronts and mining or logging activity,” said Santilli, who presided over Funai in 1995-1996.

“That generates an unfavourable correlation of forces”, which exceeds “the capacity of organisation and territorial control of the indigenous people to discourage and even repel invasions,” he explained.

“Targeted actions on some 10 especially affected TI’s, with efficient inspections by government oversight bodies, would reduce deforestation, he suggested. In Brazil there are currently 462 TI’s.

This is what has been happening in general in the Amazon since last year, “through permanent actions by environmental authorities in areas of deforestation pressure”, such as the vicinity of the BR163 highway, a route for transporting soy for export in the Amazon, said Santilli.

Indigenous people are the eyes of the fight against deforestation even outside their reserves, all the sources interviewed agreed. Their information was decisive in guiding the Ríos Voladores Operation through which the police and the Public Prosecutor’s office dismantled a gang that occupied public lands for logging in the Amazon state of Pará.

“The elimination of forests in the surrounding areas have impacts within, such as the drying up of rivers that cross indigenous land and attracting fires,” said Paulo Barreto, senior researcher at the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment (Imazon).

Controlled burns, a traditional form of deforestation, have multiplied and have become more destructive in the Amazon, given the greater frequency and intensity of droughts. More flammable material accumulates and forests are more vulnerable, after the drop in rainfall in 2010, 2016 and this year.

This is added to another debilitating trend in the Amazon: increased forest degradation, caused by the droughts, timber extraction and other phenomena that reduce forest density, Barreto told IPS.

Last year the forest degradation rate reached a record and last October there was an increase of 2,400 percent over the same month of 2016, growing from 297 square km per month to 7,421, according to data from the Deforestation Alert System, created by Imazon.

“The degradation in one month exceeded the deforestation for the whole year. That impoverishes the forests biologically while the fires affect the health of animals and humans with the smoke. Brazil is not prepared to face this phenomenon, which requires strong local prevention measures,” said Barreto.

Restoring forests, mainly at the sources of rivers and along the banks, is a way to mitigate part of the damage, a technique used by the Xingu Seed Network, an initiative of the ISA launched in 2007 along the upper section of the highly deforested basin of the Xingu River in the Amazon rainforest.

In addition to supplying companies and institutions involved in reforestation, it generates income for the approximately 450 mainly indigenous collectors of seeds, plays a role in environmental education, and brings together different actors, such as farmers and landowners, said Rodrigo Junqueira, promoter of the Network and coordinator of the ISA Xingu Programme.

“I learned a lot about trees, life and the importance of nature, in addition to earning money as head of the ‘seed bank’” in Nova Xavantina, 19-year-old student Milene Alves, in the state of Mato Grosso, told IPS.

Her father, a fisherman, “overcame depression” and her mother, a homemaker, changed her life, both by devoting themselves to the collection of seeds, said Alves, who chose to study biology at the university after her experience.

All this is crucial for the future of climate change. Nearly 24 percent of the carbon stored on the earth’s surface is in the tropical forests in indigenous and communal lands, according to the international World Resources Institute.

According to the 2010 census, the indigenous population in Brazil is 897,000, which is 0.45 percent of the country’s total population, while the TI’s cover 1.17 million square km, equivalent to 13.8 percent of the country’s territory, but encompassed mostly in areas especially vulnerable to temperature rises.

This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world will meet in Suva, Fiji Dec. 4-8 for International Civil Society Week.

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White Elephants and the Urban Challenges of Brasiliahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/white-elephants-urban-challenges-brasilia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=white-elephants-urban-challenges-brasilia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/white-elephants-urban-challenges-brasilia/#respond Tue, 21 Nov 2017 02:30:05 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153118 Two white elephants – a huge football stadium that draws almost no fans and an empty 16-building complex that was to be the new headquarters of the district government – reflect Brasília’s challenges as a metropolis, beyond its role as the capital of Brazil. The Administrative Centre, where the 15,000 officials of the Federal District […]

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Part of the Administrative Centre built by two private companies between 2013 and 2014, to be the new seat of the government of the Federal District, in Brasilia. The 16-building complex with 3,000 parking spaces is not being used, due to an order by the courts, which are investigating allegations of corruption. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Part of the Administrative Centre built by two private companies between 2013 and 2014, to be the new seat of the government of the Federal District, in Brasilia. The 16-building complex with 3,000 parking spaces is not being used, due to an order by the courts, which are investigating allegations of corruption. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
BRASILIA, Nov 21 2017 (IPS)

Two white elephants – a huge football stadium that draws almost no fans and an empty 16-building complex that was to be the new headquarters of the district government – reflect Brasília’s challenges as a metropolis, beyond its role as the capital of Brazil.

The Administrative Centre, where the 15,000 officials of the Federal District (DF), and from foundations and public companies, were to be based, was built in Taguatinga, one of the largest cities surrounding the “Pilot Plan”, another name for the planned city of Brasília, which was inaugurated in 1960, after it was carved out of the jungle.

“It would be good to have the government here, able to get a closer look at the areas where most of the population lives, generating more jobs and benefits for us,” Laura Morais, a young assistant at a hairdressing salon in the centre of Samambaia, a city next to Taguatinga, told IPS.
"It would be good to have the government here, able to get a closer look at the areas where most of the population lives, generating more jobs and benefits for us." -- Laura Morais

Inaugurated on Dec. 31, 2014 illegally, according to the public prosecutor’s office of the Federal District, the centre was left unused, pending the outcome of a judicial tangle yet to be unraveled.

If the idea were to materialise, “it would turn Taguatinga into a hellhole with even worse traffic jams, but it would boost the growth of Samambaia, which has a lot of free space and few businesses,” explained Paulo Pereira, the owner of an optical shop.

