Inter Press ServiceOrlando Milesi – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 19 Sep 2018 10:22:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Land, Water and Education, Priorities for Chile’s Mapuche Peoplehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-water-education-priorities-chiles-mapuche-people/#respond Thu, 30 Aug 2018 23:16:26 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157417 The right to land and water, as well as to multicultural education, are the top priority demands of Mapuche leaders working with their communities in the Araucanía region and in Santiago, Chile’s capital. “We, the entire Cheuquepán Colipe family, are originally from communities in Lautaro (649 km south of Santiago). We’re here today because our […]

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Scientists Warn of the Imminent Depletion of Groundwater in Chile’s Atacama Deserthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/scientists-warn-imminent-depletion-groundwater-chiles-atacama-desert/#comments Tue, 14 Aug 2018 03:54:03 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157200 Eighteen national science prize-winners in Chile have called for a halt to the over-extraction of water in the four regions over which the Atacama Desert spreads in the north of the country, a problem that threatens the future of 1.5 million people. In their Tarapacá Manifest, which takes its name from one of the affected […]

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Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

By Orlando Milesi
OVALLE, Chile, Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

Eighteen national science prize-winners in Chile have called for a halt to the over-extraction of water in the four regions over which the Atacama Desert spreads in the north of the country, a problem that threatens the future of 1.5 million people.

In their Tarapacá Manifest, which takes its name from one of the affected regions, the scientists call for water in the area to be treated as a non-renewable resource because mining companies, agriculture and large cities consume underground reservoirs of water that date back more than 10,000 years and are not replenished with equal speed.

According to the experts, the current rate of water extraction for mining, agriculture, industry and cities “is not sustainable.”

Chile is the world’s leading exporter of copper and of fruit and vegetables, two water-intensive sectors."In the manifest we have proposed the possibility of improving our technology in the use of water harvested from fog. We also propose implementing a water recovery policy. For example, increasing the greywater system. It is not an expensive solution, but it requires a State policy.” -- Claudio Latorre

In the small rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, 400 km north of Santiago, teacher Marleny Rodríguez and her only four students installed gutters to collect rainwater in a 320-litre pond to irrigate a vegetable garden.

“The children are happy. They tell me that we were losing a vital resource that we had at hand and were not using. They replicated what they learned at school at home,” Rodríguez told IPS.

The two girls and two boys, between the ages of six and 10, including three siblings, attend the tiny school in an area of ancestral lands of the Atacama indigenous people.

“We have a year-round cycle. What we harvest we cook in the cooking workshop where we make healthy recipes. Then we eat them at school,” said the teacher of the school in Punitaqui, near Ovalle, the capital of the Coquimbo region, on the southern border of the desert.

“The children help to sow, clean the garden, harvest, and water the crops. We have a scientific workshop to harvest the greywater with which we irrigate a composter of organic waste and other materials such as leaves, branches and guano, used as fertiliser” she said.

Calogero Santoro, an archaeologist and promoter of the Tarapacá Manifest, which was delivered to the government of President Sebastián Piñera on Jun. 29, believes that citizens and large companies do not have the same awareness as these children about water scarcity.

“Private companies do not see this as a necessity, because they do not have any problem. On the contrary, the whole Chilean system is designed to make businesses operate as smoothly as possible, but the problem is just around the corner. It is the Chilean government that invests in scientific and technological research,” he told IPS.

The scientists’ manifest calls for raising awareness about the serious problem of the lack of water, in-depth research into the issue, and investment in technologies that offer new solutions rather than only aggravating the exploitation of groundwater.

“The first step is to generate cultural change. As awareness grows, other technological development processes are developed, new technologies are created and these are adapted to production processes,” explained Santoro, of the government’s Research Centre of Man in the Desert.

“Unfortunately, the private sector in this country does not invest in this kind of things,” he said.

The Atacama Desert is the driest desert on earth. It covers 105,000 sq km, distributed along six regions of northern Chile and covering the cities of Arica, Iquique (the capital of Tarapacá), Antofagasta and Calama.

 Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation


Students from the rural school of El Llanito de Punitaqui, in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, show the vegetables from the garden they irrigate with harvested rainwater. Credit: Courtesy of the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation

It is home to 9.5 percent of the population of this long, narrow South American country of 17.5 million people.

In a normal year, only between 1.6 to 2.5 mm of water fall on the regions of the so-called Norte Grande, which covers the Atacama Desert, and so far in 2018 the deficit is 100 percent in some of the cities and 50 percent in others, according to Chile’s Meteorological Agency.

Hugo Romero, winner of the national geography prize, and a professor at the University of Chile and president of the Chilean Society of Geographic Sciences, told IPS that “groundwater is today the most important source of water for both mining and urban development in the northern regions.”

That means the problem is very complex, he said, because “there is some evidence that much of the groundwater is the product of recharge probably thousands of years ago, and therefore is fossil water, which is non-renewable.

As an example, Romero cited damage already caused in the desert area, “such as those that have occurred with the drying up of Lagunillas, and of the Huasco and the Coposa Salt Flats, adding up to an enormous amount of ecological effects.”

They also affect, he said, “the presence of communities in these places, given this close relationship between the availability of water resources and the ancestral occupation of the territories.”

“All of this is creating an extraordinarily complex system with respect to which there is a sensation that the country has not taken due note and decisions are often taken only with economic benefits in mind, which are otherwise concentrated in large companies,” he added.

Romero also warned that the level of research “has been minimal and, unfortunately, many of the academic resources that should be devoted to providing society and social actors with all the elements to reach decisions are committed to consulting firms that, in turn, are contracted by large companies.”

Claudio Latorre, an academic at the Catholic University of Chile and an associate researcher at the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, believes that “there is not just one single culprit” for the serious situation.

“It is simply the general economic activity of the country that is causing this problem. The more activity, the more the country grows and the more resources are required, and the more industrial activity, the more work. But urban needs are also increasing and that also puts pressure on water resources,” he said.

“In the manifest we have proposed the possibility of improving our technology in the use of water harvested from fog. We also propose implementing a water recovery policy. For example, increasing the greywater system. It is not an expensive solution, but it requires a State policy,” he explained.

According to Calogero, “in addition to cultural changes, there have to be technological changes to make better use of water. We cite the case of Israel where it is our understanding that water is recycled up to seven times before it is disposed of. Here, it is recycled once, if at all.”

Latorre stressed that “we are already experiencing the consequences of climate change and over-exploitation of water resources that lead to an unthinkable situation…but in the Norte Grande area we still have time to take concrete actions that can save cities in 20 or 30 years’ time.”

He called for improved access to scientific information “so that we can be on time to make important decisions that take a long time to implement.”

According to Romero, there is also “an atmosphere of uncertainty that has often led to decisions that have subsequently led to environmental damage” as in the case of many salt flats, bofedales (high Andean wetlands) and some lagoons and lakes.

“There is no transparent public knowledge available to society as needed, given the critical nature of the system,” he said.

In his opinion, “on the contrary, the greatest and best information is of a reserved nature or forms part of industrial secrecy, which gives rise to much speculation, ambiguity and different interpretations by users or communities affected by the extraction of water.”

Romero also warned that “there is not only very significant ecological damage, but also a steady rural exodus to the cities, as the people leave the area.”

There are Quechua, Aymara, Koyas and Atacama communities – the native peoples of northern Chile – in the cities of Arica, Iquique, Alto Hospicio and Antofagasta as a result of their migration from their Andes highlands territories, he said.

That’s why only four students are now attending the rural school in El Llanito de Punitaqui, the teacher said.

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Chile Has Medicine Against Desertification, But Does Not Take Ithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-medicine-desertification-not-take http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/chile-medicine-desertification-not-take/#respond Tue, 17 Jul 2018 22:30:00 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156750 The retention of rainwater which otherwise is lost at sea could be an excellent medicine against the advance of the desert from northern to central Chile, but there is no political will to take the necessary actions, according to experts and representatives of affected communities. “One of the priority actions, especially in the Coquimbo region, […]

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Hundreds of children, many from rural schools in the Coquimbo region, have visited the fog catchers in Cerro Grande as part of an educational programme to raise awareness among future generations about the importance of rational use of water in Chile. Credit: Foundation un Alto en el Desierto

Hundreds of children, many from rural schools in the Coquimbo region, have visited the fog catchers in Cerro Grande as part of an educational programme to raise awareness among future generations about the importance of rational use of water in Chile. Credit: Foundation un Alto en el Desierto

By Orlando Milesi
OVALLE, Chile, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

The retention of rainwater which otherwise is lost at sea could be an excellent medicine against the advance of the desert from northern to central Chile, but there is no political will to take the necessary actions, according to experts and representatives of affected communities.

“One of the priority actions, especially in the Coquimbo region, is the retention of rainwater. That is key because since we have eroded and degraded soil and we have occasional rains in winter, the soil is not able to retain more than 10 percent of the water that falls,” Daniel Rojas, the head of the Peña Blanca farmers’ association, told IPS.

“The rest ends up in the sea,” added Rojas, the head of the association of 85 small-scale farmers, located 385 km north of Santiago, which has 6,587 hectares, 98 percent of them rainfed, irrigated exclusively by rainfall."If the amount of resources that the state puts into the distribution of water by tanker trucks were to be used to solve the problem, it would be invested only once and not every year, which just boosts a business. Because the distribution of water is a business." -- Daniel Rojas

Rojas considered that “if we had retention works we could use between 50 and 70 percent of that water and restore our groundwater.”

In the region of Coquimbo, where Peña Blanca is located, within the municipality of Ovalle, 90 percent of the land is eroded and degraded.

Between 2000 and 2016, the area planted with fruit trees in Chile grew 50 percent, but in Coquimbo it fell 22.9 percent, from 35,558 to 27,395 hectares.

Water is vital in Chile, an agrifood powerhouse that last year exported 15.751 billion dollars in food and is the world’s leading exporter of various kinds of fruit.

According to Rojas, there is academic, social and even political consensus on a solution that focuses on water retention, “but the necessary resources are not allocated and the necessary laws are not enacted.”

Pedro Castillo, mayor of the municipality of Combarbalá, agreed with Rojas.

“Because of the strong centralism that prevails in our country, desertification won’t be given importance until the desert is knocking on the doors of Santiago,” Castillo, the highest authority in this municipality of small-scale farmers and goat farmers told IPS.

Castillo believes that all the projects “will be only declarations of good intentions if there is no powerful and determined investment by the state of Chile to halt desertification.”

The mayor said that desertification can be combated by investing in water catchment systems, through “works that are not expensive,” such as the construction of infiltration ditches and dams in the gorges.

“With rainwater catchment systems with plastic sheeting, rainwater can be optimised, wells can be recharged and the need for additional water, which is now being delivered to the population with tanker trucks, can be reduced,” he said.

“The cost of these systems does not exceed five million pesos (7,936 dollars) because the works use materials that exist on-site and do not require much engineering. A tanker truck that delivers water costs the state about 40 million pesos (63,492 dollars) each year,” Castillo said.

A tank holds rainwater collected at the Elías Sánchez school in the municipality of Champa, 40 km south of Santiago, which the students decided to use to irrigate a nursery where they grow vegetables next to it. Saving rainwater helps restore the groundwater used to supply the local population. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

A tank holds rainwater collected at the Elías Sánchez school in the municipality of Champa, 40 km south of Santiago, which the students decided to use to irrigate a nursery where they grow vegetables next to it. Saving rainwater helps restore the groundwater used to supply the local population. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

He also proposed curbing desertification through afforestation with native species of lands handed by agricultural communities to the government’s National Forestry Corporation (CONAF).

“Afforestation efforts involve the replanting of native trees tolerant of the scarce rainfall in semi-arid areas, and they generate fodder for local farmers,” he said.

The region of Coquimbo comprises the southern border of the Atacama Desert, the driest desert on earth which has the most intense solar radiation on the planet. Covering 105,000 sq km, it encompasses six northern regions in this long and narrow country that stretches between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

This year Peña Blanca, at the southern tip of the desert, received 150 mm of rainfall, a high figure compared to the average of the last few years.

Rojas said “there are many things to be done, not to halt the advance of desertification completely, but to slow it down.”

The social leader said that in meetings with both academics and politicians there is agreement on what to do, “but that is not reflected when it comes to creating a law or allocating resources to do these works.”

To illustrate, he mentioned a novel project for the retention of rainwater underground, saying the studies and development of the initiative were financed, “but not the works itself.”

“And this way, it’s no use. Ideas must be put into practice through works. This is what is urgently needed: fewer studies and more works,” he said.

Rojas also criticised the fact that the state spends “billions of pesos” on the distribution of water to rural areas through tanker trucks.

“If the amount of resources that the state puts into the distribution of water by tanker trucks were to be used to solve the problem, it would be invested only once and not every year, which just boosts a business. Because the distribution of water is a business,” Rojas said.

Geographer Nicolás Schneider, the driving force behind the non-governmental “Un Alto en el Desierto” (A Stop in the Desert) Foundation, told IPS that in Chile “there is no public policy in terms of tools, concrete policies and the provision of resources” to halt desertification in the country.

“Successful alternatives are isolated experiences that are the product of enthusiasm or group ventures, but not of a state policy to stop this scientifically accredited advance (of the desertification process),” he said.

He mentioned Chilean physicist Carlos Espinosa, who invented the fog catcher, a system whose patent he donated in the 1980s to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and which consists of harvesting water from the fog.

Fog catchers consist of fine mesh nets known as raschel set up on foggy slopes to catch suspended drops of water, which gather and merge, running from small gutters to collection tanks.

These systems, which are becoming more and more sophisticated, have been providing water for human consumption and for irrigation on land generally higher than 600 metres above sea level for decades.

In the Cerro Grande Ecological Reserve, owned by Peña Blanca, the Un Alto en el Desierto Foundation installed 24 fog catchers and a fog study centre.

“The average daily water from fog there is six litres per cubic metre of raschel mesh and 35 percent shade. Since they are nine square metres in size, we have a catchment area of 216 metres, which gives us 1,296 litres of water per day,” Schneider said.

He explained that “this water is mainly used for reforestation and ecological restoration, beer making, water for animals and – when there is severe drought – for human consumption.”

“It is also an educational element because thousands of children have visited the fog catchers, so they have been turned into an open-air classroom against desertification,” he said.

He added that there is great potential for fog from Papudo, on the central Chilean coast, to Arica, in the far north of the country, which has not been exploited to the benefit of coastal communities that have problems of access and water quality.

Eduardo Rodríguez, regional director of Conaf in Coquimbo, told IPS that all of the corporation’s programmes are aimed at combating desertification, including one against forest fires, which now have better indicators.

“However, we have problems with afforestation because we do not yet have a policy for providing incentives to increase afforestation, reforestation and replanting in a region that has been degraded for practically a century and a half,” he acknowledged.

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Intelligent Land Use Seeks to Make Headway in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/intelligent-land-use-makes-headway-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=intelligent-land-use-makes-headway-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/intelligent-land-use-makes-headway-latin-america/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 02:06:56 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156189 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Farmers are trained in sustainable land management in the Coquimbo region, in northern Chile, bordering the region of Atacama, home to the driest desert on earth. Initiatives such as this are part of the measures to combat soil degradation in Latin America. Credit: National Forest Corporation (CONAF)

Farmers are trained in sustainable land management in the Coquimbo region, in northern Chile, bordering the region of Atacama, home to the driest desert on earth. Initiatives such as this are part of the measures to combat soil degradation in Latin America. Credit: National Forest Corporation (CONAF)

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

Consumers can be allies in curbing desertification in Latin America, where different initiatives are being promoted to curtail it, such as sustainable land management, progress towards neutrality in land degradation or the incorporation of the bioeconomy.

Ecuador is cited as an example in the region of these policies, for its incentives for intelligent and healthy consumption and promotion of sustainable land use practices by producers and consumers.

This is important because 47.5 percent of the territory of that South American country is facing desertification and the worst situation is along the central part of its Pacific shoreline.

On Jun. 15, the second phase of a Sustainable Land Management (SLM) project, promoted by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Ecuador’s Environment Ministry, will be launched with funding from South Korea.

The plan promotes the strengthening of the capacity of communities affected by degradation. In the first phase 348,000 dollars were invested.

Juan Calle López, of the FAO office in Ecuador, told IPS from Quito that the project’s aim is “to improve the capacity of local community and institutional actors, to address and implement SLM in degraded landscapes.”

“The project seeks to have pilot sites serve as a reference for communities to verify SLM efforts and their potential to adapt to local conditions,” he said.

“It also seeks for these practices to have a landscape approach that integrates the management of remaining ecosystems and agricultural areas to maintain local environmental services in the long term, such as regulation of the hydrological cycle and sustainable land use,” he said.

Calle López explained that “the project will work together with local municipal governments, local parishes, and producers’ associations, to jointly define best practices for each area depending on the social and environmental conditions of each site.”

