Last update:
2022-02-15

Sugarcane plantations in the Cauca Valley, Colombia

Large-scale sugarcane plantations across Cauca Valley have resulted in land loss, damage to water resources, health problems, displacement, and violence



Description:

Environmental and social conflict in the Cauca River Valley is caused by intensive sugar cane monoculture exploitation. Although the planting and subsequent industrial processing of cane has been considered for years an important sector of economic development for the region, it was only until 2008 when cane cutters began mobilizing to demand true labor and environmental protection in the region.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Sugarcane plantations in the Cauca Valley, Colombia
Country:Colombia
State or province:Valle del Cauca, Cauca, Risaralda y Caldas
Location of conflict:Santander, Cali, Florida, Pradera, Palmira, Buga, Tulua, Zarzal, entre otros.
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Water access rights and entitlements
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Ethanol
Sugar
Water
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The sugar cane monoculture is mostly located on the banks of the Cauca River, in several departments, north of Cauca, Valle del Cauca and part of Risaralda and Caldas. The planted area almost doubled between the 1960s and 1980s, going from 64,000 to 110,000 ha. As of 1990, as a result of the economic opening, specialization towards the cultivation of sugar cane is accentuated until reaching 203 thousand hectares planted in (half of the available land of the geographic valley of the Cauca River).

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Project area:205000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:10,000,000
Start of the conflict:2003
Company names or state enterprises:Asociación de Cultivadores de Caña de Azúcar de Colombia - Asocaña
Centro de Investigación de la Caña de Azucar - Cenicaña
Asociación Colombiana de Productores y Proveedores de Caña de Azucar Procaña from Colombia
Relevant government actors:Presidencia de la República de Colombia, Ministerio de Agricultura, Gobernación del Valle del Cauca, Gobernación del Cauca, Risaralda y Caldas, Corporación Autonoma Regional del Valle del Cauca
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Coordinación Agraria del Cauca, Movimiento de Trabajadores Corteros de Caña 14 de Junio, Instituto Mayor Campesino - IMCA, Sindicato Nacional de Corteros - Sinalcorteros, Community Biodiversity Development and Conservation - CBDC, Universidad del Valle Cinara, Grupo Semillas
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Trade unions
Women
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Genetic contamination, Global warming, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage)
Health ImpactsPotential: Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Repression
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
On February 17, 2011, Sandra Viviana Cuellar Gallego was murdered. Sandra was recognized in Valle del Cauca and nationally and internationally for her work as a defender of the rights of local communities struggling against sugarcane, and for her work as an artist [1].
On April 27, 2012 in Florida, Valle, unknown individuals murdered DANIEL AGUIRRE PIEDRAHITA, a trade unionist, general secretary of the National Union of Sugarcane Cutters-SINALCORTEROS and a worker at the Ingenio del Cauca.
Proposal and development of alternatives:Some researchers indicate that with what the sugarcane agribusiness owes for reasons of the social and environmental debt of the sector for the period 1990-2007 (environmental liabilities) it is a value close to $11.1 billion current pesos, a sum that is equivalent to US$ 6,092 million dollars. That could be invested in housing, health, education and better labor contracts for cane cutters.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The conflict generated by the monoculture of sugar cane cannot be considered a triumph of Environmental Justice, because it currently continues despite the efforts of different social and environmental organizations, as well as scientists and researchers who have demonstrated the serious consequences generated by this intensive exploitation. The support of the national government is maintained for the sugar union, which to a certain extent has polarized the conflict, preventing the environmental justice process from taking place.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Ley 693 de 2001 estimula el uso y la producción de alcohol carburante

El Código de Recursos Naturales: Esta norma surgió en 1974 como principal respuesta de Colombia ante los acuerdos alcanzados en la Conferencia de Estocolmo sobre Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo.

Ley 788 de 2002 introdujo las exenciones del IVA, impuesto Global y sobretasa al componente alcohol de los combustibles oxigenados. CONPES 3510 de 2008 en donde se definen las políticas y estímulos para el sector cañero.

Ley 1233 de julio 22 de 2008, pero que solo tiene vigencia a partir del 22 de enero de 2009. Esta nueva Ley rige las Coperativas de Trabajo Asociado.

Ley 99 de 22 de diciembre de 1993. Se crea el MINISTERIO DEL MEDIO AMBIENTE, se reordena el Sector Público encargado de la gestión y conservación del medio ambiente y los recursos naturales renovables, se organiza el Sistema Nacional Ambiental -SINA.

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Pérez, M & Alvarez, Paula. (2009) Deuda Social y Ambiental del Negocio Cañicultor en Colombia: Responsabilidad social empresarial y subsidios implícitos en la industria cañera análisis en el contexto del conflicto corteros-empresarios. Grupo Semillas, Bogotá.
[click to view]

Álvarez, P. (2008). Los agrocombustibles en Colombia: una historia de ciencia ficción. En tierra y territorios sin agrocombustibles. Asproinca y Grupo Semillas.

Pérez, M. (2008). Los agrocombustibles: ¿Sólo cantos de Sirena? Análisis de los impactos ambientales y sociales para el caso colombiano.
[click to view]

[1] Censat - Por una permanencia digna en los territorios: Seguimos recordando Sandra Viviana Cuellar Gallego
[click to view]

[2] Vidas Silenciadas - DANIEL AGUIRRE PIEDRAHITA
[click to view]

elespectador.com

26 sept 2008 - 12:00 a. m.

El paro de los corteros de caña
[click to view]

corteros.blogspot.com

Ambiente agitado

2 de octubre de 2008
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:MARIO PÉREZ RINCÓN, updated by Dalena Tran
Last update15/02/2022
Conflict ID:686
Comments
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