“It would also help to decongest Brasília. That is, it would be better for some, worse for others,” he told IPS before complaining about the corruption that has bogged down the project.

Former DF governor Agnelo Queiroz was accused of receiving in 2014 a bribe of 2.5 million Brazilian reais (over 760,000 dollars at present), shared with his deputy governor Tadeu Fellipelli, to promote the construction of the Administrative Centre.

The accusation came from executives of the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which partnered with another construction firm, Via Engineering, to build the complex, in a Public-Private Partnership by which the companies would complete the work and would be subsequently remunerated with monthly fees for 22 years.

Odebrecht, Brazil’s largest construction company, which is active in dozens of countries, reached a plea deal with the justice system to cooperate in the corruption scandal that since 2014 has led to the imprisonment of dozens of businesspersons and politicians who offered or received bribes for public contracts, especially oil companies.

Laura Morais smiles in the hairdressing salon where she works in downtown Samambaia, a satellite city of the capital of Brazil. She complains about the lack of leisure and cultural activities in the city, founded in 1989, and in others that surround the Federal District. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Laura Morais smiles in the hairdressing salon where she works in downtown Samambaia, a satellite city of the capital of Brazil. She complains about the lack of leisure and cultural activities in the city, founded in 1989, and in others that surround the Federal District. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Queiroz and his predecessor, José Arruda, are in prison for another corruption case, the overbilling of the works on the Mané Garrincha stadium, which was expanded to host several of the matches for the 2014 World Cup, which took place in Brazil.

With an initial budget of 210 million dollars, its cost more than doubled, requiring an additional 270 million dollars, according to investigations by the Federal Police.

Corruption has been proven in the construction of many of the 12 stadiums used in the FIFA (International Federation of Associated Football) World Cup, but the one in Brasilia was the most expensive.

Its capacity was raised to 72,788 spectators – ridiculous in a city without a strong football tradition or clubs to justify such an investment. The average attendance at local matches does not reach 2,000 fans, the local football association acknowledges.

Maintaining this gigantic stadium costs more money to the public treasury and generates permanent losses for indefinite time.

The solution would be to turn the stadium into a cultural-sports complex, with “a museum, a library, movie theaters and conference rooms, as well as a shopping center, all related to sports,” suggested José Cruz, a veteran local journalist, with decades covering sports.

“It is not something new, but would just copy what has already been done successfully in Europe,” and in Brasilia there are great sports heroes, such as runner Joaquim Cruz and the ex-Formula 1 driver Nelson Piquet, who would attract public, he told IPS.

The Mané Garrincha football stadium, one of Brasilia’s white elephants, which is currently mainly used for its parking lot, where thousands of buses park for a good part of the day, waiting to take tens of thousands of commuters back to the dormitory cities where they live. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

The Mané Garrincha football stadium, one of Brasilia’s white elephants, which is currently mainly used for its parking lot, where thousands of buses park for a good part of the day, waiting to take tens of thousands of commuters back to the dormitory cities where they live. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

But to do this it would be necessary to outsource or grant the contract to the private sector, because “the State has no structure to manage this type of initiative,” said the journalist.

For the Administrative Centre, the way out would also be seeking another use for the group of buildings between four and 15 storeys high, in an area of 178,000 square metres, in the middle of the most populous satellite cities, such as Ceilândia, Samambaia, Taguatinga and Aguas Claras, which have a combined population of 1.08 million inhabitants, according to the Federal District Planning Company (Codeplan).

A U.S. university, which intends to open a campus in Brazil, expressed interest in the facilities.

But the judicial situation prevents short-term solutions. Odebrecht claims to have invested more than 300 million dollars in the complex and aims to recover the investment through international arbitration.

For the current government of the DF, headed by socialist Rodrigo Rollemberg, it is not viable to change its headquarters at a cost of millions of dollars per month, at a time of economic crisis and fiscal limitations.

One option is to cancel the 2009 contract, in light of the illegalities that plagued the project. In addition to the allegations of corruption, the previous government of Queiroz inaugurated the Administrative Centre on the last day of its term, based on a permit that the courts threw out as fraudulent.

Buildings grow like mushrooms in Samambaia, the second-largest city surrounding Brasilia, which has grown by about 10,000 people each year, at a rate of at least four percent. On the left, the metro rails of the capital's Federal District, with a capacity much higher than that in use. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

Buildings grow like mushrooms in Samambaia, the second-largest city surrounding Brasilia, which has grown by about 10,000 people each year, at a rate of at least four percent. On the left, the metro rails of the capital’s Federal District, with a capacity much higher than that in use. Credit: Mario Osava/ IPS

Queiroz and the Taguatinga local authorities responsible for the permit and named one day before it was issued, were heavily fined and banned from politics as a result of the fraud.

The scandal overshadows the problems of urban development that the Federal District faces, formed by the Pilot Plan or Brasilia, seat of the national and district government, and its satellite urban municipalities, officially called Administrative Regions.

The population of the Federal District stands at 3.04 million, according to Codeplan’s District Survey of Households, six times the number of inhabitants predicted when Brasilia was built six decades ago.

The Pilot Plan currently is home to just over 220,000 people, but offers the most and best jobs, attracting a massive influx of commuters from surrounding municipalities every morning.

Ceilandia, the largest city in the area, had a population of 459,000 inhabitants in 2015, having grown 13.6 percent in four years. In the city, 28.1 percent of the active population has a job within the Pilot Plan, while 37.3 works in the municipality itself.

Other neighboring cities have somewhat higher rates of inhabitants employed in the heart of the capital, making up the crowds of commuters that move daily to the Pilot Plan and return at night to their dormitory cities.