“Local farmers will be the direct stakeholders in the project since their involvement is a prerequisite for developing the different practices on their farms,” in a process which will use tools already tested by FAO and the results of the National Assessment of Land Degradation, carried out in the country in 2017.

Ecuador is also the country that will host this year’s global observance of World Day to Combat Desertification, on Jun. 17. This year’s focus will be on the role of consumers on sustainable land management through their purchasing decisions and investments.

Under the theme “Land has true value. Invest in it,” one of the objectives is to “encourage land users to make use of the land management practices that keep land productive,” said Monique Barbut, executive secretary of the UNCCD.

Symbolically, the event will take place at the Middle of the World Monument, located exactly on the equator, from which the Andean country takes its name, about 35 km from Quito, to symbolise the union of the two hemispheres, the UNCCD coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, José Miguel Torrico, based in Santiago, Chile, told IPS.

Ecuador’s commitment to innovative initiatives to combat soil degradation and to promote sustainable land management, which also include advances in the transition to a bioeconomy, is also recognised by its choice as host.

Tarsicio Granizo, Ecuador’s environment minister, defined the bioeconomy as “an economic model based on renewable biological resources, replacing fossil resources,” which has special meaning in a country that has depended on oil exports for decades as one of the pillars of its economy.

“Experts agree that this model combines economic progress with care for the environment and biodiversity,” Granizo said during the Second Global Bioeconomy Summit, held in Berlin in April.

The minister warned, however, that “this is not a short-term issue. We are only just beginning to develop a framework to transition toward a bioeconomy.”

Meanwhile, in Santiago, Torrico pointed out that “desertification entails losses of 42 billion dollars in annual global income, while actions to recover land cost between 40 and 350 dollars per hectare.”

“On the other hand, the returns on investments in actions against degradation at the global level are four to six dollars for every dollar invested,” he said, explaining the benefits of mitigation projects.

This also applies in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it is estimated that 50 percent of agricultural land could be affected by desertification.

In this region, “13 percent of the population lives on degraded lands, which varies from country to country: in Uruguay 33 percent of the population lives in degraded areas, compared to just two percent of the population in Guyana,” said the UNCCD regional coordinator.

“The annual costs of land degradation are estimated for Latin America and the Caribbean at 60 billion dollars per year, while globally they are estimated at 297 billion per year,” Torrico added.

He warned that “inaction in the face of land degradation will mean that global food production could be reduced by more than 12 percent in the next 25 years, leading to a 30 percent increase in food prices.”

“In direct terms, 40 percent of the world’s population (more than 2.8 billion people) live in regions undergoing desertification, while around 900 million people lack access to safe water,” he said.

“Estimates indicate that in order to supply the world population by 2050 (which is projected to reach nine billion people), agricultural production will have to increase by 70 percent worldwide and by 100 percent in developing countries,” he said.

Otherwise, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population (5.3 billion) could live under water stress conditions. This would mean that 135 million people would have to migrate by 2045, as a result of desertification,” he added.

According to Torrico, “In Latin America and the Caribbean, the most immediate situations are related to how to deal with droughts, for which the Drought Initiative has been implemented in eight countries of the region: Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Paraguay and Venezuela.”

This strategy, he explained, “seeks to harmonize public policies to address this phenomenon.

“The other emergency has to do with the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda, where 26 countries in the region have established a programme of goals to achieve,” he said.

This new commitment is that “what we take from the earth, we have to replace and maintain productivity,” Torrico concluded, on the commitment by its 195 States parties to achieve this neutrality by 2030, assumed in 2015 within the framework of the UNCCD.

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Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Chile Debates Whether Citizens Should Profit from Generating Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-debates-whether-citizens-profit-generating-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-debates-whether-citizens-profit-generating-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-debates-whether-citizens-profit-generating-energy/#respond Sun, 27 May 2018 01:19:07 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155937 Chile has become a model country for its advances in non-conventional energy, and is now debating whether citizens who individually or as a group generate electricity can profit from the sale of the surplus from their self-consumption – a factor that will be decisive when it comes to encouraging their contribution to the energy supply. […]

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Commercial Habitat, a high-end home appliance store located in the upscale municipality of Vitacura, in the east of the Chilean capital, supplies part of its electricity consumption with energy generated from solar panels installed on its roof. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 27 2018 (IPS)

Chile has become a model country for its advances in non-conventional energy, and is now debating whether citizens who individually or as a group generate electricity can profit from the sale of the surplus from their self-consumption – a factor that will be decisive when it comes to encouraging their contribution to the energy supply.

A Senate committee has analysed whether to eliminate the payments to citizens for their surplus energy established in a law in force since 2012, in response to an indication to that effect from the government of socialist former president Michelle Bachelet (2014-March 2018), which her successor, the right-wing Sebastián Piñera, is keeping in place.

Now it is being studied by the Chamber of Deputies, which has been warned by leaders of environmental organisations that the proposal to eliminate payments to citizens who inject the surplus energy they generate into the grid will sentence these initiatives to death.

Gabriel Prudencio, head of the Ministry of Energy’s Renewable Energy Division, told IPS that the current government aims to make “distributed generation a major element in citizen power generation.”

“We will continue to encourage end users to be able to generate their energy because of the resultant benefits, but we must identify and avoid any inconvenience in terms of economy, especially for those who cannot install these systems, and for the sake of the security of the system,” he said.

Manuel Baquedano, president of the non-governmental Institute for Political Ecology (IEP), said “We hope that this proposal will not succeed and that we can continue with citizen-generated energy. Without the contribution of this sector, the goal of 80 percent non-conventional energy by 2050 will not be achieved.”

The expert believes that the authorities fear that citizen power generation, mainly solar, will become a business in itself and will not be used only for self-consumption and to cut the electricity bills of individuals or small businesses.

“They are legislating against a ghost,” he told IPS. “Energy should be born from thousands of connected points and by a system that allows buying and selling.”

The current installed electricity generation capacity in Chile, a country of 17.9 million inhabitants, is 22,369 MW. Of this total, 46 percent comes from renewable sources (30 percent hydropower), and 54 percent is thermal (21 percent coal).

All electricity generation is in private hands, most of it based on foreign capital. Consumption, which is constantly growing, reached 68,866 GW-h in 2013.

Revolution towards non-conventional sources

Chile’s solar and wind energy potential is 1,800 GW, according to a study by the Ministry of Energy and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GIZ).

If only five percent of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile were used to generate solar energy, 30 percent of South America’s electricity demand could be met, according to the Solar Energy Research Centre (SERC).

During Bachelet’s four-year term, Chile made an unprecedented leap in non-conventional renewable energies (NCRE), which went from contributing five percent of generation in 2013 to 20 percent in 2017.

“Solar energy showed the greatest growth, from 11 MW in early 2014 to 2,080 in late 2017, followed by wind energy, which grew from 333 to 1,426 MW,” said environmental engineer Paula Estévez in the book Energy Revolution in Chile, published by former Chilean Minister of Energy Máximo Pacheco on May 10.

According to Baquedano, “In the country’s energy revolution, the main thing is indeed the change towards renewable energy that took place. Chile’s energy mix is going to be 100 percent renewable at some point.”

Baquedano warned, however, that “the benefits of this energy revolution from the productive point of view have been only for the private sector and have not been passed on to the public sector.”

Prudencio said that “to date, there are approximately 16 MW of installed capacity of systems under Law 20,571 (payments to residential generators), which is equivalent to more than 2,600 operating projects throughout the country.”

A few cases in point

Ragnar Branth, general manager of Commercial Habitat, a high-end furniture and home design store in the municipality of Vitacura in eastern Santiago, installed solar panels on the roof to power a five-kW photovoltaic plant whose generation saves 13.5 percent in annual electricity bills.

“There is a benefit in the monthly fee, but the initial investment is quite significant. We’re talking about more than 20 million pesos (about 32,200 dollars) in the purchase of panels and their installation alone, and that is not compensated in savings until at least the fifth or sixth year of consumption,” he told IPS.

The Canela Wind Farm, with 112-m-high wind turbines and an installed capacity of 18.15 megawatts (MW), generates electricity with the force of the winds coming from the sea in the Coquimbo region of northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

The Canela Wind Farm, with 112-m-high wind turbines and an installed capacity of 18.15 megawatts (MW), generates electricity with the force of the winds coming from the sea in the Coquimbo region of northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

“The government took a good first step with the cogeneration law. However, some adjustments are needed, including the recognition of 100 percent of the energy generated and some kind of benefit in the investment project,” he said.

“If the government wants this to spread and wants there to be significant cogeneration, there has to be a benefit in the investment or some form of tax reduction or benefit,” he added.

In the agricultural county of Buin, south of the city of Santiago, 99 citizen shareholders convened by the IEP financed the community project Solar Buin Uno that built a 10 kW photovoltaic solar plant connected to the grid.

Much of the energy is delivered to the Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST), and the rest is injected into the grid. But the local distribution company pays only up to 60 percent of the value of the kWh billed to the CST. That is, it pays for the surplus only a portion of what it charges its users.

The generation by individuals received a special boost with the Distributed (decentralized) Generation Law, in force since 2017, also known locally as citizen generation.

Andrés Rebolledo, the last energy minister in the Bachelet administration, explained to IPS that this law “aims to encourage and give signals for the generation by citizens and show that homes and small businesses can generate their own energy based on NCRE.”

The former minister said there has been “exponential growth” of citizen generators and stressed that the modification being debated by parliament raises the possibility that they could increase their potential from 100 to 300 kW, favouring small and medium enterprises.

“The objective and vision is that the progress that Chile has made in terms of NCRE generation at the level of large plants can also be taken advantage of at the citizen level and that in this way households can generate their own electricity, save on their electricity bills and at the same time contribute to a more sustainable model,” he said.

“This implies an effort to strengthen the distribution networks, to have another form of measurement so that households can manage their own consumption and generation and, ultimately, so that they can become prosumers, that is, for a household to be both a producer and a consumer of energy at the same time,” he said.

The former minister explained that the request for a debate in parliament “was intended to try to send out signals and offer incentives so that more people could make an investment and this could become accessible to all, always taking care that households do not turn this into a business but rather for their own consumption.”

But non-governmental organisations say it will be a setback if the payment received for the injection of energy into the grid generated by citizens is eliminated.

According to Sara Larraín, executive director of Chile Sustentable, the proposed modification “eliminates the payment for the energy surplus injected by the residential generator over its own consumption.”

That, she told IPS, “discourages households from investing in self-generation and recovering their investment in less time thanks to the retribution for the electricity fed into the grid.”

Speaking to members of parliament, Larraín said that the reform “is a monopolistic distortion in favour of distribution companies that already constitute a monopoly as concessionaires of the distribution service.”

The president of IEP, Baquedano, said that the installation of a second citizens’ plant in the north of the country was suspended pending the legislative decision, “because the model will not work if this legislation is approved.”

“There’s a question mark over what’s going to happen to the energy generated by citizens. The government will have to understand that if citizen energy runs out, the environmental movement will not keep quiet. The conflicts will return, that’s my thesis, and not just my thesis because we are also preparing the scenarios,” he concluded.

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Chile, an Oasis for Haitians that Has Begun to Run Dryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-oasis-haitians-begun-run-dry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-oasis-haitians-begun-run-dry http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-oasis-haitians-begun-run-dry/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 02:11:29 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155779 A wave of Haitian migrants has arrived in Chile in recent years, changing the face of low-income neighbourhoods. But this oasis has begun to dry up, thanks to measures adopted by decree by the new government against the first massive immigration of people of African descent in this South American country. Some 120,000 Haitians were […]

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Salomón Henry, a painter and electrician, has lived for three years in Santiago with his family. He has a five-year residency permit, thanks to a job contract in an exclusive condominium, where he reinstalled the electrical network, among other tasks. In 2014, there were fewer than 1,800 migrants from Haiti; by April of this year there were nearly 120,000, according to official figures. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Salomón Henry, a painter and electrician, has lived for three years in Santiago with his family. He has a five-year residency permit, thanks to a job contract in an exclusive condominium, where he reinstalled the electrical network, among other tasks. In 2014, there were fewer than 1,800 migrants from Haiti; by April of this year there were nearly 120,000, according to official figures. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 16 2018 (IPS)

A wave of Haitian migrants has arrived in Chile in recent years, changing the face of low-income neighbourhoods. But this oasis has begun to dry up, thanks to measures adopted by decree by the new government against the first massive immigration of people of African descent in this South American country.

Some 120,000 Haitians were living in Chile in early April, according to official figures, most of them working in low wage jobs in sectors such as construction and cleaning.

These immigrants, with an average age of 30, came with tourist visas, almost all of them since 2014, and stayed to work and build a new life in this long and narrow country wedged between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean, whose dynamic economic growth has made it one of the most attractive destinations for immigrants from the rest of the region in the last five years.

But on Apr. 8, their situation changed radically when the right-wing government of President Sebastián Piñera, in power since Mar. 11, eliminated the temporary visas that allowed them to go from tourists to regular migrants once they obtained a job, and then to be able to bring their families to this country.

Piñera seeks to curb immigration in general – which according to official figures is around one million people in a country of 17.7 million – and of Haitians in particular, with measures which analysts and activists see as discriminatory against the fifth-largest foreign community in Chile, after Peruvians, Colombians, Bolivians and Venezuelans.

From now on, Haitians will have to obtain a tourist visa at the consulate in Port-au-Prince, in order to board a plane bound for Chile. The visa will be valid for 30 days, extendable to 90, and they will not be able to exchange it for a permit allowing them to stay in the country.

By contrast Venezuelans, the other foreign community that has experienced explosive growth, will be able to obtain in Caracas a so-called “democratic visa” valid for one year.

Offsetting the new restrictions, since Apr. 16, all Haitians who arrived before Apr. 8 have begun to be able to regularise their status, in a process that will end in July 2019. Also, starting on Jul. 2, 10,000 additional family reunification visas will be issued over the following year. In total, the government estimates at 300,000 the number of undocumented immigrants in Chile, a minority of whom are Haitians.

 The Migration Office on Fanor Velasco Street, near the La Moneda government palace, in Santiago, is crowded with Haitians and other foreign nationals seeking to regularise their migration status, on Apr. 17, a day after a special process was opened as part of measures decreed by the government to curb immigration, which especially affect Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS


The Migration Office on Fanor Velasco Street, near the La Moneda government palace, in Santiago, is crowded with Haitians and other foreign nationals seeking to regularise their migration status, on Apr. 17, a day after a special process was opened as part of measures decreed by the government to curb immigration, which especially affect Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

For Erik Lundi, 37, who arrived in Chile six years ago from Haiti, the plan “is a very good option. It is very reasonable to give legal status to those who are here.”

“But there is a lot of racial discrimination in the new tourist visa. Only in the case of Haitians is it granted for only 30 days, because Venezuelans have the democratic visa. That is very discriminatory. Why are only Haitians given 30 days? It should be the same for everyone,” he told IPS.

Activists for the human rights of migrants told IPS that in Chile Haitian immigrants face a special cocktail of xenophobia mixed with racism, sometimes disguised as criticism of the fact that their languages are Creole or French, not Spanish.

Salomón Henry, a painter and electrician who arrived three years ago after spending time in the Dominican Republic, the country that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, told IPS that “I do not see anything wrong, I see the measures adopted by the government as positive,” while Congress approves a reform of the Migration Law, in force since 1975, one of Piñera’s main campaign promises.

Henry agrees that “Chile is saturated with immigrants and if more continue to arrive, it means more poverty for those who are already here. It’s not because I’m already here, but you have to take action for the greater good of all,” he said.

A history of inefficiency

José Tomás Vicuña, national director of the Jesuit Migrants Service (SJM), doubts the effectiveness of instituting the consular visa for tourism for Haitians and eliminating the temporary one, based on the experience of similar provisions adopted for Dominicans in 2012, during the previous government of Piñera (2010-2014).

“When they started requiring a consular visa, more started to arrive,” the director of Chile’s leading migrant rights organisation told IPS.

On Pingüinos Street, in the populous municipality of Estación Central, one of the two that has the largest number of migrants from Haiti in Santiago, a hairdresser from the Caribbean island nation has established a barber shop where people speak Creole and customers are fellow Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

On Pingüinos Street, in the populous municipality of Estación Central, one of the two that has the largest number of migrants from Haiti in Santiago, a hairdresser from the Caribbean island nation has established a barber shop where people speak Creole and customers are fellow Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

The SJM predicts that “the influx (of Haitians) will increase across unauthorised border crossing points. And smuggling networks will also grow,” said Vicuña, who noted that “this happens in many countries when access is severely restricted.”

Luis Eduardo Thayer, a researcher at the Central University School of Social Sciences and until 2017 chair of the National Consultative Council on Migration – an autonomous civil society entity eliminated by the Piñera administration – agrees with that view.

“The Dominicans kept coming because they had family here, they had networks and job opportunities and the conditions in their country of origin were not what they hoped for,” he told IPS.

There were only 6,000 Dominicans in the country when their entrance was restricted, compared to 120,000 Haitians, Thayer said, so “the magnitude of the ‘calling effect’ by the labour market and family ties is much greater in the case of Haitians.”

