Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sugar Cane Burning, Pesticide Use and Organizing in the Bajo Lempa Make the International News!

Dear SHARE Friends and Community,

As many of you know, years of chemical pesticides and sugar cane burning in the Bajo Lempa region of El Salvador have put the health and lives of thousands of families at risk.  Renal failure is a serious problem that has taken the lives of countless community leaders and friends and until very recently, this situation wasn't national news in El Salvador, despite community organizing against chemical pesticides and alarming rates of dialysis and death.  The Bajo Lempa is one of the areas most devastatingly affected by flooding on an almost yearly basis; a two-decades effort for prevention and mitigation projects has finally resulted in concrete actions on the part of the government, but the struggle continues.

Given this situation, we're excited to share with you all this great in-depth article on Al-Jazeera English about the situation in the Bajo Lempa.  While the article is focused on one of the many community-based organizations working for environmental protection, advocacy for public works, healthcare rights, education, and organic agriculture, it does a great talking about the general situation in an area where SHARE has worked for many, many years: with the Women's Cattle Cooperative and CRIPDES San Vicente.

Following is a short excerpt; please read Climate: Putting People Over Money for more!

A movement with teeth
Alonzo Sosa with the environmental unit of the Mayor's office of the Municipality of Tecoluca is part of the Movement for the Defence of Life and Natural Resources.

"We started this movement two and a half years ago because of the rampant health problems people in our communities were experiencing due to the unsafe farming practises of the industrial farmers, like the sugarcane producers," Sosa told Al Jazeera.

"The chemicals they use, contaminating our water, overuse of land and widespread kidney failure, this is all very serious. So now, we are pushing for better farming practises, trying to eliminate these chemicals and burning, because it damages our biodiversity."

According to Sosa, "It's not just environmental units in local governments that will solve this crisis. We need local governments, journalists, communities, everyone. The only requirement to join our movement is for you to care for the environment and our resources."

Needless to say, the larger producers of sugarcane in El Salvador have not met the movement's requests with open arms.

"The bigger producers are carrying out these atrocious practises, because they are only interested in their own capital and profit," Sosa added, "We are in a constant struggle with the cane operators who desire perpetual expansion."

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