The thousands of buses that carry the commuters every day are parked from morning to afternoon in open spaces, such as the square in front of the Mané Garrincha Stadium, until the workers finish their shifts and return to the surrounding municipalities.

A subway, with a single 39-km line that branches off into the different municipalities, is the major mass transport project, but only mobilises about 3.5 million passengers a month, with the trains sitting idle outside rush hour.
Bringing jobs to the periphery would not be a bad idea, but transferring and centralising all the local administration to the outskirts may respond more to personal appetites than to the call for better public management, as other examples show, such as Belo Horizonte, capital of the southern state of Minas Gerais.

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Slave Labour, Another Setback for the Government of Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/slave-labour-another-setback-government-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=slave-labour-another-setback-government-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/slave-labour-another-setback-government-brazil/#respond Tue, 31 Oct 2017 01:47:40 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152814 The wave of conservativism is testing its limits in Brazil, as reflected by a Labour Ministry decree that seeks to block the fight against slavery-like working conditions, which has been provisionally revoked by the justice system. The powerful “ruralist” parliamentary bloc that represents agribusiness has been chalking up victories, such as keeping Michel Temer in […]

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Raquel Dodge, Brazil’s new attorney general, called for the repeal of the ministerial decree that undermines the efforts to fight modern slavery. An expert on the subject, Dodge presented the legal arguments that resulted in the conviction of Brazil in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in 2016, for failing to adequately prevent slave labour. Credit: José Cruz / Agência Brasil

Raquel Dodge, Brazil’s new attorney general, called for the repeal of the ministerial decree that undermines the efforts to fight modern slavery. An expert on the subject, Dodge presented the legal arguments that resulted in the conviction of Brazil in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in 2016, for failing to adequately prevent slave labour. Credit: José Cruz / Agência Brasil

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 31 2017 (IPS)

The wave of conservativism is testing its limits in Brazil, as reflected by a Labour Ministry decree that seeks to block the fight against slavery-like working conditions, which has been provisionally revoked by the justice system.

The powerful “ruralist” parliamentary bloc that represents agribusiness has been chalking up victories, such as keeping Michel Temer in the presidency, despite the disapproval of more than three-quarters of those interviewed in the latest polls, who see him as corrupt and are calling for his resignation.

According to political commentators, the weakening of the fight against slave labour, by means of the Oct. 13 ministerial resolution, was aimed at ensuring the ruralist bloc’s support for the government in the lower house of Congress which, on Oct. 25, blocked by a vote of 251 to 233, the judicial process against Temer on charges of obstruction of justice and criminal organisation.

The measure could be a fatal blow to the actions of the Mobile Inspection Group which has already freed more than 50,000 modern-day slave labourers, warned Xavier Plassat, a Dominican friar who coordinates the campaign against slave labour in the Catholic Pastoral Land Commission (CPT).

The operations of the group, created in 1995 with Labour Ministry inspectors, federal police officers and prosecutors from the Labour Public Prosecutor (MPT), have already decreased sharply in recent years due to a shortage of budget and staff.

“It used to have ten teams, today there are only eight,” Plassat lamented in a telephone interview with IPS.

The ministerial decree modifies the concept of “work in slavery-like conditions,” limiting it to cases in which the worker is subjected to coercion and prevented from leaving the premises by armed guard and retention of documents, because supposedly the worker has “debts contracted with the employer.”

Other situations are now excluded from the concept and defined separately as “forced labour”, “exhausting workday” and “degrading conditions”, when imposed without the worker’s consent, made “contrary to law” and violating the rights and dignity of the person.

“The decree deconstructs the concept of slave labour, since between 70 and 80 percent of the cases recorded in the last 15 years were of degrading work, and the rest are a mixture of degradation, debt, physical control and confiscation of documents”, observed the friar who has won several awards in his fight for the eradication of modern-day slavery.

“Excluding ‘exhausting workday’ and ‘degrading work’ means ignoring three-quarters of the problem; there will be no punishment,” he argued.

The situations considered now by the Labour Ministry as modern-day slave labour were more frequently seen in activities such as deforestation, preparation of land for cattle and crops, production of charcoal and sugar-cane cutting, Plassat said.

But almost all of these activities have been mechanised, the deforestation of the Amazon has been reduced, and the use of charcoal in the production of pig iron has dropped sharply, due to a fall in international demand.

These were also some of the reasons for the decreasing number of workers freed in recent years.

From 2003 – when the National Plan for the Eradication of Slave Labour was inaugurated – to April 2017, 34,940 workers were rescued, reaching a peakof 5,610 in 2007, followed by a sustained decrease down to 742 in 2016, according to CPT data on workers who received unemployment insurance after being released from slavery.

Discovering workers enslaved in the most brutal conditions has become more difficult, because these situations have moved deeper into the Amazon, along with “the deforestation that is now selective, in smaller areas, invisible to satellites, clandestine,” said the French-born friar, who has lived in Brazil since 1989.

Complaints from tax inspectors in the Labour Ministry and from public prosecutors, judges and human rights organisations, in addition to criticism from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), forced the government to agree to review the measure.

But the temporary suspension of the ministerial decree, decided by Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber, in response to a lawsuit brought by the Sustainability Network party, placed the final decision in the hands of the Supreme Court, which will deliberate on the validity of the decree.

The Brazilian government’s decision to change the definition of slave labour “interrupts a successful trajectory that turned Brazil into a role model and a global leader in the fight against slave labor,” and may undermine and restrain law enforcement efforts in labour, leaving “a portion of the Brazilian population even more fragile, unprotected, and vulnerable,” the ILO warned in a public statement.

The United Nations agency regretted that Brazil may move away from a definition of modern slave labour aligned with ILO conventions and the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

In addition to narrowing the definition, the ministerial decree stipulates that the Ministry of Labour must approve the inclusion of employers found by inspectors to break the law on slave labour on a black list.