The 3,000-km Chilean border is described as “porous” by migration officials, making it difficult to control irregular entry.

Thayer ventured that as the Dominicans did, Haitians will use a route known locally as “the hole” or “the gap.”

“They take a plane to Colombia and there they set out on a clandestine route to Chile, assisted by people who know the route and charge them money – in other words, a people smuggling network,” he explained.

The expert said it is “discriminatory” for Haitians to be required to obtain consular visas to come as tourists “just because they are Haitians.” “The government’s argument is that they come here using fraudulent means. But it must be acknowledged that fewer Haitians come here than Venezuelans, Bolivians, Peruvians or Colombians,” he said emphatically.

The Chilean Undersecretary of the Interior, Rodrigo Ubilla, responsible for foreign and immigration policy, denied in a meeting with foreign correspondents that the measures for Haitians are discriminatory and pointed out that they have the special benefit of family reunification visas.

“The community of Haitian citizens numbers around 120,000 and we believe that for practical purposes we have to help their children and spouses to come quickly and without obstacles to this country,” he said.

Stories of those who are already here

The immediate causes of Haitian migration lie in the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 which added devastating effects to the chronic political, economic, social and environmental crisis in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.

Word of mouth is another major factor.

And José Miguel Torrico, coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), emphasises another long-standing factor. The degradation of Haitian soil “is a major impact factor, since basically the migration we have here is unskilled workers, the rural poor,” he said.

“The immigration that Chile is receiving comes from rural sectors mainly because they have not been able to maintain their standard of living on the lands they farm,” he told IPS in an interview at his regional office in Santiago.

“I came because I saw on the Internet that there are opportunities to work in Chile, and other Haitians who had come here told me about those opportunities,” said Henry.

Every Sunday, on Pingüinos street, there is a street fair where Haitian migrants go to buy clothes, shoes and a variety of products, including some from their own country, and where they eat typical dishes from Haiti, offered at different stands. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Every Sunday, on Pingüinos street, there is a street fair where Haitian migrants go to buy clothes, shoes and a variety of products, including some from their own country, and where they eat typical dishes from Haiti, offered at different stands. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

During a break at work in a municipality in the foothills in the Chilean capital, Henry explained that he has a work contract and legal residency for five years, and was able to bring his wife and three of his four children. But his case is exceptional.

His youngest daughter was born in Santiago. “My wife was treated like a queen in the hospital and I did not pay a peso”, he said, explaining that the cost was covered by a health fund to which she pays a monthly fee. But undocumented migrants do not have the right to healthcare in Chile.

Accionel Sain Melus, 44, arrived eight years ago from the Dominican Republic (where he lived for 10 years), and works on contract at the Lo Valledor Market, the main vegetable and fruit supply centre in the Chilean capital.

“I have legal residency for five years. The problem is that my wife and daughter were given a temporary visa for one year. I applied and they rejected it. I have all the marriage papers and legalisations. I paid a visa for five years and they sent me a visa for one,” he said.

In his conversation with IPS, at the end of a mass in Creole in the Catholic parish of Santa Cruz, in the municipality of Estación Central, he confided his worries: “This is a difficult time for us…”

Pedro Labrín, the priest of that parish in one of the two municipalities with the largest Haitian communities, where some streets are like a “small Haiti”, explained to IPS that some immigrants from Haiti “have a strong educational background, language skills and technical qualifications.”

But most, he added, “come from the countryside, with very little education, and great difficulties to integrate into the new society because they have fewer social skills and suffer a language barrier.”

Lundi said that “most of them leave their country with the dream of continuing their studies. But migrants here have almost no chance to study,” he said, pointing to the high cost of Chilean universities.

Living with racism and xenophobia

For the parish priest Labrín “the main problem that Haitians face is racism: black people seem interesting as long as they are not next to us. I observe that attitude here… there is a lot of racial resistance,” he said.

In his opinion, “Haitians are stigmatised as carriers of diseases, generators of garbage and domestic violence, as noisy, child abusers, people who speak loudly and are always arguing. Chileans are also angry that they compete with Haitians in terms of access to basic services in healthcare, day care centres, kindergartens and schools.”

Lundi’s experiences have varied: “On the one hand, Chile has been a welcoming country for migrants. On the other hand, Chileans are a bit more violent, more discriminating.”

He accused some sectors of “xenophobia, I do not know if because of their culture they are not used to living with many foreigners, especially black people. They discriminate on the basis of skin colour. That is manifested directly with insults and sometimes psychologically.”

Labrín said that in Estación Central “there is an unethical business to subdivide poor houses to lease them at exorbitant prices.”

“For up to 200,000 pesos (about 333 dollars) they rent miserable rooms with no safety or sanitary conditions. During the visit by Pope Francis (in January 2018), one of these houses where a hundred people were living with just three showers, one of which was not working, and one toilet, was burned,” he complained.

Doubts about the process

For Lundi “the family reunification visa is extremely important because people cannot be happy if they are not with their families. It gives them the opportunity to live together.”

Two girls wearing fancy dresses are presented to the Lord during a special ceremony in an evangelical church, crowded as every Sunday, where the service and other activities are carried out in Creole. The church is close to Pingüinos street, in the Estación Central neighbourhood in Santiago. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Two girls wearing fancy dresses are presented to the Lord during a special ceremony in an evangelical church, crowded as every Sunday, where the service and other activities are carried out in Creole. The church is close to Pingüinos street, in the Estación Central neighbourhood in Santiago. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

But the academic Thayer said this offer “is demagogic: they are saying we are going to close the border, but we are going to allow them to be with their family… which is a basic human right.”

Meanwhile, Vicuña said it is essential to know “what will be the criteria for granting the visas, because reducing the criteria to only family reunification will fall short of demand.”

“Orderly, safe and regulated migration requires a clear information process, and many measures have been taken here on the fly,” he said.

Thayer broke down another growing social prejudice against Haitians. “The rate of unemployment of migrants is very low, like that of Chileans, from five to six percent,” he said.

“You cannot say that the labour market is overrun because of the arrival of Haitians. What there is, is a problem of integration because of a lack of public policies on housing, education and work,” he said.

Parish priest Labrín called for an emphasis to be put on the contributions made by Haitians: “culture, work, economic assets and children.” “The Chilean birth rate, which causes so much concern in the development pyramid, will be bolstered by the birth of Chilean children to migrant parents,” he said, to illustrate.

First impact: crowded migration offices

In the Migration Office on Fanor Velasco Street, three blocks from the La Moneda government palace, the air was unbreathable on Apr. 17, the day after the new regulations entered into force.

An unrelenting crowd of migrants seeking to get the process done packed the office and its surroundings from dawn, doubling the already heavy daily flow of people, before the new immigration measures adopted by decree went into effect.

Leonel Dorelus, a 32-year-old Haitian, arrived in Chile in Novembers 2017, after living in the Dominican Republic for three years. He lives with a brother-in-law, who arrived earlier, in a municipality on the south side of Santiago, where he works in an evangelical church.

“I would only like to bring my girlfriend,” he told IPS as he waited his turn.

Mark Edouard, 30, comes from the Haitian town of Artibonite. He works as a night-shift doorman, with a contract, and during the day he works at a public market, in the populated district of Puente Alto, 20 km southeast of Santiago.

“I started as an assistant at the same market. At first I lived with other people, but I was not comfortable so I moved and now I live alone,” he said.

Zilus Jeandenel, 28, came to Chile from the rural town of Comine. He lives in the municipality of San Bernardo, in the south of Greater Santiago, with two sisters. He arrived eight months ago and has no job, just like one of his sisters. “It’s hard to get work,” he said, “even though my quality of life is much better here.”

Little Haiti in Santiago

It’s Sunday, and dozens of Haitians are attending mass in the Jesuit parish church of Santa Cruz, on Pinguinos street in the neighbourhood of Nogales, in the municipality of Estación Central in Santiago, where Erik Lundi works. Kitty corner from the church, a Haitian barber attends his fellow countrymen. They all speak Creole and while they wait for their turn they watch a Formula One race on television.

In front of the barbershop is the bus stop where people catch the bus to downtown Santiago or the southern outskirts of the city. The ticket costs the equivalent of one dollar.

Also on Pingüinos, further east, a street market is held, every Sunday, with stands selling clothes and used shoes that customers try on right there. Other stands, some improvised on the sidewalk, sell vegetables, fruit, meat, typical Haitian products and the most sought-after: sacks of beans. Haitian dishes are also offered to sample on the spot.

There are some Chilean vendors, but most are Haitians. All explain, in Creole or Spanish, the prices, in a street market that, as the parishioners explain, is also a social meeting place. Women with small children, pregnant women, young people who greet each other with high fives and a couple made up of a Haitian man and a smiling Chilean woman holding hands, are part of the Sunday landscape on Pingüinos street.

Just two blocks away, there is an evangelical church which, like the Catholic church, also functions as a social centre, where the service is carried out in Creole and is accompanied by live music played on guitars, electric basses and large congo drums.

People dress up for church as an important occasion. The women wear colourful outfits and shoes and the men wear shiny shoes, some white, while almost all of them wear ties. The girls especially stand out with their tulles and elaborate braided hairstyles. This is Haitian life and culture, transplanted to Santiago, in the Andes mountains.

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Rural Women Are Essential to the Struggle Against Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rural-women-essential-struggle-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-women-essential-struggle-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rural-women-essential-struggle-hunger/#respond Sat, 03 Mar 2018 22:51:19 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154610 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.

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Adelaida Marca, an Aymara indigenous woman, has been successful at the Rural World Expo in Santiago selling her sought-after premium oregano, which has a special fragrance, grown on terraces in Socoroma, her village in the highlands of northern Chile. Credit: Indap

Adelaida Marca, an Aymara indigenous woman, has been successful at the Rural World Expo in Santiago selling her sought-after premium oregano, which has a special fragrance, grown on terraces in Socoroma, her village in the highlands of northern Chile. Credit: Indap

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Mar 3 2018 (IPS)

Adelaida Marca, an Aymaran indigenous woman who produces premium oregano in Socoroma, in the foothills of the Andes in the far north of Chile, embodies the recovery of heirloom seeds, and is a representative of a workforce that supports thousands of people and of a future marked by greater gender equality.

“They asked me for oregano that was completely clean, without sticks and very green. I achieved that quality at the altitude where we live, at 3,000 metres above sea level,” the 54-year-old family farmer told IPS.

Proudly, she emphasises that her oregano “is an ancestral legacy: the seeds I inherited from several generations of ancestors.”"If I live off the earth, I can survive. But how do I educate my children and grandchildren? The earth bears fruit, but it does not generate money. If I sell what I get from the land raw, it has no value, but if I cook it, it has added value.” -- Juana Calhuaque

“We grow our crops on terraces. Last year I had one hectare planted, but since oregano is fragile at low temperatures, I lost a third of my crop. The Bolivian winter (rainy season) helps alleviate the water shortages,” she said.

Marca named her oregano Productos Socoroma Marka, and presented it successfully at the Rural World Expo, held in Santiago last October, running out of stock in just two days.

For this year’s International Women’s Day, on March 8, UN Women decided to focus on the theme “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.

UN Women stated that “Rural women and their organisations represent an enormous potential, and they are on the move to claim their rights and improve their livelihoods and wellbeing. They are using innovative agricultural methods, setting up successful businesses and acquiring new skills, pursuing their legal entitlements and running for office.”

Rural women make up more than a quarter of the world’s population and 43 percent of the world’s agricultural labour force, according to UN Women.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, according to 2010 data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), women’s make up between 12 and 25 percent of the economically active population in agriculture, depending on the different areas.

The urgent need to empower rural women

Julio Berdegué, FAO representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS that “rural and indigenous communities have a crucial role to play in food security, first of all for their own peoples. The persistence of hunger is very high in indigenous populations. In many countries it doubles, triples or quadruples the national averages.”

Anamuri, a model for rural producers

"Our first demand is healthy and clean production and the right of each person to consume healthy food," said Alicia Muñoz, of the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (Anamuri), one of the leading Latin American organisations that defends women farmers.

"If you dig into the peasant and indigenous communities, you see the historical wisdom of highly aware women very knowledgeable about healthy foods for humanity," the well-known activist told IPS.

"The role of Anamuri aims at the incorporation of women in society and in organisations and how the production of these women is channeled today, so that society as a whole learns to distinguish what healthy food means compared to a diet with artificial and genetically modified food," Muñoz explained.

The other important demand that mobilises Anamuri, she said, "is decent work for people, which means well-paid and in healthy conditions, and not surrounded by pesticides and chemicals where people get sick.”

And at the global level, the organisation aims at "local markets for the community... for people to not have to go out to a supermarket, and for the peasants themselves to have their local markets and supply consumers in the communities."

"If in each locality there are gardens and grocery stores, but produced by women, peasants and small farmers, this will change. To this end we are coordinating with other rural organisations to get people to understand that peasant and family agriculture will save the planet," she said.

“if indigenous communities are not central actors, there is no way to solve hunger in those places,” he added at the regional headquarters in Santiago.

“In these communities we have an important issue of gender inequality, and inequality in access to land, access to political power within local communities, and access to participation, and that is a sensitive issue because of the norms and customs of native peoples,” he said.

“The empowerment of indigenous women is part of the agenda in the fight against rural poverty, poverty and hunger in indigenous communities,” he said.

For Juana Calhuaque, from Curarrehue, in the southern Chilean Araucanía region, “the land is good, it provides everything. But the problem is you have to sell it in order to have an income.”

“If I live off the earth, I can survive. But how do I educate my children and grandchildren? The earth bears fruit, but it does not generate money. If I sell what I get from the land raw, it has no value, but if I cook it, it has added value,” Calhuaque, who belongs to Chile’s largest indigenous group, the Mapuche, told IPS.

She opened a small shop where she prepares meals using mushrooms, including the widely-sought after digueñes (Cyttaria espinosae), pine nuts and other products native to her land, which she harvests or grows herself.

“I prepare the dishes myself. I just need more people to come and that’s why I want to be interviewed on TV,” she said.

Marca, for her part, used the profits from her oregano venture, backed by the governmental Agricultural Development Institute (Indap), to get involved in rural tourism in Socoroma, in the region of Arica, on the northern tip of this narrow, long South American country with a population of 17.6 million.

Oregano “allowed me to improve my living conditions and fulfill my dream of showing the territory through tourism. In Socoroma I am restoring my grandfather’s house, which must be more than 150 years old, to put it at the service of the city.”

One problem that Marca faces is “the labour shortage, because work in agriculture is very hard.” Another is “transportation, because it’s hard to deliver the orders and I cannot send them by plane.”

Oregano “is one of the few plants that produces twice a year, which allows us to rotate crops,” she explained. The next harvest is in March and April.

The market plays in her favour because “the oregano is reaching its real value because it is a natural product, not genetically modified and without chemicals.”

“I grow it the traditional way, in bulk and harvesting by hand” she said.

“The difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures is really big here. This contrast enhances the flavour and aroma of our product. And the natural fertiliser I use makes this product stand out from others. My oregano is very aromatic,” she said.

For UN Women, cases such as those of Calhuaque and Marca “guarantee the food security of their communities and generate resilience to climate change.”

The agency warns, however, that “in practically all development measures, rural women are lagging behind rural men or urban women, as a consequence of deep-rooted gender inequalities and discrimination.”

“Less than 20 percent of the people in the world who own land are women, and although the global wage difference between women and men stands at 23 percent, in rural areas it can reach up to 40 percent,” it stated, to illustrate.

The post Rural Women Are Essential to the Struggle Against Hunger 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.

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Latin America Focuses on Attacking Pockets of Rural Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/latin-america-focuses-attacking-pockets-rural-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-focuses-attacking-pockets-rural-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/latin-america-focuses-attacking-pockets-rural-poverty/#respond Sun, 18 Feb 2018 02:35:05 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154379 Identifying territories where rural poverty is most entrenched in Latin America and the Caribbean to apply new tools and innovative policies to combat hunger is the new strategy that will be discussed at a ministerial meeting to be held in early March. Julio Berdegue, regional representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), […]

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Identifying territories where rural poverty is most entrenched in Latin America and the Caribbean to apply new tools and innovative policies to combat hunger is the new strategy that will be discussed at a ministerial meeting to be held in early March. - FAO regional representative Julio Berdegue (R), and the deputy regional representative Eve Crowley, during the presentation of the organisation’s 35th Regional Conference objectives, to be held in March in Jamaica. Credit: FAORLC

FAO regional representative Julio Berdegue (R), and the deputy regional representative Eve Crowley, during the presentation of the organisation’s 35th Regional Conference objectives, to be held in March in Jamaica. Credit: FAORLC

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Feb 18 2018 (IPS)

Identifying territories where rural poverty is most entrenched in Latin America and the Caribbean to apply new tools and innovative policies to combat hunger is the new strategy that will be discussed at a ministerial meeting to be held in early March.

