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Resistance to soy monoculture expansion in Colonia Barbero, San Pedro, Paraguay


Description

The rural community of Colonia Barbero is struggling against the expansion of soy plantations. One of the states limiting with the Colonia is owned by DAP, a company which says to produce “Responsible Soy” as defined by the RTRS (Roundtable on Responsible Soy). Yet, peasants employed by DAP have complained about the irregularity of their contracts and the preference to employ foreign labourers by the company despite their initial promises and the regulations regarding labour set by the RTRS [2].

DAP has used GM seeds since its establishment in San Pedro to enable spraying. Peasants lament the detrimental effects that pesticides have on their own health, other crops and livestock [2].

Faced with local resistance, DAP has tried to encouraged small-scale farmers to try out their industrial agricultural techniques. Mechanization was encouraged to help the farmers achieve economic viability and sustainability [2].

In Colonia Barbero, the arrival of DAP divided the families in the community. Around 700 households received assistance. Some of the ones excluded opposed collaboration with DAP, but others were simply left out despite their will to be assisted [2].

The provision of economic assistance to enable mechanization among small farmers by DAP has not brought the expected results, given the lack of experience of the peasants. Although some were willing to mechanize, they were only provided by credits which they did not know how to invest realistically. This has resulted in high debt after bad harvests and, consequently, increased vulnerability of smallholders. Moreover, mechanization has also led to several social and environmental problems, such as pollution of water, soil depletion, contamination of neighbouring plots growing organic produce, etc. [2] The property of “La Fortuna” has been a site for social upheaval during the last decade.. A committee was formed in 2006 to oppose the establishment of soybean monocultures in the area. They sent letters and documents to protests against the settlement of DAP in the area, and a group of people went to the capital of San Pedro in 2006 to demonstrate against it. In addition, a camp was establishment at the entrance of the state to protest against the use of agrochemicals by the company. Nevertheless, the local government ignored the protests and DAP entered the area and established soy plantations [4]. Fumigation has taken place repeatedly, which led to complaints by the local peasants regarding death animals, health of children and pollution of neighbouring plots. Environmental laws have been violated several times and reporting by the locals has been ignored. Corn has also been planted in the area by DAP [4].

Other local farmers are also affected by the expansion of soy in the area. In San Pedro, there is a municipal regulation since 2012 that protects 30 different communities as “agroecological zones”. One of them is located in Colonia Barbero. The regulation prohibits, inter alia, the utilization of agrochemicals and GMOs and cutting trees growing next to water streams [3]. A group of smallholders produced organic Marian that was sold to European markets through a cooperative, and the municipal regulation was meant to protect them. Yet, the export of organic Marian was suspended in 2015 because rests of agrochemicals had been found. The smallholders suspected that their Marian had been polluted by fumigations in surrounding monocultures and the lack of rigour in applying the municipal regulation by the local authorities [3].

Basic Data

NameResistance to soy monoculture expansion in Colonia Barbero, San Pedro, Paraguay
CountryParaguay
ProvinceSan Pedro
SiteColonia Barbero
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)Land acquisition conflicts
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Agro-toxics
GMOs
Specific CommoditiesLand
Soybeans

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsThe rapid growth of the soy industry in Paraguay is partly due to the introduction of Genetically modified varieties of soy. It is estimated that nowadays, around 95% of the soy produced in the country is GM resistant to herbicides [2]. The Paraguayan government has favoured foreign investment in the agricultural sector through the construction of infrastructure and low tax system [2].

Soy occupies more than 2,6 million ha in the country, causing deforestation, displacement of rural communities, soy depletion and pollution of the environment derived from the use of pesticides. Most of the Paraguayan soy is exported to Europe, where it is mainly used as animal feed [1]. The rest is used to make biofuels, cooking oil and other food products [2]. The soy frontier in Paraguay is rapidly expanding towards the province of San Pedro [1].

