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By Darío Aranda
The monoculture of trees (pine and eucalyptus) has the same consequences as the soybean advance: evictions of peasants and indigenous people, clearing, use of pesticides, concentration of land in few hands. Various organizations today commemorate the International Day to Combat this extractive activity. And in Misiones, the forestry leader of Argentina, there is an atypical case. Peasants managed to expropriate land from one of the largest multinationals in the sector (Alto Paraná-Arauco). "Sowing struggle, we harvested 600 hectares", summarized the farmers of Independent Producers of Piray (PIP).
Piray is a municipality northwest of Misiones, 190 kilometers north of Posadas (Montecarlo department). In kilometer 18 of the old national route 12, of land, the peasants of PIP live. The plots are between ten and twenty meters wide, one next to another, and only 70 meters deep, where the Alto Paraná pine trees marked the limit for producing, raising animals and living. Since 2006, the peasants denounce the business advance and resist repeating the future of neighboring places, of exodus and marginalization.
In 2010, Independent Producers of Piray (together with local technicians from the National Secretariat of Family Agriculture) began to develop a project to produce healthy food, raise animals and not have to leave their territory. But they needed land.
After dozens of actions (mobilizations, information campaigns, roadblocks) they achieved in June 2013 a provincial law to expropriate 600 hectares from the multinational Alto Paraná (Grupo Arauco). The provincial law itself recognizes the negative impact of forestry agribusiness: “In 1997 and 1998, favored by liberal policies to the detriment of missionary agriculture, the process of land concentration began by the Alto Paraná company, innumerable jobs were lost. work that led to the rural exodus ”. And it points out the massive disappearance of small farms.
The expropriation of the 600 was celebrated by the peasants in 2013, but they warned that compliance was still lacking. The government of Misiones took four years to deliver the first 166 hectares (out of 600), and it did so because PIP did not stop mobilizing and demanding compliance with the law.
Both PIP and technicians from the Secretariat of Family Agriculture (Ministry of Agroindustry of the Nation) denounced that only half (83 hectares) are capable of being used for agriculture. The government of Misiones, in conjunction with Alto Paraná-Arauco, included lands belonging to neighborhoods with more than 40 years of existence in the 166 hectares and even included neighborhood roads (which should not count as expropriated lands). The complaints fell on the Instituto de Fomento Agropecuario e Industrial (IFAI - official body in charge of implementing the expropriation), which also delays the delivery of tools and machinery.
Despite the delay and the maneuvers of officials and the company, the PIP peasants celebrate that they already have land, where they began to clean up (pine waste) and plant corn, squash, cassava and beans.
“At this stage we intend to sow for our own consumption, and to be able to have a surplus for sale in the following stages. We are working with very rudimentary tools, but with great enthusiasm because we are getting land that was destined for afforestation to be converted into land for food production ”, explained the Independent Producers of Piray. And they remarked the victory: “We have managed to 'broaden the horizon', the pines and eucalyptus trees are no longer in the patio of our house, they have moved away and now the wind blowing is a little purer. It is an important achievement for the whole community, we will no longer see it being fumigated behind our houses ”.
The peasants demand that the handover of the 600 hectares established by law be completed and together with other rural organizations they are going for more: that article 51 of the Constitution of Misiones be implemented, which establishes that the land must fulfill a social good.
On September 30 there will be a celebration in Piray. The peasants will come together for the achievement obtained, they were not expelled from their land and they expropriated land from one of the largest multinationals in the forestry sector.
The organization World Movement for Tropical Forests (WRM) is a reference space in the fight against monoculture forest plantations. Information is available on its website (wrm.org.uy). The document "Ten responses to ten lies" stands out, where the business story that promotes the plantation of eucalyptus pines and oil palm is disarmed. They explain that it is not about forests (there is no biodiversity), they harm the environment, they degrade the land, they use pesticides and they harm rural families, among other consequences. They also released five short videos on the negative impacts of large-scale tree plantations, the pulp and energy plantation business, and the impacts on water.
The World Movement for Tropical Forests emphasizes that the monoculture of trees is part of the extractive model, which in other regions has the face of mega-mining, transgenic and agro-toxic substances, oil activity and mega-dams.
The advance of the monoculture of trees in Argentina is related to the 90's. In 1999 Law 25,080 was approved, called “Investments for cultivated forests”. It subsidizes all the productive steps and was drawn up together with the large companies in the sector. Law 25,080 expired in January 2009, but was extended - for another ten years - by Congress in 2008. The Government is now pushing to modify it, in conjunction with large companies, and reach two million hectares of forest monoculture (of the current 1.2 million). Which will imply greater conflict with peasants and indigenous peoples. Misiones concentrates the largest monoculture forest activity (60 percent of national production), followed by Corrientes, Entre Ríos and Buenos Aires.