Julio Berdegue, regional representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), announced this in the Chilean capital, explaining the objectives of the organisation’s 35th Regional Conference, to be held March 5-8 in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with the presence of ministers and representatives of the 33 countries in the region.

“We have over 43 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean who go to sleep every day with empty stomachs. We also have an epidemic situation of malnutrition and particularly of overweight and obesity,” warned Berdegue, who is also FAO’s Deputy Director-General.

The population of the region stands at 651 million, according to the latest projections.

Berdegue said the eradication of hunger is an uncompleted task and described as “terrifying” that “hundreds of thousands of children suffer from hunger.”

The proposal to identify these pockets of poverty, which are about a hundred, arises from the fact that the fight against hunger “is becoming increasingly difficult because we are reaching the hard core of the problem, the hunger that is concentrated in remote indigenous rural populations, and among women and the elderly,” he said."To eradicate hunger and extreme poverty, we have to deal with the problems of ethnic, gender, economic and territorial inequality and these are major challenges." -- Julio Berdegue

“To eradicate hunger and extreme poverty, we have to deal with the problems of ethnic, gender, economic and territorial inequality and these are major challenges,” he explained.

The most recent figures from FAO show that hunger increased dramatically in Venezuela, affecting 1.3 million people there. In addition, the fight against hunger was stalled because of the high rate of extreme poverty in Haiti: 47 percent of the population.

To this is added a small upturn in the proportion of people suffering from hunger in Argentina or Peru.

The regional representative also warned about the effects of climate change which threaten agriculture, and lamented that millions of rural dwellers in the region live in extreme poverty.

Poverty affects 46 percent of the rural population, while 25 percent live in extreme poverty, “a startling fact in a very rich region, with a very strong agricultural sector,” Berdegue said.

Asked by IPS about the role of rural and indigenous communities in the face of these serious problems, Berdegue responded that “they play a crucial role in food security.”

“First of all, the role of their own peoples, because the persistence of hunger is very high in indigenous populations. In many countries it even quadruples the national averages,” he explained.

Therefore, he said, “if indigenous communities are not central actors, there is no way to solve hunger in those places. This will not be solved by bringing food in helicopters.”

“In these communities we have an important issue of gender inequality, and inequality in access to land, access to political power within local communities, and access to participation, and that is a sensitive issue because of the norms and customs of native peoples,” he said.
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According to Berdegue, “the empowerment of indigenous women is part of the agenda in the fight against rural poverty and hunger in indigenous communities.”

The conference in Jamaica will also discuss the problem of overweight, which affects half of the population in the region, and the obesity suffered by some 90 million people.

According to FAO estimates, in 26 countries of the region, diseases associated with obesity are responsible for 300,000 deaths each year, compared with 166,000 people killed in homicides.

The 15 million family farmers of the region who produce fresh vegetables and traditional foods that contribute to a healthier and more diversified diet play a major role In the fight against obesity and overweight.

Another crucial issue in the 35th Conference will be the conservation of natural resources described by the regional representative as “key for a healthy life and for our survival and of all other species on the planet.”

Berdegue called for a discussion of “how we shall continue producing crops, how rural populations shall continue to live in the countryside in this era of climate change, and how to establish more effective risk prevention and management systems at a time when these risks and threats are much more intense. ”

“There is concern among the population, specialists and governments, because we cannot continue with agriculture that consumes 70 percent of the fresh water. It is no longer tolerable to say that we produce more food but on the basis of destroying tropical forests. Intensive agriculture based on the use of fertilisers that end up in rivers causing pollution is no longer acceptable,” he said.

Meanwhile, Eve Crowley, secretary of the Regional Conference and FAO deputy regional representative, said that the conference will discuss the problem of migration that affects thousands, who flee due to violence, lack of opportunities, poverty and environmental risks.

“We want migration to always be an option and not a necessity,” she said.

Crowley also highlighted the issue of conflict, saying that “conflict-ridden societies with political instability have higher levels of hunger than societies without conflicts.”

“When conflict decreases, there is less food insecurity. When food prices rise, as in the 2008 crisis, there is an increase in demonstrations and political instability,” she said.

In the first years of the century, Latin America and the Caribbean made significant progress in combating hunger, and became the first region in the world to reach the first Millennium Development Goal by 2015, by halving the proportion of hungry people, from 1990-1992 levels.

According to Berdegue, “with respect to hunger and the reduction of poverty, Latin America and the Caribbean have done their job well… the problem is that we have been losing speed.”

“We were advancing very fast and the world was seeing how well the region was doing it… They were looking at our public policies. But in recent years we have lost this great speed. What we want to discuss with the countries is how we can put our foot back on the accelerator,” he explained.

“We have been improving our capacity to eradicate hunger. Today we have instruments and tools that we did not imagine 15 or 20 years ago. The problem remains, but the specific answers to the problems have been changing and I would say that they have been improving,” he concluded.

If this continues, it would seem that the goal set by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) of reaching zero hunger by 2025 is moving away rather than getting closer.

The new commitment that FAO will now put on the table in Jamaica to the 33 governments of the region will be for the fight against hunger to focus on rural pockets that make up the hard core of extreme poverty.

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Latin America Makes Headway Against Land Degradationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/latin-america-makes-headway-land-degradation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-makes-headway-land-degradation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/latin-america-makes-headway-land-degradation/#respond Tue, 30 Jan 2018 23:25:38 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154083 Two-thirds of the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have already submitted or are preparing to submit to the United Nations their land degradation goals, to combat a problem that threatens agriculture and the lives of their people. In 2015, the parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) agreed to […]

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A soybean plantation in Tocantins, a state in northern Brazil, a country that is poised to be the world's largest producer of soy, a monoculture for which millions of hectares have been deforested. Commercial agriculture, especially livestock farming, and production of soy and palm oil, are key drivers in the degradation of Latin American soils. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

A soybean plantation in Tocantins, a state in northern Brazil, a country that is poised to be the world's largest producer of soy, a monoculture for which millions of hectares have been deforested. Commercial agriculture, especially livestock farming, and production of soy and palm oil, are key drivers in the degradation of Latin American soils. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jan 30 2018 (IPS)

Two-thirds of the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have already submitted or are preparing to submit to the United Nations their land degradation goals, to combat a problem that threatens agriculture and the lives of their people.

In 2015, the parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) agreed to combat desertification and restore degraded land and soil, with national goals, which are based on the level of erosion in each country and which aim to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by 2030.

“What we are doing directly now is to establish a policy of neutral land management. That is, where I degrade, on the other hand I compensate. We cannot continue with these extractive policies in the countries where what is degraded is never given back to the earth,” José Miguel Torrico, the UNCCD coordinator for the region, who is based in Chile, told IPS.

The new commitment, he stressed, is that “What one takes from the earth, one puts back, to maintain its productivity.”

The concept of LDN is defined as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security, remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.”

“Today we are in the process of setting targets to achieve land neutrality. This is happening in 22 countries of the region that are actively taking part. Some have already established their goals and others, like Brazil, are at the end of the process of setting them,” Torrico said.

According to figures from UNCCD, there are currently more than two billion hectares of degraded land in the world (an area greater than South America), which have the potential for land rehabilitation and forest restoration. Of that total, 14 percent is within the region.

Sally Bunning, Senior Policy officer of Agricultural Systems, Land and Water of the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS that “degraded lands represent more than one-fifth of the forests and agricultural lands of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

“Commercial agriculture is a key driver (of that degradation), especially production of meat, soy and palm oil,” she said at the regional office in Santiago.

Las Canoas Lake, near the capital of Nicaragua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon arrives to Nicaragua and leaves its inhabitants without fish and water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores / IPS

A farmer next to a community rainwater collection tank, for the agricultural production and domestic needs of a group of families, with which they mitigate the effects of the recurrent droughts that devastate their rural communities in the northern Argentine province of Chaco, part of one of the Latin American regions with the greatest erosion of its soils. Solutions like this improve the lives of local residents in the degraded lands of the region. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet / IPS

The expert explained that “the main areas of farmland that are facing multiple pressures include, but are not limited to, dry lands in northeastern Brazil, areas of agricultural expansion in the area of the Argentine Chaco, central Chile, farmland in southern Mexico, and parts of Cuba and Haiti.”

Bunning explained that desertification “accelerates with overgrazing as well as the growth of demand for meat and other agricultural products such as soy, sugar and cotton worldwide.”

“It is estimated that in Latin America most of the degraded lands were degraded due to deforestation (100 million hectares) and overgrazing (70 million hectares). The increase in international demand encourages farmers and large landowners to deforest in order to extend their agricultural areas and pastures for livestock farming,” she said.

According to the FAO regional official, addressing the problem is crucial “to manage the livestock sector and limit the complete elimination of the original vegetation to replace it with crops.”

“In South America, urgent action is needed in the Gran Chaco, an area that covers four countries: Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and to a lesser degree Brazil,” Bunning said.

“More than half of the territory in Argentina and Paraguay are affected by problems of desertification presenting a net loss of 325,000 hectares of forest per year in Paraguay, and 45 percent and 43 percent of the loss of forests were respectively caused by the expansion of pastures and the expansion of land for commercial crops in Argentina,” she said.

Torrico recalled, in turn, that several countries “have been hit very hard by climate phenomena. For example, the El Niño phenomenon affected them seriously and there have been very severe droughts in what has to do with the degradation of soils, but also with the effects suffered by the population.”

According to the UNCCD regional coordinator, Latin American small farmers are directly affected because they have less water for their crops and in some extreme cases they are forced to migrate.

He added that desertification is closely associated with migration, noting as an example that 80 to 90 percent of migrants from Africa are a visible effect of desertification.

Las Canoas Lake, near the capital of Nicaragua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon arrives to Nicaragua and leaves its inhabitants without fish and water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores / IPS

Las Canoas Lake, near the capital of Nicaragua, dries up every time the El Niño weather phenomenon arrives to Nicaragua and leaves its inhabitants without fish and water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores / IPS

“The migration of Haitians that Chile is currently experiencing is basically people who come from rural areas where they no longer have any chance to farm. They do not come from cities but from rural areas,” Torrico pointed out as an example of this situation in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bunning, meanwhile, said that “unequal distribution and lack of access and control of land and its resources can be key factors of poverty, food insecurity and land degradation.”

“In Latin America, conflicts are mainly between landless people and large landowners, and between landless people and indigenous communities,” she explained.

She said that “the key factors of conflicts over land include a combination of inequitable access to and control over land, degradation of natural resources, historical demands and demographic pressures, exacerbated by weak management and political corruption.”

Torrico added that the problem of desertification is also closely associated with climate change.

“It is already clear that rainfall will decrease significantly in sectors of the continent. How do we forecast this? With an early warning system, so we know in advance when we are going to have a drought and, how do we prepare for this?” he asked.

“With efficient water catchment systems, reservoirs, dams and wells. And with better farming techniques, with mechanised irrigation, drip irrigation and more effective crops and better seed quality,” he answered.

Bunning warned that in the region “there are still no programmes to take into account the importance of water management.”

“For me this is one of the most important parts of the problem of degradation. It is not always degradation of the soils, but also the degradation of the capacity to retain water in the soil, to store and reuse water in agriculture, but also to be reused by other users,” she said.

The FAO expert listed solutions for this, such as “localised drip systems and more efficient systems, to also reduce evaporation.”

“There are technologies to use greenhouses, plastic cover in the fields, to pump water using solar panels, to distribute fertilisers in the water and reduce the problems of over-exploitation of fertilisers,” she detailed among the instruments that are at hand.

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Clean Energy Sources Manage to Cut Electricity Bill in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/clean-energy-sources-manage-cut-electricity-bill-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=clean-energy-sources-manage-cut-electricity-bill-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/clean-energy-sources-manage-cut-electricity-bill-chile/#respond Tue, 09 Jan 2018 01:59:20 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153796 A 75 percent drop in electricity rates, thanks to a quadrupled clean generation capacity, is one of the legacies to be left in Chile by the administration of Michelle Bachelet, who steps down on Mar. 11. In December 2013, the electricity supply tender for families, companies and small businesses was awarded at a price of […]

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The Maipo River, where the Alto Maipo hydroelectric project is being built, flows down from the Andes range to Santiago and is vital to supply drinking water to the Chilean capital, a city of seven million people. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The Maipo River, where the Alto Maipo hydroelectric project is being built, flows down from the Andes range to Santiago and is vital to supply drinking water to the Chilean capital, a city of seven million people. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jan 9 2018 (IPS)

A 75 percent drop in electricity rates, thanks to a quadrupled clean generation capacity, is one of the legacies to be left in Chile by the administration of Michelle Bachelet, who steps down on Mar. 11.

In December 2013, the electricity supply tender for families, companies and small businesses was awarded at a price of 128 dollars per megawatt hour, compared to just 32.5 dollars in the last tender of 2017.

“An important regulatory change was carried out with the passage of seven laws on energy that gave a greater and more active role to the State as a planner. This generated the conditions for more competition in the market,” Energy Minister Andrés Rebolledo told IPS."According to the projections, from here to 2021 there is a portfolio of projects totaling 11 billion dollars in different tenders on energy, generation and electricity transmission. The interesting thing is that 80 percent are NCRE projects." -- Andrés Rebolledo

Four years ago, large companies were concerned over the rise in electricity rates in Chile, and several mining companies stated that due to the high price of energy they were considering moving their operations to other countries. Currently, big industrialists have access to lower prices because they renegotiate their contracts with the generating companies.

The new regulatory framework changed things and allowed many actors, Chilean or foreign, to enter the industry, thanks to bidding rules that gave more room to bids for generating electricity from non-conventional renewable energies (NCRE), mainly photovoltaic and wind, the most efficient sources in the country.

“This happened at a time when a very important technological shift regarding these very technologies was happening in the world. We carried out this change at the right time and we took advantage of the significant decline in cost of these technologies, especially in the case of solar and wind energy,” the minister said.

Eighty companies submitted to the tender for electricity supply and distribution in 2016, and 15 submitted to the next distribution tender, “in a phenomenon very different from what was typical in the Chilean energy sector, which was very concentrated, with only a few players,” he added.

Manuel Baquedano, president of the Chilean non-governmental Institute of Political Ecology, believes that there was “a turning point in the Chilean energy mix, with a shift towards renewable energy.”

This change occurred, Baquedano told IPS, “because people didn’t want more megaprojects like the Hydroaysén hydroelectric plant in the south, and Punta de Choros in the north (both widely rejected for environmental reasons), and that curbed the growth of the oligopolies.”

The Atacama desert in northern Chile has the highest solar radiation on the planet, one of this country’s advantages when it comes to developing solar energy. Credit: Marianela Jarroud / IPS

The Atacama desert in northern Chile has the highest solar radiation on the planet, one of this country’s advantages when it comes to developing solar energy. Credit: Marianela Jarroud / IPS

“Globally, solar and wind energy are much more competitive than even fossil fuels. Today solar energy is being produced at a lower cost than even coal. That has led to the creation of a new scenario, thanks to this new regulation policy,” he added.

In addition, said the expert in geopolitics of energy, “that change was approved by the community and environmentalists who have raised no objections to the wind and solar projects.”

... But conflicts over hydroelectric projects continue to rage

Marcela Mella, spokesperson for the environmental group No al Alto Maipo, told IPS that they have various strategies to continue opposing the construction of the hydroelectric project of that name, promoted by the US company AES Gener on the river that supplies water to Santiago.

The project would involve the construction of 67 km of tunnels to bring water to two power plants, Alfalfal II and Las Lajas, with a capacity to generate 531 megawatts. Started in 2007, it is now paralysed due to financial and construction problems. But in November the company anticipated that in March it would resume the work after solving these problems.

"The project puts at risk Santiago's reliable drinking water supply. This was demonstrated when construction began and heavy downpours, which have been natural phenomena in the Andes mountain range, dragged all the material that had been removed and left four million people without water in Santiago," said Mella.

He added that Alto Maipo will also cause problems in terms of irrigation water for farmers in the Maipo Valley, who own 120,000 hectares.

“In the past four years, the government enjoyed a fairly free situation to develop projects (of those energy sources) that some have qualms about from an environmental perspective,” he said.

“It is not a process that any future government can stop. It is a global process into which Chile has already entered and is being rewarded for that choice. There is no longer a possibility of returning to fossil fuels, as is happening in the United States where there is an authoritarian government like that of Donald Trump,” Baquedano added.

The environmental leader warned that although “there is a margin for the rates and costs to decrease, it will not last forever.” For that reason, he proposed “continuing to raise public awareness of NCRE.”

The energy sector was a leader in investments in the last two years in Chile, surpassing mining, the pillar of the local economy.

Rebolledo said: “During the government of President Bachelet, 17 billion dollars have been invested (in the energy industry). In Chile today there are some 250 power generation plants, half of which were built under this government. And half of that half are solar plants.”

In May 2014, just two months after starting her second term, after governing the country between 2006 and 2010, Bachelet – a socialist – launched the “Energy Agenda, a challenge for the entire country, progress for all“.