DAP is a Paraguayan company which works as investor and producer of soy. 90% on their production uses Montsantos GM seeds [1]. It owns 30,000 ha in San Pedro. They employ very few people and most of them do not even have a contract. In addition, they work with smallholders -as part of their “programme for responsible soy” (RTRS)- to whom they pact a fixed amount per hectare. The small farmers decide the wages for the plantation workers. Despite the RTRS has a set of “responsible labour conditions”, compliance with them is low for external labour [2].

The RTRS has been widely criticized for certifying as responsible plantations highly dependent on harmful pesticides and which use GMO seeds. Instead of stopping it, the RTRS helps to further expand soy plantations [2].

Different civil society organizations have criticized the RTRS and its members for silencing small peasants through offering them benefits on the short-term and hiding destructive and continued expansion. [2]

San Pedro is a region characterized by local resistance against the expansion of soybean monocultures by smallholders who grow different crops for own consumption [1].
Project Area (in hectares)5,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population3,000
Start Date2006
Company Names or State EnterprisesGrupo Desarollo Agricola Paraguay (DAP) from Paraguay
Relevant government actorsLocal government San Pedro
International and Financial InstitutionsRoundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersASEED Europe http://aseed.net/

Base Investigaciones Sociales http://www.baseis.org.py/

Corporate Europe Observatory https://corporateeurope.org/

Grupo de Reflexión Rural http://www.grupodereflexionrural.com/

Rain Forest Action Network https://www.ran.org/

Fundación Rosa Luxemburgo http://www.rosalux.org.ec/es/

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Genetic contamination, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Malnutrition
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseStrengthening of participation
Development of AlternativesIn San Pedro, there is a municipal regulation since 2012 that protects 30 different communities as “agroecological zones”. One of them is located in Colonia Barbero. The regulation prohibits, inter alia, the utilization of agrochemicals and GMOs and cutting trees growing next to water streams [3]. A group of smallholders produced organic Marian that was sold to European markets through a cooperative, and the municipal regulation was meant to protect them. Yet, the export of organic Marian was suspended in 2015 because rests of agrochemicals had been found.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Despite protests, DAP established a soy monoculture in the area. Fumigation has taken place and neighbouring plantations have been polluted, but a response from the authorities has been lacking.

Sources and Materials

References

[4] Holland, N., et al., 2008. "The Roundtable on Irresponsible Soy"
http://www.lasojamata.net/files/RTbriefing%202008_6.pdf

[2] Gijsendergh, A. “¿Responsible Soy? A corporate response to the negative impacts of soy production and expansión on sustainable and inclusive development” Master Thesis
https://dspace.library.uu.nl/handle/1874/290471

[1] Corporate Europe Observatory, 2009. '“Soja Responsible” en Paraguay: El Grupo DAP y el avance del monocultivo de soja en San Pedro'
https://corporateeurope.org/sites/default/files/sites/default/files/files/resource/grupodap_article_es_0.pdf

[3] Areco, A. “Defensa territorial. Iniciativas locales” BASE, Inestigaciones Sociales and Fundación Rosa Luxemburgo
http://www.baseis.org.py/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2016Dic_Defensa-territorial.pdf

Links

Ultima Hora (local online newpaper)
http://www.ultimahora.com/los-vecinos-barbero-piden-se-declare-una-zona-ecologica-n804564.html

Video letters against soy struggles in Paraguay, ASEED Europe (NGO website)
http://aseed.net/en/video-letters-about-soy-struggles-in-paraguay/ videos

"Peasant protest demanding debt cancellation" ABC Color (online newspaper)
http://www.abc.com.py/edicion-impresa/interior/campesinos-reanudan-protesta-en-san-pedro-para-exigir-extincion-de-deudas-1431967.html

Other Documents

Protest ub colonia Barbero Source: Ultima Hora
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/prrr.jpg

Protest agaisnt the RTRS, in Asuncion, august 2006 Source: Corporate Europe Observatory
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/pr.jpg

Meta Information

ContributorClàudia Custòdio
Last update27/04/2017

Images

 

Protest ub colonia Barbero

Source: Ultima Hora

Protest agaisnt the RTRS, in Asuncion, august 2006

Source: Corporate Europe Observatory