Thursday, August 20, 2009

Agricultural Displacement and Community Response - Paraguay

Paraguay is one of the world's largest producer's of soy, with soy amounting to 38% of the country's total agricultural output. But with the expansion of soy farming in Paraguay has come the displacement of indigenous and campesino families from their land, mostly migrating into Greater Asuncion. Claudio Rolon, of the National Secretariat on Children and Adolescents (SNNA), explains, "indigenous and campesino (peasant) families are abandoning their land, suffocated by the encroachment of soy crops and the use of toxic agrochemicals."

When President Fernando Lugo assumed office in August last year, the SNNA launched a programme to assist such indigenous squatter settlements, and Cerro Poty is one such settlement that has come within the programme. Established in the late 1990s, Cerro Poty is a community of Guarani families from Canendiyu.

The programme is notable for its efforts to identify traditional organisational structures, including leaders, and to introduce efforts to assist communities that build upon cultural and social activities as well as economic. In particular, the programme has supported local industry in crafts and skills specific to the Guarani. Adriana Closs, SNNA communications director, says "The community is recovering its craft-making skills, and now we are taking the next step: helping them sell their products." Significantly, the programme facilitates traditional crafts and productivity as a source of community cohesion and sustainability: "The aim is to support the work of craftspeople, building on the woodcarving talent and skills of the Guarani."

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