“According to the projections, from here to 2021 there is a portfolio of projects totaling 11 billion dollars in different tenders on energy, generation and electricity transmission. The interesting thing is that 80 percent are NCRE projects,” he said.

Currently there are 40 electrical projects under construction, almost all of them involving NCRE.

Another result is that Chile now has a surplus in electricity and the large increase in solar power is expected to continue as the country takes advantage of the enormous possibilities presented by the north, which includes the Atacama desert, with its merciless sun.

Chile’s power grid, previously dependent on oil, coal and large hydroelectric dams, changed radically, which led to a drop of around 20 percent in fossil fuel imports between 2016 and 2017. In addition, it no longer depends on Argentine gas, which plunged the country into crisis when supply was abruptly cut off in 2007.

“In March 2014, when Bachelet’s term began, the installed capacity in Chile of NCRE, mainly solar and wind, was five percent. This changed significantly, and by November of this year it had reached 19 percent,” said Rebolledo.

The minister pointed out that if solar and wind generation is added to the large-scale hydropower plants, “almost 50 percent of everything we generate today is renewable energy. The rest is still thermal energy, which uses gas, diesel and coal.”

In the Energy Agenda, as in the nationally determined contribution (NDC), the commitment assumed under the Paris Agreement on climate change, Chile set goal for 20 percent of its energy to come from NCRE by 2025 – a target that the country already reached in October.

“We have set ourselves the goal that by 2050, 70 percent of all electricity generated will be renewable, and this no longer includes only the NCRE but also hydro,” Rebolledo said.

For the minister, a key aspect was that these goals were agreed by all the actors in the sector.

“Because this change happened so rapidly, that 70 percent could be 90 percent by 2050, and within that 90 percent, solar energy will probably be the most important,” he said.

Baquedano, for his part, argues that now “comes the second stage, which is to democratise the use of energy by allowing solar energy and renewables to reach citizens and small and medium industries directly, therefore modifying distribution.”

“”Democratisation means that we are going to demand that all NCRE projects have environmental impact studies and not just declarations (of environmental impact),” he said.

“Democratisation means that every person who has resources or who can acquire them, becomes a generator of energy for their own consumption and that of their neighbours. Let new actors come in, but also citizens. These new actors are the indigenous communities, the community sector and the municipalities, which are not after profits,” he asserted.

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Trying to Make Immigration an Option Rather than a Need in Latin Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/trying-make-immigration-option-rather-need-latin-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trying-make-immigration-option-rather-need-latin-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/trying-make-immigration-option-rather-need-latin-america/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 16:16:25 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152477 This article forms part of the IPS coverage for World Food Day, celebrated on October 16.

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In Vega Central, the biggest fruit and vegetable market in Santiago, the stands of Peruvian migrants, 300,000 of whom live in Chile, offer typical produce and meals from that country. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

In Vega Central, the biggest fruit and vegetable market in Santiago, the stands of Peruvian migrants, 300,000 of whom live in Chile, offer typical produce and meals from that country. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Oct 13 2017 (IPS)

The aim is for migration to become just one option among others for the rural population of Latin America, says Brazilian expert Luiz Carlos Beduschi, referring to an issue that causes concern in the region due to its impact on food security.

The theme this year of World Food Day, celebrated Oct. 16, is “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development”, promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

“If living conditions improve in rural areas, people can use more autonomous strategies that can turn the decision of whether or not to migrate into just one more option among other alternatives,” Beduschi, policy officer in FAO’s regional office in Santiago, Chile, told IPS.

The Brazilian academic added that “the tendency to migrate increases or declines” depending on the specific characteristics and circumstances of the potential migrants.

He mentioned, for example, individual circumstances, such as “the search for independence among the young,” and family circumstances, because “among families with members in other countries, the tendency to migrate is stronger.”

Other reasons arise from where people live. With regard to this point, Beduschi explained that “in areas with greater economic opportunities and lower crime rates, better public services, etc, the tendency to migrate is weaker.

“In more remote areas with poorer quality land, where people don’t have savings or cash allowing them to migrate, social protection policies are even more necessary,” he said.

Migration in context

Some 30 million people from Latin America and the Caribbean live outside their home countries, equivalent to four percent of the total population of the region, according to Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) statistics, which are based on the latest national census information from the different countries. Of that total, some 20 million live in the United States and 11 million of them are undocumented.

Central America and southern Mexico account for the largest number of migrants from the region – 9.7 percent of the total population of this subregion known as “Mesoamerica” – and Mexico represents 40 percent of the region’s total migration, with approximately 12 million Mexicans living abroad, mainly in the United States.

The International Migration Report 2016, prepared by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, reported that migrants from Latin America are getting younger: between 2010 and 2015, the median age of immigrants from this region declined from 40 to 36 years.

One significant fact is that around 5.5 million young people between the ages of 15 and 29 are immigrants in the United States, equivalent to 25 percent of the Latin American immigrant population in that country. Another is that 49.4 percent of Latin American immigrants in the United States are women.

Another phenomenon that ECLAC emphasises is that so far this century, inter-regional migration in Latin America has grown at an annual average of 3.5 percent, with more than eight million Latin American immigrants living in other nations in the region, 63 percent in countries that border their own.

Poverty and climate, factors that drive migration

For Víctor Hugo Lagos, a lawyer with the Jesuit Service for Migrants that operates in three Chilean cities, poverty is the main factor driving immigration today.

“Poverty is a factor that makes people decide to leave their home countries and seek opportunities elsewhere. And poverty has different causes, such as a lack of access to education or jobs,” he told IPS.

Jorge Martínez with the Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Centre (CELADE) said that in this region, rural migration to urban areas has declined.

“That was an issue in previous decades, which accompanied broad social and economic changes – migration driven by a lack of opportunities, by modernisation in agriculture, and the simultaneous draw of urban areas,” he told IPS at CELADE headquarters in Santiago.

He added that most of the migrants from Latin America come from urban areas, with a few exceptions, such as Mexico, where migration is still leading to the depopulation of rural areas.

“One factor that can have a potentially heavy influence is natural disasters/climate change, which requires a new assessment of the consequences of mobility, affecting the most disadvantaged and the least resilient,” he warned.

In 2015, more than 19 million people worldwide were displaced within their countries as a result of natural disasters, according to FAO.

Between 2008 and 2015, an average of 26.4 million people a year were displaced by natural catastrophes.

Lagos lamented that “at the level of international law (natural disasters) have not been recognised as grounds for granting refugee status in another country,” because “practice shows that today the environment is one of the main factors leading people to leave their countries.

“One classic example is Haiti, which is not only a country steeped in poverty and whose leaders have shown a high level of corruption, but which has also been plagued by different natural disasters,” he said.

Beduschi, meanwhile, stressed that the projects, programmes and policies supported by FAO seek to strengthen the decision-making autonomy of rural families, including the decision of whether or not to migrate.

The idea is “to change the future of migration, investing in food security and agriculture.

“What we are trying to do in FAO, with a broad, diverse set of partners, is to eradicate rural hunger and poverty, improve nutrition, make better use of natural resources, and strengthen people’s livelihoods,” he said.

“International cooperation is not aimed at reducing the number of migrants, but at helping to make migration a safe, orderly and regular process,” he added. “The idea is also for people and families to decide to migrate, not as the only option for their development, but as one option in a broaders range of opportunities.”
Beduschi said “conflicts over ownership and use of natural resources are also related to migration flows,” as are aspects such as “changes in climate conditions and the exhaustion of natural resources.”

He said that “expanding access to assets and services is part of the response to build up resilience in rural areas, as is promoting more environment-friendly production methods.”

According to FAO, investing in sustainable food production and rural development systems helps to address the main global challenges in feeding the growing global population, protecting the climate, and tackling some of the fundamental causes of migration and displacement.

It adds that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be reached without putting an end to hunger and without achieving agriculture and food production systems that respect the climate and are sustainable and resilient.

Of 129 countries monitored by FAO, 72 reached the goal of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger, by 2015, although the U.N. agency issued an alert that in 2016 the fight against malnutrition suffered a setback.

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Excerpt:

This article forms part of the IPS coverage for World Food Day, celebrated on October 16.

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Latin America Calls for Free Movement of Persons in Global Compact on Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latin-america-calls-free-movement-persons-global-compact-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-calls-free-movement-persons-global-compact-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/latin-america-calls-free-movement-persons-global-compact-migration/#comments Mon, 04 Sep 2017 00:38:33 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151896 Latin America and the Caribbean called for the free movement of persons to be included in the Global Compact on Migration, which will be negotiated within the United Nations in 2018, in the first meeting held by any of the world’s regions to decide on the position to be adopted on the future agreement. Nearly […]

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Latin America Seeks New Ways to Fight Rural Povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-seeks-new-ways-fight-rural-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-seeks-new-ways-fight-rural-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-seeks-new-ways-fight-rural-poverty/#respond Thu, 31 Aug 2017 20:49:05 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151873 Experts in Latin America warned about the serious risk that would be posed if the fight against hunger, still suffered by 33 million people in the region, is abandoned, while proposing new alternatives and insights which include linking social protection with economic growth. More than 25 high-level experts met in Santiago, Chile on Aug. 28-29 […]

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Some of the academics, representatives of international organisations and former government authorities in social areas who took part in the workshop to launch the alliance to end rural poverty in Latin America at the FAO regional headquarters in Santiago, Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Some of the academics, representatives of international organisations and former government authorities in social areas who took part in the workshop to launch the alliance to end rural poverty in Latin America at the FAO regional headquarters in Santiago, Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Aug 31 2017 (IPS)

Experts in Latin America warned about the serious risk that would be posed if the fight against hunger, still suffered by 33 million people in the region, is abandoned, while proposing new alternatives and insights which include linking social protection with economic growth.

More than 25 high-level experts met in Santiago, Chile on Aug. 28-29 in a workshop to launch the Alliance to End Rural Poverty, sponsored by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

After debating “concrete and feasible proposals” to address the problem, they announced that they would take their initiatives in the next few weeks to the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean, a region with a population of over 640 million.“There are a series of new spaces for policies that are aimed at different purposes, such as social protection or climate change mitigation, but that at the same time can generate pathways out of poverty for the extreme poor.” -- Alain De Janvry

“The Alliance is a group that began to generate knowledge and proposals and to interact with the countries in the region to once again sink our teeth into the challenge of reducing rural poverty,” said Carolina Trivelli, a former Peruvian minister of social development and Inclusion who heads the Peruvian Studies Institute.

“We need a very strong narrative to put the eradication of rural poverty on the agenda of the countries and the region. For many, it is currently a not very attractive challenge because it goes unnoticed and the rural poor are out there in remote areas,” the expert told IPS.

Besides, “the rural poor have declined in number so it’s as if there was no longer a need to worry about them. But the opposite is true. We do need to worry because rural poverty has consequences not only for the lives of the poor but also for the national economies, for inequality and for the possibility of creating more integrated countries,” she added.

Trivelli, who will draft the workshop’s conclusions, stressed that “because the rural poor of today are not the same as they were 20 years ago, the initiatives to help them cannot be the same either.”

“We need policies to address different kinds of rural poor, in different territories, but they have to be smart policies that allow us to reinforce what already exists,” she said.

According to Trivelli, “there are many social programmes that reach poor people in rural areas, but we can add productive or economic development components that allow us to use the social protection platform to boost economic opportunities for the rural poor.”

Alain de Janvry, a professor from the Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics at the University of California-Berkeley, cited an example to illustrate.

“Rural poverty in Latin America is increasingly indigenous: 40 per cent of the rural poor are indigenous,” said David Kaimowitz, head of natural resources and climate change at the Ford Foundation, during his presentation at the workshop to launch the alliance to end rural poverty in the region. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

“Rural poverty in Latin America is increasingly indigenous: 40 per cent of the rural poor are indigenous,” said David Kaimowitz, head of natural resources and climate change at the Ford Foundation, during his presentation at the workshop to launch the alliance to end rural poverty in the region. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

“We have carried out a study on a monetary transference made in Mexico, after NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and in compensation for the low prices of maize due to competition from maize imported from the United States,” the academic told IPS.

“A cash transfer was made to all producers of maize and basic grains. These transfers were specifically to farmers – to the male head of the household. The funds were multiplied by two: for every peso received they used it to generate another peso. The second peso was generated by how they used the first peso in a productive investment,” he said.

According to De Janvry, “the potential that is being explored is that social protection can have positive impacts together with economic initiatives, and can eventually generate employment, incomes and economic growth – a strategy to generate profits.”

“Economic efficiency and productivity,” said the expert, stressing the initiative’s intergenerational impact.

“Educating children and giving them better health coverage makes it possible to keep them from falling into poverty because they have poor parents who have not educated them or given them proper healthcare. The idea is to give them the possibility to pull out of poverty thanks to education and improved health,” he said.

De Janvry advocated the promotion of small-scale family farming and rethinking social protection policies in rural areas, but also called for “identifying critical sectors in rural poverty such as indigenous poverty, problems of discrimination and the relation with the preservation of natural resources, such as climate change mitigation.”

“There are a series of new spaces for policies that are aimed at different purposes, such as social protection or climate change mitigation, but that at the same time can generate pathways out of poverty for the extreme poor,” he said.

For Trivelli, the new proposals of policies to end rural poverty “require new institutional arrangements” since “there is no ministry taking care of the rural poor, different sectors and levels of government have to pitch in, besides many private sector actors.”

“Extractive industries, for example, that operate in rural areas, and we have to get these institutions involved, different ministries, public entities, levels of government, private companies and organisations of farmers and rural dwellers themselves to reach agreements,” she said.

But the plans of the emerging Alliance are facing key constraints, such as the backdrop of a difficult decade for the region in terms of economic peformance, as projected by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

“The macro-fiscal context in the region is not the most positive. Clearly the battle for public resources is increasingly fierce, and therefore the narrative is very important,” Trivelli acknowledged.

In her opinion, “we have to make a good case for why governments should invest in ending poverty instead of doing a bunch of other things for which there are also lots of interest and pressure groups.”

During the launch of the Alliance,, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean Julio Berdegué said it was necessary “to not lower our guard” in the fight against poverty in the region, stating that 27 per cent of the rural population living in extreme poverty “is not an insignificant proportion.”

“We cannot evade the link between poverty and inequality,” he said, pointing out the people hit hardest by extreme poverty are indigenous women in remote areas.

Berdegué described the emerging Alliance as “a regional public good that transcends FAO and IFAD,” which will mobilise Latin America’s wealth and experience “to give the best support to the governments of the region interacting with them and with their organisations committed to ending rural poverty.”

Through the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)’s Plan for Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication, the region was the first in the developing South to commit to eradicating hunger by 2025, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which have set that goal for 2030 at a global level.

IFAD expert in public policies Lauren Phillips told IPS that the joint efforts together with FAO and other institutions that will join the Alliance “aim to propose better solutions to end extreme poverty in the region, which is very important for local people.”

“We are thinking of focusing on some key ideas where there is already evidence of the possibility of public policies achieving benefits, and also focusing on certain countries,” she said.

For Phillips, “we have to think strategically about where are the possibilities of achieving the most… we have to also think about the political situation of the countries and where we have evidence about the routes we need to take to make progress over the next few weeks.”

“We have to always think about what is feasible and realistic and what are the governments’ capacities,” the expert said. “We know that the governments of some countries need more technical support to implement the public policies.”

She believes that “it is a huge challenge faced by all developing regions, including Latin America. Perhaps the capacity to develop strategies exists, but to implement them is always harder due to a lack of resources and capacities.”

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Alliance to the Rescue of 33 Million Latin American Rural Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/alliance-rescue-33-million-latin-american-rural-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alliance-rescue-33-million-latin-american-rural-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/alliance-rescue-33-million-latin-american-rural-poor/#comments Tue, 29 Aug 2017 02:01:46 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151824 “There are 33 million rural dwellers in Latin America who are still living in extreme poverty and can’t afford a good diet, clothes or education, and we are not going to help them move out of poverty if we use the same strategies that worked 20 years ago,” FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué told IPS. […]

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Indigenous women, such as these farmers on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia’s official capital, are part of a group with the most difficulties to overcome extreme poverty in Latin America, and therefore require specific policies to give them equal opportunities. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

Indigenous women, such as these farmers on the outskirts of Sucre, Bolivia’s official capital, are part of a group with the most difficulties to overcome extreme poverty in Latin America, and therefore require specific policies to give them equal opportunities. Credit: Franz Chávez/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Aug 29 2017 (IPS)

“There are 33 million rural dwellers in Latin America who are still living in extreme poverty and can’t afford a good diet, clothes or education, and we are not going to help them move out of poverty if we use the same strategies that worked 20 years ago,” FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué told IPS.

Since 1990, rural poverty in the region was reduced from 65 per cent to 46 per cent, while extreme poverty fell from 40 per cent to below 27 per cent.