The so-called “dirty list” would thus enter into the political sphere, stripping the labour inspectors of their traditional autonomy established 126 years ago, protested the National Union of Auditors-Labour Prosecutors (SINAIT).

The measure would further hinder actions already “reduced due to a lack of resources, and to red tape,” according to Ivanete da Silva Sousa, administrative secretary of the Açailandia Centre for the Defence of Life and Human Rights (CDVDH), a non-governmental organisation that is active in Brazil’s Amazon region.

“The operations of the Mobile Inspection Group dropped from eight per year to four in 2016 and only one this year in Açailandia and nearby municipalities in which we operate,” she told IPS from that city.

The Centre continues to receive reports of forced labour, but the Mobile Group only intervenes “in exceptional cases, when there are more than 20 people enslaved,” said da Silva, an activist with the group since it was founded in 1996.

“Our focus is slave labour, but we address other violations of labour rights, we provide job training and we defend urban and rural workers,” she said.

Açailandia stands out in this field because it was a recruiting city for hard labour in the Amazon in the past decades, being located in the state of Maranhão, a major provider of farmhands, and on the border with Pará, the state with the largest number of slave-like workers.

The reduction of inspections by the Mobile Group is also explained by the decrease in complaints of places where slavery is practiced, which exceeded 100 per year at the height of Amazonian deforestation between 2005 and 2007, and fell to 16 in 2016, Plassat said.

“But the commitment to the cause remains the same among the members of the group, be they labour inspectors, public prosecutors or federal police,” she said.

The inspections were also scattered around the country. Slaves are discovered even in large cities, especially in the construction and textile industries. The state of São Paulo, the most developed in Brazil, has accounted for two percent of rescued slave workers since 2003.

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Cycles of Wealth in Brazil’s Amazon: Gold, Lumber, Cattle and Now, Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/cycles-wealth-brazils-amazon-gold-lumber-cattle-now-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cycles-wealth-brazils-amazon-gold-lumber-cattle-now-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/cycles-wealth-brazils-amazon-gold-lumber-cattle-now-energy/#respond Sat, 21 Oct 2017 07:50:23 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152630 The burning down of the local forest, on Jun. 29, 1979, was the first step towards the creation of the city of Paranaita, in a municipality that is now trying to shed its reputation as a major deforester of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest and has named itself “the energy capital.” Two large hydropower plants, one of […]

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Aerial view of the TelesPires Hydropower Plant, which has been operating since 2015.With an installed capacity of 1,820 MW, it is the biggest plant on the TelesPires River, which runs across the west-central state of MatoGrosso. Built in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, the reservoir is only 160 sq km in size and only displaced one family. Credit: Courtesy of CHTP

Aerial view of the TelesPires Hydropower Plant, which has been operating since 2015.With an installed capacity of 1,820 MW, it is the biggest plant on the TelesPires River, which runs across the west-central state of MatoGrosso. Built in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, the reservoir is only 160 sq km in size and only displaced one family. Credit: Courtesy of CHTP

By Mario Osava
PARANAITA, Brazil, Oct 21 2017 (IPS)

The burning down of the local forest, on Jun. 29, 1979, was the first step towards the creation of the city of Paranaita, in a municipality that is now trying to shed its reputation as a major deforester of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest and has named itself “the energy capital.”

Two large hydropower plants, one of which is still being built, have changed life in Paranaita. But its future is not yet clearly defined between the rainforest, cattle-breeding and soy and maize monoculture that have advanced from the south, deforesting the west-central state of MatoGrosso, which is the southeastern gateway to the Amazon jungle region.

Construction of the plants has brought investment, new housing and hotels and has given a new boost to the local economy in the city, which now has large supermarkets. “My hotel only had six apartments; now it has 12 complete apartments and a more attractive facade,”Francisco Karasiaki Júnior said brightly, during a tour of the area by IPS.

The Teles Pires dam, 85 km northwest of Paranaita, employed 5,719 workers at the height of construction, in July 2014.

The dam began to be built in August 2011 and was completed in late 2014, when work had already begun on the São Manoel – the former name of the Teles Pires river – dam, which is smaller and located farther away from the city, 125 km downstream.

São Manoel suffered delays when construction was temporarily halted by court order and when the company building it came close to bankruptcy as a result of corruption scandals, which led to massive lay-offs in late 2016.

“I lost money, many of the people who stayed here didn’t pay their bills,” complained Ster Seravali Petrofeza, 68, the owner of the Petros Hotel and of a large store that sells machinery and appliances for production, construction and households in a building on the main street of the city that she saw grow up from nothing.

“The era of the ‘garimpo’ brought me my best business,” she said, recalling the boom in informal gold mining that brought Paranaitaprosperity during the 1980s and the early 1990s.

The sales of dredges, motors and other equipment purchased by miners ensured the success of the business she ran with her late husband, who “used to spend all his time on the road, looking for products, assembling dredges and delivering them to the ‘garimpeiros’ (informal gold-miners) on the river, working round the clock,” she said.

Pedro Correa, director of the environment in the Paranaita city government, looks at a photo of the city surrounded by forests, on his computer screen. Originally from the southern state of São Paulo, he worked for a few months on the construction of the Teles Pires hydropower dam and decided to stay in this town because he likes the quality of life. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Pedro Correa, director of the environment in the Paranaita city government, looks at a photo of the city surrounded by forests, on his computer screen. Originally from the southern state of São Paulo, he worked for a few months on the construction of the Teles Pires hydropower dam and decided to stay in this town because he likes the quality of life. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“The ‘garimpo’ led to the emergence of 11 hotels in the city, between 1982 and 1989,” and put an end to frustrated attempts to grow tomatoes, coffee, cacao and tropical fruit like the guaraná, said Karasiaki, another pioneer who has lived 37 of his 53 years in Paranaíta and inherited the hotel built by his father.

