Friday, May 11, 2012

"This forest gives us work and feeds us"

International Workers Day, the first of May, 2012

"... They are forbidding the passage and access of fishermen to their work areas."

With this title Enrique Bonilla opened his presentation in the Assembly of the Forest Alliance of Guatemala. Don Enrique  is president of COGMANGLAR, community organization for  6 years working in the defense of mangroves in the Pacific coast of Guatemala, and leads the Executive Secretary of International Redmanglar.

In his speech expressed the importance of mangroves as a food source for coastal families. "For us it's an industry that does not pollute, here we can work even if we elderly, does not ask age limit, if one has health, go to atarrayar, and although no money can make a good fish stock. "Rightly, fishing as well as being one of the first industries developed by humans, is a source of food that caters to millions worldwide.

Mangroves are recognized as one of the most productive ecosystems on Earth. Among its roots breed diversity of species, many of them are used by coastal populations for food.

A study by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanographic University of California, analyzing fishing areas of the Gulf of California in Mexico, revealed that the fishing camp was directly proportional to the length of coastlines with mangroves. Scientists estimated based on these data a monetary value of $ 37.500 per hectare annually - a figure 600 times higher than that estimated by the Mexican government.
However with the destruction of the ecosystem and its transformation to other activities, we are losing not only the mangrove, the defense that  this provides the coast, absorbing the brunt of severe storms and winds, tsunamis and floods from rivers, phenomena to increase as the climate crisis worsens.
One of the strongest impacts of the loss of mangroves, is one that has to  do with the decline of livelihoods of communities and indigenous communities that live in them and theirs. The food sovereignty of millions of families in coastal areas of tropical and subtropical regions is in danger.

Access to fisheries and other natural assets of mangroves by local populations, increasingly presents more difficulties. As industrial and agro-industrial activities have grown and expanded into marine coastal areas, increased competition for resources.
The growth and expansion of shrimp aquaculture, the fencing and increasingly isolated at the fishermen were collecting shells and crabs, among other users of the ecosystem. The violations of human rights of these workers in the mangrove, occur with impunity front  politicians and public servants.
A dramatic case are the deaths of fishermen and shell mounds, associated with the shrimp industry. Heraldo Agurto Paladines of 22 years died in january of  this year, electrocuted on a fence of a shrimp farm in Ecuador, while working for a living collecting shells in a estuary.

The expansion of large hotel complexes, mega dams, agro-industries such as sugar cane, oil palm, rubber plantations , and others, also threatens the  food security  of families. By diverting rivers to irrigate these crops, leaving no water to communities that use the resource to irrigate their crops.

An impact in reducing the areas of agricultural crops in the farming sector of the South Coast in Guatemala, is the expansion of farms to plant sugarcane. Sergio Maldonado, vice president of  Avedichamp, who is also a farmer in the town of Champerico, comments: "This is a serious problem, because before if you had to rent the plot, was to plant the corn, but now there is no land, they are have been leased to the cane, the cane is also forbidding the passage and access of fishermen to their work areas. "

The diversion of rivers also affects the mangroves because it changes the hydrology of the area. Lauro Garcia farmer of St. Odilia, vice president  of AVDISO and member of the International Redmanglar, narrates the negative impacts due to diversion of the river by palm and sugar cane companies in Coyolate river,  in Guatemala: "It affects the work of many people living from fishing, fish species disappear and others such as water dogs, lizards and turtles that live in the river. In agriculture affects us that lack of water in the river causes the moisture to move away and be lost and this affects the crops and small farmers who do not have the ability to have an irrigation motor. Corn, bananas and beans by the lack of water does not develop, it is paid by rejection and can not compete with those stolen the water. "
This May is important to recognize the fishermen and women working in an "industry" that does not pollute and it also generates multiple benefits, even for those who live hundreds or thousands of miles away. Also recognize the work of women of mangroves, who contribute significantly in developing communities.

To each and all of our greeting.

Carlos Salvatierra
Executive Secretary
International Redmanglar