But while the proportion of rural extreme poor decreased by 1 percentage point a year between 1997 and 2007, the rate of decrease was only 0.2 per cent a year between 2007 and 2014.

To break that pattern in the most vulnerable rural group, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are launching this last week of August in Santiago, Chile the “Alliance to end rural poverty in Latin America.”

FAO regional representative Julio Berdergué. Credit: FAOALC

FAO regional representative Julio Berdergué. Credit: FAOALC

“There is a strong deceleration in the reduction of poverty, five times slower than before, only just 0.2 per cent per year,” noted with concern Berdegué, who attributed the phenomenon, among other causes, to a regional economic slowdown which has had an impact on employment and incomes.

“The strong, sustainable, solid solution to rural poverty is economic development in rural areas. Quality jobs, better wages: that is the best strategy to reduce rural poverty,” said Berdegué, who is also FAO deputy director-general, in the body’s regional office in the Chilean capital.

For Berdegué, “social policies compensate for the effects of economic development, but what we want is for people to stop being poor because they have better jobs and not because of good social programmes…that is a second best option.”

In his interview with IPS, the Mexican senior U.N. official said the region has already done a great deal to reduce poverty and extreme poverty and what remains is to eradicate the most difficult part of poverty, harder to combat because it is structural.

He cited the example of Chile, where less than three per cent of the rural population suffer from extreme poverty, but the people affected are indigenous women in remote areas, which makes the task of rescuing them from deep poverty especially complicated.

According to Berdegué, the policies and programmes created and implemented in Latin America to eradicate poverty successfully served their purpose ,“but not necessarily the same strategies and same programmes are the ones that will work for us in the final push” of putting an end to hard-core, entrenched poverty.

Luiz Carlos Beduschi, a Brazilian academic and policy officer in the FAO regional office,pointed out to IPS that one of the most significant programmes to combat poverty in Nicaragua consisted of giving extremely poor people chickens, pigs or pregnant cows along with technical assistance.

Specific policies for women

“The same policies that help rural men move out of poverty don’t work for rural women,” said Julio Berdegué, who stressed that in the region “we have a generation of women with levels of education that their mothers never dreamed of.”

“We must soon achieve labour policies that allow these women to fully accede to formal employment. They are all working a lot, but on their farms or in unpaid, informal work,” he explained.

“These young rural women under 35 are going to stay on their farms producing food, but many of them are going to be employed in manufacturing and services, in nearby cities or in the rural communities themselves,” he added.

The FAO senior official stressed that “economic empowerment and autonomy are key, absolutely key, and this requires policies designed with a gender perspective. Without this, we are not going anywhere.”

Another thing that is essential, he added, is access to financing because “a poor woman farmer goes to ask for a loan and a poor male farmer goes, and the chances that the woman and the man get it are very different.”

“In all elements that are necessary for the development of family agriculture: access to markets, to technical assistance, land, etc, we need to multiply them by two, three or four in order to guarantee women equal opportunities,” he concluded.

“A woman from District 7, in the periurban area of Managua, discovered a dormant entrepreneurial potential. She was given a cow, and today, eight years later, she has 17 cows. Her oldest daughter left to study and graduated as a dentist. The woman sold three cows to finance a clinic (for her daughter) in the neighbourhood. She is now involved in the economic and social fabric of that area,” Beduschi said. Her second daughter is now studying medicine.

He added that the beneficiaries of this programme do not so much need advice as other elements such as credit at an interest rate lower than the 20 to 30 per cent offered by local creditors.
“We have to design a new plan for new times,” he concluded.

Launching the new Alliance
More than 25 experts, researchers and decision-makers are meeting Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 in Santiago, summoned by FAO and IFAD to seek new strategies and instruments to combat rural poverty.

In this new Alliance Launch Workshop, the participants are identifying and disseminating a politically viable and technically feasible package of proposals to be implemented by Latin American governments, for each country to face the challenge of ending rural poverty from an innovative perspective.

The activities of this initiative will be carried out from now until July 2019, and will count on FAO resources for the initial phase.

Berdegué said the first successful result of the Alliance was bringing together this group of experts with the commitment of “putting their shoulders to the wheel” in seeking innovative solutions to put an end to rural poverty.

“We want to release the 1.0 version of a proposal that we are going to offer to the countries. Not more of the same, because that has us at a five times slower rate. And we want to produce the first ideas, the best that we can, but we don’t want to spend the next six months writing documents. The best that we can, the sooner we can, and with those instruments we will go to the countries,” he said.

“The meeting will be a successful one if we come out of it with a very concrete working plan, detailed in such a way that the following week we can be going to the countries, as we have already started to do in Ecuador and Nicaragua,” he told IPS.

“We have a specific work agenda for collaboration to put these ideas into practice, with public programmes and policies,” he added.

Among the new tools that are being discussed in the world and in Latin America, Berdegué pointed out the concept of a universal basic income, which has its pros and cons, and is hotly debated.

There is also the issue of rural labour markets “which are in general in a state of true disaster, with high levels of informality and very low female participation rates, among them young women who have received 10 to 12 years of schooling and have no job offers in line with this human capital they have acquired.”

And a crucial issue in the new agenda, not taken into account in the past decades, is inequality.

“Many of these 33 million poor are poor because they are first victims of inequality. A rural indigenous woman, in a less developed area, is victim of more than four inequalities: gender, ethnicity, rural and territorial. Besides, economic inequality, on grounds of social class,” Berdegué said.

“Good quality employment, better wages, that is the best strategy for reducing rural poverty. And we have an accumulation of inequalities that, if we do not solve them, it will be very hard to return to the rate of one percentage point of reduction of rural extreme poverty,” he concluded.

Academics, as well as government officials and representatives of social organisations are taking part in the FAO and IFAD meeting, joining forces to think about how to keep on combating rural poverty with the goal of eradicating it.

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Chilean President’s Apology to the Mapuche People Considered “Insufficient”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/chilean-presidents-apology-mapuche-people-considered-insufficient/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chilean-presidents-apology-mapuche-people-considered-insufficient http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/chilean-presidents-apology-mapuche-people-considered-insufficient/#respond Thu, 29 Jun 2017 01:27:00 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151087 Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s formal apology to the country’s Mapuche Indians, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them by the Chilean state, is seen by indigenous and social activists in the central region of Araucanía – the heartland of the Mapuche people – as falling short. Native leaders in that region are calling for […]

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Representatives of the Mapuche, Lonko and Machi people attend the raising of the flag in the Plaza de Armas in Vilcún, 700 km south of Santiago, one of the numerous ceremonies held in Chile on Jun. 24, declared a national holiday as We Tripantu, the Mapuche new year. Credit: Mirna Concha/IPS

Representatives of the Mapuche, Lonko and Machi people attend the raising of the flag in the Plaza de Armas in Vilcún, 700 km south of Santiago, one of the numerous ceremonies held in Chile on Jun. 24, declared a national holiday as We Tripantu, the Mapuche new year. Credit: Mirna Concha/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jun 29 2017 (IPS)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s formal apology to the country’s Mapuche Indians, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them by the Chilean state, is seen by indigenous and social activists in the central region of Araucanía – the heartland of the Mapuche people – as falling short.

Native leaders in that region are calling for concrete actions and policies with regard to key questions such as their demands for self-determination, respect for their rights to their ancestral land, water use rights, and an end to violence against indigenous people.

The latest incident took place on Jun. 14, when members of the carabineros militarised police used tear gas during a raid in a school in the town of Temucuicui, which affected a number of schoolchildren and local residents.

On Jun. 27, lawyers at the government’s National Human Rights Institute filed legal action on behalf of the schoolchildren in that Mapuche town of 120 families, in the region of Araucanía.“While the question of relations between the state and indigenous people is fundamentally political, any kind of self-determination must necessarily be accompanied by management of and access to economic resources. These are the most marginalised parts of the country, and are also paradoxically where the most profitable industries operate. That is immoral.” -- Carlos Bresciani

“This apology and acknowledgment that mistakes, and especially atrocities, have been committed is important,” said Adolfo Millabur, mayor of the town of Tirúa, the hub of the Mapuche people’s ancestral territory, with respect to the Jun. 23 request for forgiveness by the socialist president, during the launch of a Plan for Recognition and Development of Araucanía.

“I think it is positive that a president of Chile has recognised mistakes and above all atrocities committed after the Chilean state’s invasion of Mapuche territory started in 1860, in the misnamed ‘Pacification of Araucanía’,” he said.

The “Pacification of Araucanía” was a brutal military campaign by the Chilean army and settlers that ended in 1881 with the defeat of the Mapuche people, leaving tens of thousands of indigenous people dead and leading to the reduction of Mapuche territory from 10 million to just half a million hectares.

But Millabur called for “concrete measures to repair the damage caused” and said “the demilitarisation of the area would be a good gesture.”

“Children are suffering, there are victims of all kinds, Mapuche people have died, and there is no indication of how the state is going to act in the immediate future, if it is going to continue to militarise the area as it is doing now,” he added.

The Association of Municipalities with Mapuche Mayors acknowledged in a communiqué that Bachelet’s apology “is aimed at gaining a better understanding between the Mapuche people and the state.”

But it also said “this gesture must be accompanied by concrete developments such as new forms and methods of dialogue, a different approach by the police in our communities…fair trials for our brothers and sisters, and the non-application of the anti-terrorism law.”

The mayors were referring to the prosecution of Mapuche activists accused of setting trucks on fire, and the continuous raids on Mapuche homes and buildings, such as the one in the school in Temucuicui.

Mapuche activists have been arrested and prosecuted under the 1984 anti-terrorism law, put in place by the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) and still in force, which allows witnesses to conceal their identity while testifying, and provides for longer periods of arrest on remand and extremely heavy sentences.

According to the last census, from 2012, 11 percent of Chile’s population of 17.7 million people identify themselves as indigenous.

Of the country’s 1.9 million indigenous people, 84 percent are Mapuche. Smaller native communities in Chile include the Aymara, Atacameño, Pehuenche and Pascuense people.

Catholic priest Carlos Bresciani, the head of the Jesuit mission in Tirúa, told IPS that “it is laudable that the president apologised, but asking for forgiveness is not enough if it is not accompanied by fair reparations.”

 During the launch of a new plan for the region of Araucania, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet apologised to the Mapuche people on Jun. 23 in the name of the Chilean state, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them. Credit: Chilean Presidency


During the launch of a new plan for the region of Araucania, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet apologised to the Mapuche people on Jun. 23 in the name of the Chilean state, for the “mistakes and atrocities” committed against them. Credit: Chilean Presidency

Bresciani also believes greater dialogue with the Mapuche people will be possible “if more political questions such as self-determination or autonomy are put on the table, and if the dialogue includes all sectors, no matter how radical they might be.”

The priest was referring to the low level of representation of Mapuche leaders on the Araucania Presidential Advisory Commission, appointed by Bachelet in January 2015, which wrapped up its work in January with a package of proposals that included a suggested apology by the president.

“If she wants to talk about collective rights, (Bachelet) should be reminded of the treaties signed by Chile, such as convention 169 of the ILO (International Labour Organisation) and the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous people which, among other things, declares their right to self-determination or autonomy, terms that are absent from her plan for Araucanía,” Bresciani said.

Jorge Pinto, a history professor at the Universidad de La Frontera, a university in Temuco, the capital of Araucanía, who sat on the commission set up by Bachelet, told IPS that the government’s new plan for that region is “sound and complete” and interpreted the apology as a gesture aimed at reactivating dialogue.

“We need more dialogue,” said Pinto. “I agree with the president’s call for more dialogue, without repression, because repression brings more violence.”

But the academic urged “talks with the different actors from the region who have been left out so far.”

He also said “it is not enough to guarantee rights to land ownership and water use. Control over their land by indigenous people and autonomy in managing resources are also necessary.”

“No one is proposing that the forestry and hydroelectric companies pull out of the region,” said Pinto. “What we are saying is that agreements must be reached with the local communities affected by hydropower dams, logging companies and mines, and not with the authorities.”

Jesuit missionary Bresciani said “the main issue is not poverty or marginalisation; it’s political.”

“The proposals talk about economic or development policies,” the priest said. “While the question of relations between the state and indigenous people is fundamentally political, any kind of self-determination must necessarily be accompanied by management of and access to economic resources. These are the most marginalised parts of the country, and are also paradoxically where the most profitable industries operate. That is immoral.”

According to Bresciani, the extreme poverty in Araucanía “is the result of a systematic and planned policy to appropriate resources, under an unsustainable extractivist model. The measures proposed are not aimed at modifying these structural policies, but at continuing to offer money to turn the communities into clients of the existing system.”

Social activists and indigenous leaders admit the value of some of the initiatives included in Bachelet’s plans, such as the official declaration of Jun. 24 – We Xipantu, the Mapuche new year – as a national holiday, and a stronger effort to teach Mapuzungún, the Mapuche language, in schools in their communities.

They also applaud the proposal to explicitly recognise native communities in the projected new constitution, which would replace the current one, which dates back to 1980 and is a legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship which successive democratic governments have failed to replace, implementing limited reforms instead.

Activists say however, that the measures taken so far have been inadequate, and point out that Bachelet’s term ends in just nine months.

That will make it difficult to bring about real actions in areas such as land ownership and water use rights, which are key to a regional economy dominated by the interests of large logging, hydropower and mining companies.

Former right-wing president Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014), who is the favorite in the opinion polls for the November elections as the likely candidate for the Chile Vamos alliance, supports Bachelet’s apology to the Mapuche people.

“I agree with the apology because I believe that throughout history, many injustices have been committed against the Mapuche people,” said Piñera. He added, however, that “the apology is just a gesture, and does not solve any problem.”

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Q&A: “It’s a Crime” that 35 Million Latin Americans Still Suffer from Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/qa-its-a-crime-that-35-million-latin-americans-still-suffer-from-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-its-a-crime-that-35-million-latin-americans-still-suffer-from-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/qa-its-a-crime-that-35-million-latin-americans-still-suffer-from-hunger/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 22:33:10 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150579 Orlando Milesi interviews JULIO BERDEGUÉ, FAO regional representative

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Julio Berdegué, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, in his office in Santiago. Credit: Maximiliano Valencia/FAO

Julio Berdegué, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, in his office in Santiago. Credit: Maximiliano Valencia/FAO

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 24 2017 (IPS)

The fight against hunger has been “remarkably successful” in Latin America and the Caribbean, but “it is a crime” that 35 million people still go to bed hungry every day, FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué told IPS.

Berdegué, who is also assistant director-general of FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation), with decades of experience in matters related to rural development, said during his first interview as the new regional representative that the biggest challenge in Latin America and the Caribbean is inequality, which “is present in every action and contributes to many other problems.”

In the FAO regional office in Santiago, Berdegué, from Mexico, discussed with IPS issues such as obesity, “in which we are losing the fight,” the weakness of rural institutions, which facilitates corruption, or the weakness of the social fabric, which drug trafficking mafias depend on, as well as the need to address the question of water scarcity which is here to stay due to climate change, and where the key is the transformation of agriculture, which uses 70 per cent of all water consumed.

IPS: What do you consider are the greatest debts of the region in the agri-food sector?

JULIO BERDEGUÉ: We unfortunately still have very high levels of rural poverty. Nearly 50 per cent of the rural population is still living in poverty conditions and almost 30 per cent in extreme poverty. There are 58 million rural poor and 35 million living in conditions of indigence, who are not even able to feed themselves adequately.

IPS: This is happening in the region that has been the most successful in reducing poverty and hunger in this century…

JB: We have a problem with malnutrition and hunger, which even though they have been notably reduced, still stand at 5.5 per cent, which in human terms means that 35 million Latin Americans are still going to bed hungry every day, and six million children are chronically undernourished… Which is a crime. And of these, 700,000 children suffer from acute and chronic undernutrition… that is terrible.

IPS: In that context, which will be the priorities of your administration?

JB: The main thrust has been continuity, and I want to adhere to that. FAO’s mission and strategic objectives are clearly defined in a medium-term work plan discussed and approved in May in Rome (at FAO’s global headquarters).

The first objective has to do with hunger…undernourishment and malnutrition will continue to have a central role in the agenda. The second has to do with greater sustainability of agriculture, contributing to global food security, in a sustainable manner.

The issues of rural poverty, where unfortunately family agriculture is included, beyond what people might think, are not yet lost, but we still have a long way to go. Also the importance of food systems, which have experienced in the past 25 to 30 years a radical shift in their depth and speed, and the importance of resilience in the face of climate change.

IPS: And what are the regional assets available to carry out these tasks?

JB: We must not lose sight of the fact that Latin America is a great contributor to global food security. What our region does in this matter is very important, and we must take advantage of this strength.

This is also a region with enormous biodiversity. In terms of biodiversity the region is a player of global importance and whatever we do well or badly affects each person on this planet.

IPS: Has there been progress in the political and social spheres?