“Our employees would disappear; they would go and ‘garimpar’ (mine for gold),” he said.

But the mining industry declined in the 1990s. The crisis was overcome by the intensification of the extraction of timber and the mushrooming of sawmills in the city. “We started selling chainsaws like hotcakes, about 12 a day,” said Petrofeza.

That era ended in turn the following decade, as a result of increasingly strict environmental controls.

The construction of hydropower dams gave the city new life, reviving the local market, “but they didn’t leave us anything permanent,” lamented the businesswoman, who was widowed in 1991.

“Agriculture isour hope,” said Petrofeza, whose two adult children produce soy and maize.

Paranaita exemplifies the “boom and collapse” cycles that affect an economy based on the exploitation of natural resources in Brazil’s rainforest, said economist João Andrade, coordinator of Socioenvironmental Networks at the non-governmental Centre of Life Institute (ICV), which operates in the north of the state of MatoGrosso.

Mining, rubber, timber, livestock and monoculture – all environmentally unsustainable activities – have succeeded each other in different areas, some of which have now been affected by the construction of hydropower plants.

The hotel and construction materials store owned by Ster Seravali Petrofeza in the city of Paranaita, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. The business and its owner have experienced the economic cycles of boom and collapse in this city, which now aims to become the capital of hydroelectricity. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The hotel and construction materials store owned by Ster Seravali Petrofeza in the city of Paranaita, in the west-central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. The business and its owner have experienced the economic cycles of boom and collapse in this city, which now aims to become the capital of hydroelectricity. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The plants do not change the model of occupation and domination of the Amazon, but could kick off a new cycle, by providing more accessible energy to the mining industry and facilitating the expansion of export agriculture with new roads, Andrade fears.

Paranaíta, a city of just under 11,000 people in 2010, according to the latest census, declared a state of emergency in November 2013, due to the collapse in public services, because the population had expanded by two-thirds in the first few years of construction of the TelesPires plant, according to the city government.

Rents, the prices of goods and services, crime rates, and demand for health and education suddenly shot up, said biologist Paulo Correa, director of Environmental Projects and Licensing in the city government and a former employee of the Teles Pires dam, who decided to stay in Paranaita.

Contagious diseases like malaria and sexually transmitted infections also increased when the construction work was at its peak in the affected municipalities, said Carina Sernaglia Gomes,analyst of municipal environmental management at ICV.

The number of rapes rose more than threefold in the city of Alta Floresta, an important regional hub of50,000 people, with an airport and institutions of higher learning. The total climbed from 11 cases in 2011 to 36 in 2015, according to police records, Gomes pointed out.

In Paranaita, homicides and other violent crimes rose from 20 to 70 cases in that period.

One of the new avenues in Paranaita, whose population rose 70 percent between 2010 and 2014, which threatened to bring about a collapse in public services, during the nearby construction of two hydroelectric dams on the Teles Pires river, at the gateway to Brazil’s Amazon jungle region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

One of the new avenues in Paranaita, whose population rose 70 percent between 2010 and 2014, which threatened to bring about a collapse in public services, during the nearby construction of two hydroelectric dams on the Teles Pires river, at the gateway to Brazil’s Amazon jungle region. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

These negative visions contrast with the enormous social and environmental investments made by the companies, especially the TelesPires Hydroelectric Company (CHTP). But nearly always in this kind of project, the compensation and mitigating measures arrive too late, after the worst impacts of the works have already been felt.

Paving the 55-km road to Paranaitaconnected the once-isolated city with the rest of the world. “It wasn’t an obligation, but we understood what the local populace was longing for and we did it,” said CHTP environment director Marcos Azevedo Duarte.

A road trip between the two towns was cut from three hours to just over half an hour, making it possible for the young people of Paranaitato study at the universities in Alta Floresta.

The training of 2,800 local workerswas “a legacy of knowledge,” said Duarte. Local labour power represented 20 percent of the company’s total at the height of construction.

The company returned outside workers to their homes after the work was done, to ease the demographic pressure on Paranaíta, the most heavily affected town due to its proximity and small population, he said.

Besides the 44 projects aimed at compensating for the damage in the affected municipalities, CHTP has attempted to boost local development.

Along with the city government and ICV, it has fomented improvements in production and administration in the rural settlement of São Pedro, population 5,000, located 40 km fromParanaita, and still dependent on food shipped in from southern Brazil.

Ensuring land titles to family farmers is a priority, said Duarte.

Getting Paranaitaoff the Environment Ministry’s black list of municipalities guilty of the worst deforestation in the Amazon is a goal of the city government that has the support of CHTP. Reducing the deforested area and legalising rural properties in a national land registry are the requirements for achieving that.

With respect to indigenous people, who the company compensated with 20 specific programmes, mainly the donation of vehicles, boats, fuel and community centres, Duarte acknowledged a major failing: the flooding of a site sacred to the Munduruku people, the “seven falls”.

“There is no way to compensate for a sacred site,” and the company feels the obligation to address proposals like building a centre for memory and culture for local indigenous communities and handing over the funeral urns found in the excavation during the construction of the plant, he said.

