by Marie Trigona
October 30, 2009
COA News - 2009-10-29
Marie Trigona is a writer,
radio producer and filmmaker based in Argentina.
She can be reached at
Worldwide, industrial mono-culture farming has
displaced traditional food production and farmers, wreaking havoc on food
prices and food sovereignty.
This is particularly true for the global south,
where land has been concentrated for crops destined for bio-diesel and
animal feed. In response, peasants and small farmers organized actions in
more than 53 countries on October 15 for International Food Day as an
Via Campesina, one of the largest
independent social movement organizations, representing nearly 150 million
National Indigenous Campesino Movement
of Argentina joined the protests taking place on around the world by
organizing a march in Buenos Aires for International Food Day.
Argentina has often been described as South America’s bread basket because
it once produced grain and beef for much of the region. But with the
transgenetic soy boom the nation has shifted to a mono culture production
for export, displacing traditional food production and farmers.
Hundreds of campesinos marked the day with protests against this
agricultural model outside of Argentina’s Department of Agriculture.
“For the government, the countryside [is
made up of] the landholding organizations and the agro-businesses, we
practically don’t exist,” says Javier from the campesino movement in
Cordoba, an organization that includes more than 1,500 families who have
depended on traditional agriculture for generations.
“We are also part of the countryside. We are
the ones who live on the land and protect the land. We want to continue
to live on our land, for future generations.”
According to Argentina’s 2008 agricultural census, more than 60,000 farms
shut down between 2002 and 2008, while the average size of farms increased
from 421 to 538 hectares. The shift to soy has replaced cultivation of many
grains and vegetables and even the country’s beef production.
Researcher at the nation’s social research
institute CONICET, Tamara Peremulter outlines the affects of
monoculture soy on food production.
“Soy historically hasn’t been grown in
Argentina. Soy was brought in during the 1960’s during the Green
Transgenetic soy has been brought to
lands where before cultivation wouldn’t have been possible. The low
production cost of soy helped this process.
Soy has replaced other crops, invading areas
that were historically for cattle grazing and dairy production. Soy has
also invaded indigenous and traditional farming communities. This model
also implies deforestation and loss of biodiversity”
Land access and disputes over land titles has
become one of the central issues for traditional farmers being replaced by
machinery and high tech mono-culture farms.
The National Indigenous Campesino Movement of
Argentina (MNCI) reports that 82 percent of farmers live off of 13
percent of the nation’s land used for agriculture, while 4 percent of large
land holders or “growing pools” financial investors in the agro industry own
more than 65 percent. The disparities in land titles have lead to violent
On October 12, 2009 a day on which indigenous communities commemorate the
genocide of their people following Christopher Columbus’s arrival in 1492,
an indigenous farmer, Javier Chacoba was murdered during a protest
against the forced eviction of indigenous people off of lands. The 68-old
farmer died of a gun shot wound to the abdomen by Dario Amín, a
Members of the Chuschagasta community had
been camping along a provincial highway bordering the lands to demand land
recognition for the Chuschagasta when Amín and two ex-police officers showed
up at the protest.
“On the day commemorating 519 years of
genocide in Latin America, we suffered the loss of our brother (Javeri
Chacobar) for simply standing up for his rights, defending his dignity
and land that belongs to him,” said Margarita Mamaní, member of the
“They have been evicting farmers and members of the indigenous community
from lands. People have been killed in the evictions,” says Ricardo
Ortiz is an indigenous representative from the Campesino Movement of
Santiago del Estero (MOCASE).
More than 9,000 families make up MOCASE, a
grassroots movement of traditional farmers and indigenous groups.
“Now they killed a farmer in Tucuman, a
brother. He was in a march to demand their rights and the man who bought
the lands took out a gun and shot the man and injured four more. The
government has been blind, deaf and mute; this is why we are worried.”
In 2008 alone more than 35 campesinos were arrested and arrest warrants
issued for 95 more, in Mendoza, Formosa and Santiago del Estero, in
communities rejecting the agro-industrial model.
Santiago del Estero is a province once rich in
forest land and untouched by soy. This changed as the boom in soy prices has
made these remote areas now profitable for soy growers.
This is a “witch hunt,” as the MNCI has described the situation for
campesinos resisting land evictions, and defending traditional cultures.
Local police enforce eviction orders and meet
any resistance with police force, clubs and many times bullets.
“Campesinos resisting are suffering a
violent political persecution. We demand that detained farmers are
released, that officials, judges and police that violate human rights be
investigated and that evictions are stopped,” declared the MNCI.
Agro Industry Creates
The shift to mono-culture crops and land concentration has stretched into
cultivations traditionally employing small farmers such as vineyards.
Argentina’s wine industry has boomed in recent
years, with the total value of Argentine wine in the US increasing from 75
million to 146 million dollars between 2006 and 2008. Mendoza is Argentina’s
largest wine producing region, with a micro climate perfect for the Malbec
Access to water is a major issue for rural
and indigenous communities there.
Marcelo Quiroga from the Union of Rural Workers (UST) says
that much of the vineyards in Mendoza have been monopolized by French and
Swiss investors, who buy land and mechanize wine production.
“They are using machinery to replace
workers. By producing high quality wines for export the wineries have
essentially monopolized the production. Who suffers is the rural worker
who can’t find work, and ends up living in a shanty town due to rural
Rural displacement results in poverty and
joblessness; the poorest provinces in Argentina have ironically hosted a
boom in soy industry, with soy fields replacing forests and even cattle
The MNCI has reported that the soy model
creates only one job post for every 500 hectares cultivated.
Meanwhile, traditional agriculture provides 35
job posts for every 100 hectares cultivated, while also guaranteeing food
diversity, production or local markets and sustainable use of resources such
as land and water.
the globalization of Argentina’s food
system has led to spikes in food prices, and increasing rural poverty.
This has become a global trend.
“A billion people are without food because
industrial monocultures robbed them of their livelihoods in agriculture
and their food entitlements,” writes Vandana Shiva in the Nation
Via Campesina does have an alternative to
the agro industry, pushing for governments to promote local, traditional
farming which provides communities with real food.
“It’s time for all civil society to
recognize the gravity of this situation, global capital should not
control our food, nor make decisions behind closed doors. The future of
our food, the protection of our resources and especially our seeds, are
the right of the people,” said Dena Hoff, coordinator of Via
Campesina North America.
Food sovereignty as defined by Via Campesina
is the peoples’ right to define their agricultural and food policy, and the
right of farmers and peasants to produce food. Worldwide communities are
seeking an alternative to a model controlled by Cargill,
Monsanto, General Foods, Nestle and Kraft
Starved by industrialization and concentration,
citizens are now hungry for traditional production methods and diversity in
the food system.