Biofuel agribusiness companies are seizing Guatemalan smallholder farmland, often by force, and with the full support of the Guatemalan government. These traditional farmlands are then transformed into vast palm oil or sugar cane plantations whose crops feed the increasingly mighty U.S. and European biofuel companies.
Hundreds of Guatemalan families have been evicted from land that they have worked for generations. In early 2011 in the Polochic Valley, fully armed military and paramilitary forces swept down on thirteen indigenous Mayan communities, terrorizing them and forcing them from their land. Similar evictions are planned around the country.
In some cases, the agribusiness company or the government presents the smallholder farmers with a choice: take a miniscule amount of money for their land or have it taken from them.
The result is the same: the smallholder farm families are reduced to terrible poverty. As their extended families, friends, and neighbors have suffered a similar fate, they have no refuge, no place to turn for help. They are homeless.
For many, the only hope of survival is to work for the very companies that displaced them. That, in fact, is the agribusiness public relations line: their biofuel plantations are providing thousands of jobs directly and indirectly. The truth, however, is that, with their land gone, farm families are reduced to serfdom, earning US$8 a day working the plantations and threatened with replacement by outside workers if they protest their wages or their working conditions.
Whether families work the plantations or not, village life is being decimated. One displaced smallholder farmer in Arroyo Santa Maria in Guatemala’s Peten Department told a reporter: “They came over to the village and said we’d better sell our land before they will take it from us. So we all sold our parcels. Today, we can’t go through the land; it all belongs to the palm [and to the Hame agri-industrial company]. We have no firewood, no access to water and, even if we do, it’s all polluted because of their chemicals flowing in their canals. They just kill us slowly.”
At the heart of the agribusiness land grab is a deep-seated arrogance. Without the agribusiness companies, says Carlos Widmann, head of a powerful Guatemalan family and its Chabil Utzaj agribusiness company, the peasants would be condemned “to misery. What can they do with some maizito,” he demands in a sneering reference to the country’s traditional small-plot farms.
What can they do? They can grow food for their families and for the local market and live a simple independent life as they have done for generations. But for Carlos Widmann and so many other agribusiness executives that is no life at all.
One reason agribusiness companies can so easily seize land from smallholder farmers in Guatemala and many other developing countries is a lack of clear land titles and laws at the local, regional, and national level.
Another reason is government collusion. Officials meet in secret with the agribusiness companies, cut their land grab deals with no input from the smallholder farmers, and then provide the muscle to back up the agribusiness companies.
The biggest reason of all, of course, is money and the power that comes with it. Guatemala’s smallholder farmers have neither.
What can you do to help?
Para superar el cambio climático, debemos unirnos como seres humanos. Tenemos que reunir a millones de personas, miles de comunidades y cientos de países. ¿Cómo puede ayudar? Donar su tiempo y su energía y sus ideas para proteger el planeta y la humanidad en si:
1.- Comparte este artículo con otras personas.
2.- Envíame un correo electrónico para participar de alguna manera en el establecimiento de una granja educativa, donde podrás aprender estas técnicas que podrá enseñar a otros. Envíeme un correo electrónico a: email@example.com
3.- Escribir un comentario más abajo para que otros puedan ver su posición respecto a la realidad de asunto.
Author: Frank Liz is a futurist, an entrepreneur, and the author of Saving A Planet At Risk: How Climate Change and Global Food Shortages Could End Civilization . . . and What We Can Do to Save the World.
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