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Dams Hurt Indigenous and Fishing Communities in Brazilian Amazonhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/dams-hurt-indigenous-fishing-communities-brazilian-amazon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dams-hurt-indigenous-fishing-communities-brazilian-amazon http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/dams-hurt-indigenous-fishing-communities-brazilian-amazon/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 16:02:39 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152515 The dirty water is killing more and more fish and ‘Taricaya’ yellow-spotted river turtles every day. In addition, the river is not following its usual cycle, and the water level rises or declines without warning, regardless of the season, complained three Munduruku indigenous law students in the south of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. The change in […]

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The Teles Pires river along the stretch between Sinop and Colider, two cities from which two new hydropower stations take their name, which are transforming the northern part of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a major energy generator and producer and exporter of soybean, maize and beef. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The Teles Pires river along the stretch between Sinop and Colider, two cities from which two new hydropower stations take their name, which are transforming the northern part of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a major energy generator and producer and exporter of soybean, maize and beef. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
ALTA FLORESTA, Brazil, Oct 16 2017 (IPS)

The dirty water is killing more and more fish and ‘Taricaya’ yellow-spotted river turtles every day. In addition, the river is not following its usual cycle, and the water level rises or declines without warning, regardless of the season, complained three Munduruku indigenous law students in the south of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

The change in the natural flow of the Teles Pires river, caused by the installation of four hydropower plants, one in operation since 2015 and the others still under construction, is apparently reducing fish catches, which native people living in the lower stretch of the basin depend on as their main source of protein.

“When the water level rises, the fish swim into the ‘igapó’ and they are trapped when the level suddenly drops with unusual speed,” explained 26-year-old Aurinelson Kirixi. The “igapó” is a Brazilian term that refers to the forested, floodable shore of Amazon jungle rivers where aquatic animals seek food.

That includes the yellow-spotted river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis), a species still abundant in the Brazilian Amazon, whose meat is “as important as fish for us,” the young Munduruku man told IPS during a tour of the indigenous territories affected by the hydroelectric plants.

“It’s even tastier than fish,” he agreed with his two fellow students. But “it is in danger of extinction; today we see them in smaller numbers and possibly our children will only see them in photos,” lamented Dorivan Kirixi, also 26.

“The fish die, as well as the turtles, because the water has gotten dirty from the works upstream,” said 27-year-old Isaac Waru, who could not study Administration because the degree is not offered in Alta Floresta, a city of 50,000 people in the north of the state of Mato Grosso, in west-central Brazil.

Local indigenous people avoid drinking water from the river, even bathing with it, after cases of diarrhea, itchy rashes and eye problems, said the three students who come from three different villages. To return to their homes they have to travel at least eight hours, half by road and the other half by river.

This year they began to study law thanks to scholarships paid by the São Manoel Hydroelectric Plant – also known as the Teles Pires Plant, which is the nearest to the indigenous lands – as part of the compensation measures for damage caused by the project.

They offered a total of seven scholarships for the three affected indigenous communities: the Apiaká, Kayabí and Munduruku, the latter of which is the largest indigenous group in the Tapajós river basin, formed by the confluence of the Teles Pires and Juruena rivers.

Three Munduruku indigenous students who study law in the city of Alta Floresta, in the southeast of the Brazilian Amazon region, thanks to scholarships from one of the companies building the hydroelectric plants on the Teles Pires river. They are highly critical of the impact of the new dams on their people. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Three Munduruku indigenous students who study law in the city of Alta Floresta, in the southeast of the Brazilian Amazon region, thanks to scholarships from one of the companies building the hydroelectric plants on the Teles Pires river. They are highly critical of the impact of the new dams on their people. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

The compensations for the indigenous communities were few in number and poorly carried out: “precariously built houses and health posts,” said Patxon Metuktire, local coordinator of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), the government body for the protection of indigenous peoples in Brazil.

“The companies believe that our problem is just one of logistics, that it is just a matter of providing trucks and fuel, and they forget that their projects damage the ecosystem that is the basis of our well-being and way of life,” he told IPS.

An oil spill further contaminated the river in November 2016. The hydroelectric plants denied any responsibility, but distributed mineral water to the indigenous villages, recalled Metuktire, whose last name is the name of his ethnic group, a subgroup of the Kayapó people.

Fisherpersons are another group directly affected by the drastic modification of the course of the river by the hydropower dams, because their lives depend on flowing water.

Since the vegetation in the river began to die off after the river was diverted to build the dam, fish catches have shrunk, said Solange Arrolho, a professor of biology at the State University of Mato Grosso in Alta Floresta, where she is head of the Ichthyology Laboratory of the Southern Amazon.

A map of the Teles Pires river, a source of hydroelectric energy in Mato Grosso, in the southeast of the Brazilian Amazon region. In red is the location of hydroelectric power plants that have damaged the way of life of indigenous people and riverbank communities that depend on fishing. Credit: Courtesy of Instituto Ciencia e Vida

A map of the Teles Pires river, a source of hydroelectric energy in Mato Grosso, in the southeast of the Brazilian Amazon region. In red is the location of hydroelectric power plants that have damaged the way of life of indigenous people and riverbank communities that depend on fishing. Credit: Courtesy of Instituto Ciencia e Vida

The researcher, who said she has been “studying fish for 30” of her 50 years, led a project to monitor fish populations in 2014 in the area of influence of the Colider hydroelectric power station, as part of the Basic Environmental Program that the company that built and will operate the dam must carry out.

Colider, which will start operating in mid-2018, is the smallest of the four plants that are being built on a 450-km stretch in the middle course of the river, with a capacity of 300 MW and a 183-sq-km reservoir.

The others are the Teles Pires and São Manoel plants, downstream, and Sinop, upstream. The entire complex will add 3,228 megawatts of power and 746 square kilometers of reservoirs.

These works affect fishing by altering the river banks and the river flow, reducing migration of fish, and cutting down riverbank forests, which feed fish with fruit and insects that “fall from the trees into the water,” said Arrolho . “The fish do not adapt, they migrate,” he told IPS.

The Teles Pires river is suffering from the accumulated effects of polluting activities, such as soy monoculture, with intensive use of agrochemicals, livestock farming and mining, he pointed out.