JB: The question of peace in the region is another asset. What has happened in Colombia (with the peace agreements that came into force in late 2016) is exciting for all of us, and is of utmost importance. In the last 20 years there has also been heavy spending in rural areas, on roads, electrification, telecommunications, and access to basic services, education and health. The educational levels of our rural people under 35 are far higher than that of their parents. These are assets that we need to mobilise.

IPS: And what are the weaknesses you perceive in these same fields?
JB: In rural areas, government institutions are very weak, in most countries in the region… The exceptions can be counted on the fingers of one hand… and they are weak because they are outdated, because there is much corruption, patronage, use of public budgets for particular interests, and that weakens the government and public action for the benefit of society as a whole. It makes our job difficult.

IPS: Apart from that difficulty, what other challenges does the region face?

JB: The rural social fabric has been weakening in some countries. The penetration of drug trafficking, of violence, which often goes hand in hand with corruption, makes life very hard for the inhabitants of those rural areas and makes it very difficult to bring political solutions that would increase their opportunities and well-being. The situation in some Central American countries is extremely concerning. In my own country, Mexico, the situation worries all Mexicans. The levels of violence in Venezuela… There are countries where the weakening of the social fabric is a warning sign.

IPS: Latin Americans are facing a new and growing problem, obesity, without yet having solved that of chronic malnutrition…

JB: Malnutrition is a crime. The fact that more than half of the rural children in Guatemala suffer from chronic undernutrition is unacceptable in the 21st century, but obesity is killing us. Not long ago, Mexico’s minister of health, Dr. José Navarro, who until recently was the provost of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), reminded us that obesity kills more people than organised crime in Mexico. Obesity is definitely killing us.

IPS: Do malnutrition and obesity have anything in common?

JB: First, let me say in what they differ. We have greatly reduced undernutrition. In this, Latin America has been remarkably successful, even at a global level. We are the only region that has met its Millennium Development Goals. But in terms of obesity we are losing the fight badly. Every day there are more overweight and obese people.

What they have in common, from FAO’s perspective, is a radical change in Latin America’s food systems. The world in which we had local markets and people ate locally produced food, where many people went home to eat, has disappeared forever.

Today our food systems are globalised, the bulk of the distribution of food products is through supermarket chains, most of what we eat are ultra-processed foods. Even our farmers eat mostly purchased food: processed and ultra-processed.

IPS: But this is a global phenomenon, as you say, not only regional…

JB: The point is not the transformation of the agri-food systems. That transformation can also be observed in Norway, Canada or New Zealand. They have the same patterns of urbanisation, of eating outside the home, purchasing in supermarkets, ultra-processed foods, etc. The difference is that in those places there are public policies. Ours is a transformation that responded to market forces without public policies. The market achieves important things… today food products are much cheaper, but with enormous consequences, one being obesity and the erosion of public health in all aspects that have to do with what and how we eat.

IPS: So, what public policies are needed in the region to tackle obesity?

JB: What has to be done is to ‘redirect’ these transformation processes of the food systems, bearing in mind that we have public objectives. Redirecting means setting certain limits. For example, what is being done in Chile and to some extent in Mexico with sugary beverages, and labeling. There are healthy and unhealthy foods, and consumers have to know this.

Redirecting also means putting greater emphasis on public education with regard to healthy eating. It means that if there are places with less access to a more varied diet, to fresh fruit and vegetables, we cannot leave it to be solved by the market.

IPS: Another problem that is creating conflicts is water, its scarcity and its uses. What should be done from the agri-food sector?

JB: We have a terrible problem here, which is that agriculture is consuming 70 per cent of our planet’s fresh water. This is not sustainable and has no future. If I were president of a given country in 30 or 50 years, and they told me: ‘To produce potatoes you are using 70 per cent of the water and people have no water in the cities because of climate change,’ as president I would say: ‘well, we will import potatoes, and stop growing them.’

Between giving water to the people or producing potatoes, lettuce or asparagus… we are going to lose that fight. Our farmers fight, they organise to get more water, and it is good that they do that. We make dams and reservoirs, that’s great. But we have to start thinking how we can practice agriculture using less water, how we can produce the same amount of food without using 70 per cent of the water, and using half of that instead. We cannot talk about ‘zero water’ agriculture, but it should be much less than 70 per cent, and this is something that we are not thinking about.

We are used to using water almost without restrictions, and climate change is putting an end to that. We will not be able to go rapidly from 70 to 35 per cent water use in agriculture, but we better start now because otherwise climate change will win the race.

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Excerpt:

Orlando Milesi interviews JULIO BERDEGUÉ, FAO regional representative

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Defence of Right to Water Drives Call for Land Reform in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/defence-of-right-to-water-drives-call-for-land-reform-in-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=defence-of-right-to-water-drives-call-for-land-reform-in-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/defence-of-right-to-water-drives-call-for-land-reform-in-chile/#respond Thu, 18 May 2017 03:04:10 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150447 Water at high prices, sold as a market good, and small farmers almost a species in extinction, replaced by seasonal workers, are the visible effects of the crisis in rural Chile, 50 years after a land reform which postulated that “the land is for those who work it.” To tackle the crisis, environmental and social […]

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Small-scale farmers from Samo Alto, in northern Chile, are forced to share the scarce water of the Hurtado River with large agro-exporters, who benefit from a dam built downstream. In this country, water is a private good, granted in perpetuity to the concessionaires. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Small-scale farmers from Samo Alto, in northern Chile, are forced to share the scarce water of the Hurtado River with large agro-exporters, who benefit from a dam built downstream. In this country, water is a private good, granted in perpetuity to the concessionaires. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 18 2017 (IPS)

Water at high prices, sold as a market good, and small farmers almost a species in extinction, replaced by seasonal workers, are the visible effects of the crisis in rural Chile, 50 years after a land reform which postulated that “the land is for those who work it.”

To tackle the crisis, environmental and social activists are proposing a new land reform to reclaim water as a public good, at a time when a persistent drought is affecting much of Chile, making it necessary to use tanker trucks to distribute water in some low-income neighbourhoods in cities around the country.

Last year the number of villages, small towns and neighbourhoods that were left without water and were supplied by tanker trucks also doubled in relation to 2015, said water department director Carlos Estévez.

“In Chile, water has become a capital good, left to the discretion of speculators and separated from the land, while international jurisprudence indicates that it should be available for the preservation of life and food production, and only after that, for other economic activities,” expert and activist Rodrigo Mundaca told IPS.“The green revolution is a model that does not preserve natural assets. Our export model is associated with monoculture and we need to promote a new development paradigm based on a harmonious relationship with nature.” -- Rodrigo Mundaca

Mundaca, the secretary-general of the Movement for the Defense of Access to Water, Land and the Protection of the Environment (Modatima), said that “a second land reform is key to recovering water,” after the one carried out in the 1970s.
“The green revolution is a model that does not preserve natural assets. Our export model is associated with monoculture and we need to promote a new development paradigm based on a harmonious relationship with nature,” he said.

This South American country is a major producer and exporter of food products, thanks to the production of major companies and consortiums that own the land and water.

The mining industry still accounts for half of Chile’s exports, which amounted to over 60 billion dollars in 2016. But this is also one of the 10 top countries in the world in food exports, ranking first for several products. The food industry represents a total of 20 billion dollars in exports.

Meanwhile, the current regulation of the right to water in Chile, after it was privatised in 1981 during the 1973-1990 military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, is threatening small-scale family farmers, who are fighting for at least partial restoration of public control.

The 1980 constitution states that water is a private good. The use of hydric resources, according to the laws of the market, is regulated by the Water Code, which gives the state the power to grant usage rights to companies free of charge and in perpetuity.

It also allows water usage rights to be bought, sold or leased without taking into consideration priorities of use. In Chile, there are 110,000 water-use rights contracts in force under the Water Code.

The government of socialist President Michelle Bachelet introduced a proposed amendment to the Code in Congress, although its final approval will take several months.

The amendment would make water usage rights temporary rather than perpetual. But it would only apply to future concessions, and would not be retroactive, which has drawn criticism from environmentalists and social activists in rural areas.

Fifty years after the land reform launched by the Christian Democrat government of Eduardo Frei (1964-1970) and expanded by socialist president Salvador Allende (1970-1973), support for a second land reform plan that would make water a social good once again is growing.

A group of young people who attended the release this month in Santiago of the study “The grandchildren of the land reform: employment, reality and dreams of rural youth in Chile,” by FAO consultant Sergio Faiguenbaum, who found that young people in rural areas in the country have three times as much formal schooling as their parents. Credit: INDAP

A group of young people who attended the release this month in Santiago of the study “The grandchildren of the land reform: employment, reality and dreams of rural youth in Chile,” by FAO consultant Sergio Faiguenbaum, who found that young people in rural areas in the country have three times as much formal schooling as their parents. Credit: INDAP

Between the cities of Petorca and Antofagasta, in arid northern Chile, 200 and 1,340 km from the country’s capital Santiago, respectively, the prices for a year’s water rights for a liter of water per second – the amount needed to irrigate one hectare of vineyard – range from 7,670 dollars to 76,700 dollars, said Mundaca, referring to cases that make the reform necessary.

The rest of Latin America

Luiz Beduschi, a Territorial Development Policies officer at the Santiago-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, told IPS that “historically, Latin America has been one of the regions with the highest levels of inequality in the distribution and use of natural resources.”

“This phenomenon has among its causes an increasing concentration in the value chains, the establishment and growth of companies that exploit resources at an industrial scale, backed by public policy approaches that foster an increase in the participation of these countries in export markets,” he said.

Beduschi stressed that “the expansion of investment in the region through sowing pools (speculative investment funds), annual leases or purchases of large extensions of land, among others, has contributed to a higher concentration of land than before the land reforms that were carried out in several countries in the region.”

“Conflicts over access to natural resources have been on the rise around the world and the situation is no different in this region,” said the FAO expert.

“The historical processes of agricultural reform, strongly promoted in different countries in the region, which in the case of Mexico was carried out 100 years ago, and 50 years ago in Chile, allow us today to once again discuss the widespread question of inequality, which arises from the global concentration of the ownership and use of natural resources, historically reflected in land ownership,” he said.

Impacts of the model to be reformed

Agronomist Jacques Chonchol, minister of agriculture during Allende’s government and a promoter of the land reform process, told IPS that the new reform made sense because the counter-reform carried out by the dictatorship “practically privatized water, an increasingly scarce resource.”

“We have very little arable land: less than ten per cent of Chile’s 757 million square kilometres, and part of that is being lost” to the phenomenon of the selling off of parcels of land in rural areas as second properties of city dwellers, he warned.

Chonchol also expressed the need for “a forestry policy that excludes agricultural lands. That was prohibited, but during the dictatorship, it began to happen again. Forestry plantations should be banned on farmland, and these companies should plant native trees, since pines and eucalyptus absorb a lot of water.”

He believes that the counter-reform “gave rise to a new capitalist agriculture, much more efficient from an economic point of view, although not always in social terms,” in a model that “perpetuates inequality”, which the democratic governments have maintained.

On the social level, historian José Bengoa told IPS that until the land reform, there were three kinds of farmers in Chile: “small landholders grouped in towns and villages; tenant farmers and their families, on the big estates; and ‘outsiders’ who wandered between the towns and estates.”

“That structure changed dramatically and today a great majority are non-permanent agricultural workers, who live in towns and cities near agricultural areas,” Bengoa said.

“There is a small sector of small-scale farmers, who could be called peasants, who are the majority in some regions and sectors, and then there is an increasing proportion of seasonal workers,” he said.

For Bengoa, “Chilean agriculture is nowadays, due to the land reform carried out 50 years ago, a highly capitalist and productive sector.”

“This activity, without any controls, leads to an unprecedented level of exploitation of human resources, workers and natural resources, such as water. In the next few years there will be serious problems, both in terms of the need for manpower and of the need for resources such as water and land, as well as environmental problems,” he predicted.

According to Bengoa, these problems cannot be easily solved, because “the agricultural sector will pressure the state to increase the flow of migrant workers, and for more infrastructure works, in particular in water reserves.”

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Fishing Village Fights Iron Mine in Northern Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fishing-village-fights-iron-mine-in-northern-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fishing-village-fights-iron-mine-in-northern-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fishing-village-fights-iron-mine-in-northern-chile/#respond Tue, 11 Apr 2017 22:09:39 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149913 In Punta de Choros, a hidden cove on Chile’s Pacific coast, some 900 fishers do not yet dare celebrate the decision by regional authorities to deny the Dominga port mining project a permit due to environmental reasons. The fishers, from the northern region of Coquimbo, are afraid that the government will unblock the project, in […]

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Punta de Choros, a picturesque cove in northern Chile, has become a major tourist draw, and the number of restaurants, lodgings and whale-watching boat tours has climbed. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Punta de Choros, a picturesque cove in northern Chile, has become a major tourist draw, and the number of restaurants, lodgings and whale-watching boat tours has climbed. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
LA HIGUERA, Chile, Apr 11 2017 (IPS)

In Punta de Choros, a hidden cove on Chile’s Pacific coast, some 900 fishers do not yet dare celebrate the decision by regional authorities to deny the Dominga port mining project a permit due to environmental reasons.

The fishers, from the northern region of Coquimbo, are afraid that the government will unblock the project, in which the Chilean company Andes Iron planned to invest 2.5 billion dollars for the extraction of iron ore, promising 9,800 jobs in the building phase and 1,400 in the production phase.

The project would affect several nature reserves, and the local fishers also question the effects from the traffic of cargo ships and from a desalination plant.“More than a political problem, what we have here is a problem with the environmental assessment. There were a series of irregularities and that means that the impacts on one of the world’s 36 top biodiversity hotspots cannot be assessed.” -- Liesbeth Van der Meer

And as they said in interviews with IPS, they also doubt that the cabinet of ministers will uphold the decision by the regional environmental authorities, who rejected the plan for the Dominga mine, controlled by the Délano family.

Andes Iron will file an appeal this month to the cabinet – which will reach the final decision – asserting the positive aspects of the project, which is to extract 12 million tons a year of iron concentrate and other 150,000 tons of copper concentrate.

The 10,000-hectare project would involve an open-pit mine with a useful life of 26.5 years, a plant and a tailing disposal facility. It would also require a port to export the minerals to China, Japan and other markets.

“It is an area rich in benthic resources (bottom dwellers) and in algae and microorganisms. We want the mining project to be redesigned. Development is needed, especially in a poor area like this, but it has to be well done,” geographer and park ranger Paulina Correa, head of the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, told IPS.

“We have low-impact tourism here. Many people make a living from this and protect it. We want development that protects the environment,” said Correa, lamenting that the mining project has divided the community between those who make a living from fishing and tourism, and those who live in the foothills of the Andes mountains.

Punta Choros has an official permanent population of 238, but that figure is multiplied by ten during tourist season, with the influx of workers employed by a dozen restaurants and lodgings that cater to the tourists drawn by the spectacular beaches, whale watching and traditional seafood cuisine.

The project was initially approved by the Coquimbo regional environmental authority, which stated that the mine complied with “the applicable environmental regulations,” and that the company “had corrected any errors, omissions and inaccuracies.”

Oscar Rebolledo, deputy director of the Coquimbo environmental authority, said “the measures proposed (by the company) take responsibility for the effects and circumstances” that may result from the mining project.

Signs against the Dominga iron mine are seen all over Punta de Choros, where fishers point to the growing catches, nature reserves crucial to the planet’s biodiversity, and the presence of large marine mammals, to argue against the extractive project in this village in northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Signs against the Dominga iron mine are seen all over Punta de Choros, where fishers point to the growing catches, nature reserves crucial to the planet’s biodiversity, and the presence of large marine mammals, to argue against the extractive project in this village in northern Chile. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

But Coquimbo Governor Claudio Ibáñez disagreed, and on Mar. 9 cast the vote that broke the tie between six regional secretariats, rejecting the project.

“What the company proposes in terms of environmental reparations or redress is inadequate to properly ensure the right to live in an environment free of pollution, the protection of the environment, the conservation of nature and the preservation of the environmental heritage,” said Ibañez, explaining his decisive vote.

He said he was aware that Dominga represents “an important possibility for economic and social development,” but added that he is just as aware that “we are putting at risk one of the world’s most important nature reserves and the habitat of dozens of species.”

Local fisherman and diver Josué Ramos, a member of the Los Choros fishing association, began making a living harvesting surf clams (Mesodesma donacium) in 1996. He told IPS that in 2000 the clam became locally extinct, and two years later a restocking programme started to be implemented.

World biodiversity hotspot
The area where the open-pit mining project is to be developed includes the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, created in the year 1990 to protect this species (Spheniscus humboldti), which is listed as vulnerable. The reserve is home to 80 per cent of the species’ entire population.

The area is also home to other endangered species: the Peruvian diving petrel (Pelecanoides garnotii), a seabird that can dive 80 metres deep, and mammals such as the South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens) and the rare marine otter (Lontra felina). The reserve includes three islands where several species of threatened endemic flora grow, which are under protection due to the fragility of the ecosystem.

