“All signs show that Paraguay, both its territory and its population, are under attack by conquerors, but conquerors of a new sort. These new ‘conquistadors’ are racing to seize all available arable land and, in the process, are destroying peoples’ cultures and the country’s biodiversity — just as they are in many other parts of the planet, even in those areas that fall within the jurisdiction of ‘democratic’ and ‘developed’ countries. Every single foot of land is in their crosshairs. Powerful elites do not recognize rural populations as having any right to land at all.” – Dr. Miguel Lovera
Photographs by Orin Langelle. Analysis at the end of the essay by Dr. Miguel Lovera from the case study: The Environmental and Social Impacts of Unsustainable Livestock Farming and Soybean Production in Paraguay. Dr. Lovera was the President of SENAVE, the National Plant Protection Agency, during the government of Fernando Lugo.
The major injustices toward the land and the people in Paraguay are large-scale genetically modified (GM) soy production by multinational corporations and deforestation due to unsustainable livestock production.
The expansion of soybeans and cattle in Paraguay is based on the theft of peasant and aboriginal communities’ land holdings and ancestral lands.
The key common characteristic underlying all large-scale rural production in Paraguay is that it is based on massive illegal land grabbing.
Soybeans are produced on the fertile soils of eastern Paraguay, the best soils in the country.
Most of the soy grown in Paraguay is Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready transgenic variety. Other U.S. transnational corporations involved in the soy business are Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).
Small-scale farmers have been displaced (or worse) due to soy production and forced off the land to live in slums.
Some 50% of the deforestation in eastern Paraguay is the conversion of forests to soy monocultures.
And the main environmental implication of the growth of intensive cattle ranching is deforestation.
The Chaco region is where most of the deforestation is being undertaken today to create pasture and establish cattle ranches. In 2013, 268,000 ha of forest were destroyed in the Chaco. Deforestation rates in this region were the highest in the world in 2013, reaching up to 2,000 ha/day.
The production of beef for export markets by very large-scale, predominantly Brazilian (70% of the meat export facilities are in Brazilian hands) cattle ranchers are by far the main cause of deforestation and indigenous land grabbing in the Chaco.
The Ayoreo Indigenous People of the Chaco have been in the way of development and many have been captured and confined to to “concentration camp” settlements.
However there are still uncontacted Ayoreo that live in voluntary isolation in the Chaco forest that remains.
Many parts of the Chaco (and other areas South of the Amazon) are far too remote and isolated to explore in detail so the possibility is high that there are additional communities living in voluntary isolation.
The following series of photographs were taken at the 3 December 2014 anti-Monsanto march and rally held in Asunción:
The technological approaches driven by the Green Revolution, now including genetically modified seeds and pesticides, have caused degradation of the fertile lands and loss of biodiversity across the country and the indiscriminate use of agrochemicals.
Business as usual – U.S. style
“An island surrounded by land” is how Paraguay is sometimes described partly because it is one of the two land-locked countries in the Western hemisphere (the other is Bolivia), but also because of its distinctive history and politics. Paraguay’s economic activity centers on agriculture and livestock, and in terms of land tenure presents the most unequal and unfair case of distribution worldwide.
Livestock and soy production (almost wholly of Monsanto’s Round Up Ready transgenic variety) are the most important primary production sectors. Most of the land in the country is privately controlled and devoted to these two commodities. Hence, most of the negative environmental and social impacts derive from these two activities. A vast proportion, about 96%, of the soybeans cultivated in Paraguay are destined for export as livestock feed. A majority of the cattle slaughtered each year in the country are also exported, with most of this trade controlled by a handful of multinational companies that form an oligopoly not only in Paraguay, but around the world.
– From the beginning of the excellent case study The Environmental and Social Impacts of Unsustainable Livestock Farming and Soybean Production in Paraguay prepared by Dr. Miguel Lovera on behalf of the Centro de Estudios e Investigacion de Derecho Rural y Reforma Agrara de la Universidad Catolica de Asuncion, Paraguay and Global Forest Coalition can be downloaded at this site.