The Colider and Sinop plants do not directly affect indigenous lands such as those located downstream, but they do affect fisherpersons.

“They killed many fish with their explosions and digging,” said Julita Burko Duleba, president of the Sinop Colony of Fisherpersons and Region (Z-16), based in the city of Sinop, the capital city of northern Mato Grosso.

“Fish catches in the Teles Pires basin have dropped: we used to catch over 200 kilos per week, but now we catch a maximum of 120 kilos and on average only between 30 and 40 kilos,” she said.

At the age of 68, she now does administrative work. But she was a fisherwoman for more than two decades, and her husband still works as a fisherman, the activity that allowed them, like other colleagues, to live well and buy a house.

 Deforestation due to the expansion of cattle ranches dominates the landscape in the vicinity of Alta Floresta, the city that is a southeastern gate to the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, and is also known as a center for ecotourism based on fishing and bird-watching. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Deforestation due to the expansion of cattle ranches dominates the landscape in the vicinity of Alta Floresta, the city that is a southeastern gate to the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, and is also known as a center for ecotourism based on fishing and bird-watching. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

They are currently struggling to obtain better conditions for the sector, such as a warehouse and a refrigerated truck that would allow them to ”collect” the fish from the widely spread members and sell them in the market.

One difficulty facing this colony is the dispersion of its members throughout 32 municipalities. The association at one point had 723 members, but now there are only 290, mainlyin the cities of Colider and Sinop, from which the nearby hydroelectric plants take their names.

Many have retired, others have given up. “We are an endangered species,” Duleba lamented to IPS.

The compensations offered by the hydroelectric companies for the damage caused do not include a focus on helping small-scale fisherpersons recover their livelihoods, as Duleba and other activists had hoped.

The headquarters of the Colony, which will be built by the Sinop Power Company, owner of the power plant of the same name, will be more of a tourist complex, with a restaurant, lookout, swimming pools and soccer field, on the river bank, 23 km from the city .

There will be a berth and an ice factory which could be useful for fishing, but not the fishing village, with its houses and infrastructure, which Duleba tried to negotiate.

In Colider, fisherpersons preferred compensation in cash, instead of collective projects, she lamented.

Northern Mato Grosso, where the land is the current source of local incomes and wealth, which is now based in agriculture, livestock farming and mining, after being based on timber, has now discovered the value of its water resources.

But its energy use is imposed to the detriment of traditional users, just as the land was concentrated in export monoculture to the detriment of food production.

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Hydropower Dams Invade Brazil’s Agricultural Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/hydropower-dams-invade-brazils-agricultural-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hydropower-dams-invade-brazils-agricultural-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/hydropower-dams-invade-brazils-agricultural-economy/#respond Mon, 09 Oct 2017 20:43:17 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152403 “After being displaced for the third time,” Daniel Schlindewein became an activist struggling for the rights of people affected by dams in Brazil, and is so combative that the legal authorities banned him from going near the installations of the Sinop hydroelectric dam, which is in the final stages of construction. He was a teenager […]

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Brothers Daniel (left) and Armando Schlindewein stand in front of the small bridge over the Matrinxã river which will be submerged by the filling of the Sinop hydropower dam reservoir in western Brazil. Since the house they share is on the other side of the river, they will have to move, and their farms, which are connected by the bridge, will be separated. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Brothers Daniel (left) and Armando Schlindewein stand in front of the small bridge over the Matrinxã river which will be submerged by the filling of the Sinop hydropower dam reservoir in western Brazil. Since the house they share is on the other side of the river, they will have to move, and their farms, which are connected by the bridge, will be separated. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
SINOP, Brazil, Oct 9 2017 (IPS)

“After being displaced for the third time,” Daniel Schlindewein became an activist struggling for the rights of people affected by dams in Brazil, and is so combative that the legal authorities banned him from going near the installations of the Sinop hydroelectric dam, which is in the final stages of construction.

He was a teenager in 1974 when the Iguaçu National Park was expanded in the southwest of the country, leading to the expulsion of his family and other local farmers. Seven years later, his family was once again evicted, due to the construction of the Binational Itaipu dam, shared with Paraguay, which flooded 1,350 sq km of land.

That was during Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship, when fighting for people’s rights could lead to prison and torture.

Today there are laws, recognition of rights and mechanisms to defend people which make conflicts more visible, such as the one triggered by the construction of four dams on the Teles Pires river in the western state of Mato Grosso, where Schlindewein now lives, 1,500 km north of where he was born.

The announcement, last decade, of the plans for the new dams “prompted previously fragmented social movements to organise in their resistance” in Mato Grosso, Maria Luiz Troian, an instructor at the Sinop state vocational-technical school, told IPS.

In 2010 the Teles Pires Forum was born, an umbrella group of trade unions, non-governmental organisations, religious groups, associations of indigenous people and fisherpersons, university professors and groups like the Movement of those Affected by Dams (MAB) and the Landless Movement (MST).

It is a “pluralistic forum without hierarchies,” for the defence of rights that are threatened or violated by hydropower dams, said Troian, one of the group’s most active participants.

Farmers whose land will be flooded by the construction of dams “are forced to accept unfair compensation, because the alternative is legal action, which takes a long time and has an uncertain outcome,” she said.

Aerial view of the hydropower dam being built by the Sinop Energy Company on the Teles Pires river which is changing the lives of the people in a large part of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso – both family farmers and monoculture producers of soy. Credit: Courtesy of CES

Aerial view of the hydropower dam being built by the Sinop Energy Company on the Teles Pires river which is changing the lives of the people in a large part of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso – both family farmers and monoculture producers of soy. Credit: Courtesy of CES

“In practice it is expropriation; they pay us four times less than the local market price,” complained Schlindewein, 56, one of the first people who settled in the village of Gleba Mercedes, in 1997, five years after emigrating from the southern state of Paraná, drawn by the prospect of cheap land in Mato Grosso.