Also in the area is the Choros-Damas Island Marine Reserve, with 49 species of flowers, including the yellow añañuca (Rhodophiala bagnoldii). Near the Chañaral island, whale watchers in the summertime see bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus).

“Just 10,000 clams, of the 100,000 that were projected, were restocked. But 14 years later, the effort had produced results. Today there is an 18-km beach with a 10-km productive area, and the clams are expanding,” he said.

“The year 2015 was the first year they started harvesting while simultaneously studying and monitoring the biomass. We extracted 670 tons and from a management area controlled by local people 95 tons were harvested. In 2016, the number increased to 832 tons in the main area and my trade association extracted 156 tons,” said Ramos.

“With the awareness that has been generated, we have obtained better results in the management areas, the seabeds to which the state gave us exclusive access to use and protect. Along 30 km of coastline, there are six management areas, which represent 70 per cent of the production of benthic resources in the region,” he said.

Ramos is opposed to Dominga because “they overexploit, export and then the prices rule. To obtain a ton of iron ore, which currently fetches 52 dollars, they leave 100 tons of tailings with chemical compounds. We harvest a ton of clams for 1.5 million dollars, and we only lift the sand, we don’t change it in any way.”

The local fisherman has “no expectation” that the cabinet will uphold the local environmental authority’s rejection of Dominga and believes that “the cursed progress” is going to prevail.

“Two ministers that vote have already resigned,” he added, in reference to the recent resignations of the ministers of transport, Andrés Gomez Lobos, and the environment, Pablo Badenier.

On Mar. 30, representatives of Andes Iron met with a dozen shepherds in the Casa Dominga, in the municipality of La Higuera. Although the meeting was closed, IPS saw the minutes.

“We are going to fight with everything we have. There is injustice here and we are not going to give in,” a representative of the company told the shepherds, who are in favour of the mine, and who took turns reporting on their interviews with local radio stations to discuss the positive aspects of the project.

At the end of the meeting, Omar Alfaro, with the La Higuera association of shepherds, told IPS that thanks to a framework agreement, “the Dominga project would improve the productive sectors, and when the mine closed down, we would be left with greater development in activities like agriculture, shepherding and fishing.”

Alfaro took part in a community meeting where the framework agreement was signed, which commits the company to pay “a minimum of 1.3 billion and a maximum of 2.6 billion pesos (between two and four million dollars) a year for projects, once the mine starts producing,” he said.

The agreement includes “the genetic improvement of livestock and the possibility of reforesting and recovering the native forest, deteriorated by prolonged droughts,” he said.

About the water the mine will use, Alfaro said that “a hydrogeologist explained the situation to us” stating that Dominga “is going to re-inject water into the same river basin.”

“We are hopeful that our institutions will be respected. I believe the project is important for the country, and the cabinet has a huge opportunity to revert and organise the technical instruments that have been used by the environmental institutions,” Iván Garrido, general manager of the Dominga project, told the online newspaper Pulso.

He urged the cabinet “to assess the report” by the Coquimbo environmental authority, which was favourable to the company.

Liesbeth Van der Meer, executive director of the non-governmental organisation Océana Chile, believes that the project will be rejected in the end.

“More than a political problem, what we have here is a problem with the environmental assessment. There were a series of irregularities and that means that the impacts on one of the world’s 36 top biodiversity hotspots cannot be assessed,” she told IPS.

If Dominga is approved, it will amount to “a crime against our natural heritage,” she said.

Van der Meer said he hoped “that not all development in Chile will be extractivist,” and called for respect for fishers and tourist operators in Punta de Choros, where the number of visitors soared from 900 in 1998 to 50,000 in 2016.

Mining is crucial to the Chilean economy and attracts more than one-third of all foreign investment, in a country that is the leading world producer of copper and other minerals, such as rhenium, lithium and iodine, as well as an important producer of several other minerals.

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Latin America Is a Leading Influence in the Global Fight Against Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/latin-america-in-the-vanguard-of-global-fight-against-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-in-the-vanguard-of-global-fight-against-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/02/latin-america-in-the-vanguard-of-global-fight-against-hunger/#respond Sat, 11 Feb 2017 20:09:48 +0000 Orlando Milesi and Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148916 A model for fighting against hunger and malnutrition with a global reach which has been successful within and outside the region has spread worldwide, first from Brazil and then from Latin America, notes a distinction given to the current Director-General of FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation), José Graziano da Silva. Graziano was included […]

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Children eat lunch at a school in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in a community where most children live in poverty, but thanks to the synergy between family farming and school meals, they have managed to eliminate malnutrition among the student body. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Children eat lunch at a school in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in a community where most children live in poverty, but thanks to the synergy between family farming and school meals, they have managed to eliminate malnutrition among the student body. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Orlando Milesi and Mario Osava
SANTIAGO/RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 11 2017 (IPS)

A model for fighting against hunger and malnutrition with a global reach which has been successful within and outside the region has spread worldwide, first from Brazil and then from Latin America, notes a distinction given to the current Director-General of FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation), José Graziano da Silva.

Graziano was included in the 2016 ranking of “Global Latin Americans” with influence at a global level, drawn up by the international edition of the journal AméricaEconomía, along with Pope Francis from Argentina, Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim, Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, microfinance pioneer María Otero, who was born in Bolivia, famous Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio, Mexican-born journalist Jorge Ramos and Venezuelan poet Rafael Cárdenas, among others.

“He has been one of the most steadfast advocates of food security, working on the whole issue of rural life, which is why we put him on the list,” the journal’s director of digital media, Lino Solís de Ovando, told IPS.

AméricaEconomía, an international journal that is published in Santiago and which also has eight national or subregional editions as well as a large digital platform, seeks with this “unprecedented ranking to provide a list of the 25 most influential men and women,” he said. Not all of them are “in the front row,” but they are all “people who truly generate global change” with their activities, he said.

Graziano, director-general of FAO since 2012, a post he will hold until 2019 after he was reelected for a second term in 2015, led the team that designed Brazil’s “Zero Hunger” programme, which gave rise to a new global model.

“The recognition of people is an acknowledgment of the ideas and the causes to which they devote their lives. In this case, it is a recognition of rural development and the fight against hunger in Latin America and worldwide,” Graziano said on Thursday Feb. 9, referring to his inclusion on the list of Latin Americans with the greatest global influence.

Named special minister of food security and the fight against hunger (2003-2006) during the first years of the presidency of leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), “Graziano played a decisive role in coming up with strategies to combat hunger, combining structural and emergency actions,” the executive director of ActionAid International, Adriano Campolina, told IPS.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva speaking at the fifth Celac Summit, in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. Credit: FAO

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva speaking at the fifth Celac Summit, in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. Credit: FAO

“His efforts translated into loans to family farmers, improved school feeding and income transfer policies, among other initiatives,” Campolina said from the humanitarian organisation’s headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa.

According to Campolina, in his strategy Graziano “had the wisdom to identify in society effective and liberating ways to fight hunger,” translating them into public policies and “recognising that many solutions lay in the successful initiatives carried out by social movements and non-governmental organisations.”

Graziano was in charging of setting in motion “the most important programme in Lula’s administration, Zero Hunger, which had the full acceptance of all segments of Brazilian society, even the opposition to Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT),” said Frei Betto, who helped design and launch the programme, as special adviser to the president.

“Zero Hunger comprised more than 60 complementary and empowering programmes, including agrarian reform, unionisation, family agriculture, and rainwater harvesting others,” said the well-known Catholic writer, who is also an adviser to different social movements.

Its administration was in the hands of “civil society organised in Management Committees, which were created in more than 2,500 municipalities, half of Brazil, during Graziano’s term of office,” said Betto.

But in 2004 the government decided to focus its efforts on cash transfers, through Bolsa Familia, “which was compensatory in nature”. That led to Betto’s resignation, while Graziano became adviser to the president, until he was named FAO’s regional representative in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2006.

The replacement of Zero Hunger with Bolsa Familia, which provided direct subsidies, was due to pressure from municipal authorities who wanted to control the lists of beneficiaries for electoral purposes, said Betto.

“Fortunately, Graziano was recognised internationally, elected and re-elected as head of FAO, to take the initiative and experience of Zero Hunger to other countries,” he said.

“At FAO, Graziano had the political courage to recognise the key role played by small-scale family agriculture, women farmers, agroecology and sustainable agriculture in eradicating hunger,” said Campolina.

Recognising these tendencies, instead of prioritising large-scale agriculture and transnational corporations that abuse toxic agrochemicals, is “the paradigm shift that makes it possible to combat the structural causes of hunger,” he said.

“Graziano’s leadership strengthened the fight for access to land and sustainability and boosted family farmers, who produce 80 per cent of the world’s food,” said ActionAid’s executive director.

Economist Francisco Menezes, a former president of Brazil’s National Council of Food and Nutritional Security (2003-2007), stressed that “one of Graziano’s legacies is being able to get Brazil, Latin America and the world to give priority to the goal of food security.”

Graziano himself expressed hope at the fifth summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), held in January, that “Latin America and the Caribbean could become the first developing region to fully eradicate hunger.”

For this to happen, Menezes said, governments must reinforce the implementation of the Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication Plan developed by Celac with FAO support, whose goal is to put an end to the problem in the region by 2025.

Solís de Ovando also underscored FAO’s focus, during Graziano’s administration, on the issue of obesity and overweight, which affect 360 million people in the region, according to a study released by the organisation in January.

In its “Global Latin Americans” 2016 ranking, AméricaEconomía also highlighted the efforts made by the head of FAO in South-South cooperation and the exchange of solutions and experiences between countries of the different regions of the Global South, with the goal of achieving food security and sustainable development.

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Measures Are Proposed to Address Violence in Mapuche Land in Chilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/measures-are-proposed-to-address-violence-in-mapuche-land-in-chile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=measures-are-proposed-to-address-violence-in-mapuche-land-in-chile http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/01/measures-are-proposed-to-address-violence-in-mapuche-land-in-chile/#respond Thu, 26 Jan 2017 23:07:42 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=148691 The lands where the Mapuche indigenous people live in southern Chile are caught up in a spiral of violence, which a presidential commission is setting out to stop with 50 proposals, such as the constitutional recognition of indigenous people and their representation in parliament, in a first shift in the government´s treatment of native peoples. […]

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Members of the Mapuche people during one of their demonstrations defending their rights, in particular their claim to theirancestral lands, in the region of La Araucanía, Chile. Credit: Fernando Fiedler/IPS

Members of the Mapuche people during one of their demonstrations defending their rights, in particular their claim to theirancestral lands, in the region of La Araucanía, Chile. Credit: Fernando Fiedler/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Jan 26 2017 (IPS)

The lands where the Mapuche indigenous people live in southern Chile are caught up in a spiral of violence, which a presidential commission is setting out to stop with 50 proposals, such as the constitutional recognition of indigenous people and their representation in parliament, in a first shift in the government´s treatment of native peoples.

President Michelle Bachelet received on Monday Jan. 23 the recommendations from the Presidential Advisory Commission to address the conflict in the La Araucanía region, home to most of the country’s Mapuche people, who make up nearly five percent of Chile’s population of just under 18 million people.

The Mapuche leaders and their supporters accuse the police deployed to the region of being “agitators” and of militarising the area, while logging companies and landowners call the local indigenous people “terrorists” and demand a heavy-handed approach towards them.

Among the proposals of the Commission, created in July 2016, are the creation of a national registry of victims of violence and compensation for them, support for the economic development of the Mapuche people – the largest native group in Chile – and solutions to return native land to the Mapuche people, in land disputes.“A historical debt is recognised with respect to the Mapuche people, but there is no analysis of what this debt consists of, let alone the deep current and historical causes of this now existing violence in La Araucanía” -- Jorge Aylwin

In addition, the Commission recommended that the president “publicly apologise, in representation of the Chilean government, for the consequences this conflict has had for the Mapuche people and any other victims of the violence in the region.”

The package of proposed measures comes in the wake of a dozen arson attacks early this year in rural areas of La Araucanía against logging company trucks and storehouses by unidentified perpetrators, who in some cases left pamphlets with demands by the Mapuche movement.

The attacks reached their peak around Jan. 3-4, dates marked in the indigenous struggle for their rights, in memory of Matías Catrileo (2008), a young Mapuche victim of a gunshot from the police, and of the elderly Luchsinger Mackay couple (2013), who died in their house when it was burnt down by unidentified assailants.

Chile´s manufacturers´ association, SOFOFA, to which the two main logging companies that extract timber in La Araucanía belong, said the region “is no longer governed by the rule of law” and that “the incapacity of the powers of government to respond and fulfill their functions of law enforcement and punishment of crimes is evident.”

“It is not an absence of the rule of law, it is a lack of respect and infringement of the human rights of these people. That is a serious thing. It is the government that undermines their rights. Talking of an absence of the rule of law is just an excuse to put the military in the territory,” Carlos Bresciani, a Jesuit priest who lives in the Tirúa village, in the area of conflict, told IPS.

“Here everything works fine, people live normally, they plant, they harvest, they run their errands, they work. The people who talk about an absence of the rule of law have never lived here. We are not at war. There are no bullets whizzing by or bombs destroying cities,” he said by telephone.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet receives the final report to address the urgent problems that face the Mapuche people, drafted by the Presidential Advisory Commission for La Araucanía, in a ceremony on Jan. 23, at the La Moneda Palace. Credit: Presidency of Chile

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet receives the final report to address the urgent problems that face the Mapuche people, drafted by the Presidential Advisory Commission for La Araucanía, in a ceremony on Jan. 23, at the La Moneda Palace. Credit: Presidency of Chile

Upon presenting the conclusions of the 20-member Commission, their leader, Catholic Bishop Héctor Vargas, said La Araucanía is a “wounded and fragmented region” that is facing a “gradual intensification of its problems.”

These problems, explained the bishop of Temuco, capital of La Araucanía, “involve a historical debt to the Mapuche people, the dramatic situation of the victims of rural violence, and the very worrying indicators which rank us as the poorest region in the country.”

La Araucanía and poverty

In the region, poverty by income fell from 27.9 to 23.6 per cent, but it is far above the national average of 11.7 per cent, according to the latest national survey.

Besides, the so-called multidimensional poverty affects more than 30 per cent of the people in the region, compared to a national average of 19.11 per cent.

In fact, in La Araucanía are five of the seven municipalities with the highest multidimensional poverty rates in Chile, and the average regional income is of 382 dollars a month, far below the national average of 562 dollars.

“The government has neglected this land and its people,” said Vargas, who added that these issues are difficult to address because “they generate contradictory positions and views and deep feelings of grief, impotence and resentment.”

The bishop called for an end to the violence “before hatred puts an end to us… If we want to disarm our hands, we have to first disarm our hearts.”

For José Aylwin, head of the non-governmental Citizen Observatory, the proposals of the Commission lack “a rights-based approach,” for example with respect to the occupied ancestral lands.

“A historical debt is recognised with respect to the Mapuche people, but there is no analysis of what this debt consists of, let alone the deep current and historical causes of this now existing violence in La Araucanía,” he told IPS.

”There is no reference to the violence carried out by the police against the Mapuche people or the promotion of the forestry industry which has resulted in the consolidation of a 1.5-million-hectare forest property to the south of the Bío Bío river,” said Aylwin.

The Commission´s proposal, he said, “acknowledges the existing political exclusion and proposes special forms of representation for indigenous people, but does not set forth other options such as autonomy and self-determination in areas of high indigenous density.”

“The bias towards productive development is clear, it refers to new productive activities, such as fruit orchards, but it includes wood pulp,” which is of interest to forestry companies, said the head of the Observatory.

Interior Minister Mario Fernández admitted during a parliamentary inquiry on Monday Jan. 23 that in La Araucanía “there is terrorism, but there is also an atmosphere of violence that has other roots.”

“We will not solve with repression or simple solutions a problem that has been going on for centuries. Rule of law doesn’t mean a right to repress, it means respecting the rights of people,” he said.

Bresciani stressed that the use of the word violence in La Araucanía “is tendentious and seeks to create a strained and clearly discriminatory climate around the social demands of the Mapuche people.”

“The term violence has been co-opted by right-wing business interests who want to create that scenario in order to justify further judicialisation and militarisation of the territory…therefore, measures of repression,” he said.

According to the priest, the violence in La Araucanía “is exercises by the political and extractionist neo-liberal economic model” and “there is an older cause which has to do with the usurpation of the lands that the Mapuche people used to have, which reduced them to poverty and humiliation.”

Bresciani considers that a solution will be found “when this conflict is seen as a political conflict, and not judicial or having to do with the police or with poverty. And from there, measures have to be taken to ensure the recognition of native peoples and return to them their lands.”

“They used to have 10 million hectares when they were invaded and now they have between 500,000 and 900,000,” he said.

Isolde Reuque Paillalef, one of the three women on the Commission and the only indigenous social leader, said “there is a new and knowledgeable vision,” after listening to the victims of violence on both sides.

But “it will also depend on who is supporting the most violent groups, because the violence is not just violence… there must be other interests involved,” she told IPS.

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