“Many gave up because it rained too much and it took four hours to get to the city of Sinop, just 100 km away, in ‘girico’ (the name given to improvised motorised carts brought by peasant farmers from Paraná),” he said. Electric power did not arrive in the area until 10 years later.

Despite the difficulties, years later Schlindewein brought his divorced brother Armando, one year younger, who purchased land next to his, separated by the Matrinxã river that runs into the Teles Pires river.

The two brothers share a tractor and other machinery, and live together in the elder brother’s house, less than 100 metres from the small river.

But the dam will put an end to their brotherly cooperation, because the water will rise up to eight metres deep in that area, submerging the small wooden bridge that connects their farms and forcing them to move the house to higher ground.

The solution demanded by the Schlindewein brothers is to build up the riverbanks and make a longer, higher bridge. This modification depends on the Sinop Energy Company (CES), which owns the dam, and is important for local residents, because otherwise the distance to the city would be increased by 20 km since they would have to skirt around the flooded Matrinxã river.

The Teles Pires river, where it winds its way past the future Sinop and Colider hydropower plants, under a bridge on BR-163, the road used to transport most of the soy produced in the state of Mato Grosso northwards to Miritituba, the start of the Tapajós river waterway, which continues along the Amazon river until running into the Atlantic ocean, in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Teles Pires river, where it winds its way past the future Sinop and Colider hydropower plants, under a bridge on BR-163, the road used to transport most of the soy produced in the state of Mato Grosso northwards to Miritituba, the start of the Tapajós river waterway, which continues along the Amazon river until running into the Atlantic ocean, in Northeast Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Of the 560 families in the village – also known as the Wesley Manoel dos Santos settlement – 214 will see their land totally or partially flooded by the dam when the reservoir is filled in 2018.

Besides the low level of compensation, some complain that improvements made to their land and assets that they will lose have not been taken into account.

In the case of José da Silva Teodoro, his wife Jacinta de Souza and their four children, 79 of their 81 hectares of land will be flooded. With the indemnification, they were able to buy 70 hectares of land nearby, but “without the three sources of water” they have on their farm now – the Teles Pires river along the back and a stream running on either side.

“It wasn’t enough money for us to buy land within the settlement; we were expelled and we will lose our fruit trees, for which they hardly gave us a thing,” Teodoro told IPS. “We’ll plant new ones, but they won’t produce fruit for four or five years.”

The couple, who also come from southern Brazil, grow bananas, cassava, pineapples and mangos, raise chickens, and produce milk and cheese.

Their neighbour Ely Tarabossi, his wife and two children already had to give up half of their 100 cows, because the heavy traffic of trucks, tractors and buses caused by the construction of the dam cut off their access to water from the river. But Tarabossi plans to stay, even though the reservoir will flood 30 of his 76 hectares.

“I don’t have any other option,” he said. Although he was reluctant to do so, he plans to dedicate himself to monoculture production of soy, of which Mato Grosso is Brazil’s largest producer. “We tried everything here, from cassava to cucumbers…logistics is the hurdle. I’m 83 km from Sinop, and growing fresh produce is not feasible – everything perishes on the long journey there,” he said.

José da Silva Teodoro and his wife Jacinta de Souza stand next to their “girico” – the small, improvised vehicle that they use to transport people and products in the northern part of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, which they brought with them when they moved here from the southern state of Paraná. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

José da Silva Teodoro and his wife Jacinta de Souza stand next to their “girico” – the small, improvised vehicle that they use to transport people and products in the northern part of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, which they brought with them when they moved here from the southern state of Paraná. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The logging industry was the first economic driver in the area, and helped clear the land for agriculture, according to the local residents.

Then came cattle-raising, which led to the deforestation of vast expanses of land, followed by soy, which rotates with corn or cotton every year. Livestock and then soy dominated the middle and northern part of the state of Mato Grosso and spread northwards, into the Amazon rainforest.

Then came the construction of hydropower dams.

The 408-MW Sinop dam, 70 km from the city of the same name, built at a cost of 950 million dollars, and its 342-sq-km reservoir will favour three hydroelectric plants downstream: Colider (300 MW), Teles Pires (1,820 MW) and São Manoel (700 MW).

With regard to compensation, CES stated that its calculations are based on the rules of the Brazilian Association for Technical Standards, subject to approval by the concerned parties. The negotiations, which have almost been completed, are carried out individually with each property owner, the company’s communication department told IPS.

“Everyone who is affected has constant meetings with our teams, who are always available for whatever is needed,” the statement said. Bridges and access roads will be built with the approval and “active participation” of the concerned parties, with the aim of minimising the impacts of the dam, it added.

To boost local development, CES has been implementing a Fruit and Vegetable Production Project over the last year in the settlements of Mercedes and 12 de Outubro, with the participation of 88 families.

Large agricultural producers in the area complain that the project ruled out sluices in the hydropower plants, and as a result, discarded the idea of a Teles Pires-Tapajós waterway for exporting soy produced in Mato Grosso, which currently depends on road transport.

“The hydroelectric dams respond to a national need; unfortunately their construction was agreed before the adoption of the new law that requires the creation of canals for future sluices,” Antonio Galvan, the president of the Sinop rural producers association, told IPS.

His hope now is that the waterway will be created on another nearby river, the Juruena, which along with the Teles Pires runs into the Tapajós river, and connect with the 1,142-km Ferrogrão railway running between Sinop and Miritituba, the export port on the Tapajós river in the northern Amazon state of Pará.

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