Behind Bolivia’s Ambitious Agriculture Goals

Project: Women Collaborating Towards Food Justice in Bolivia

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Since Evo Morales – the first Indigenous president to rule a majority Indigenous country – took office in 2006, there have been major changes to the government operation of Bolivia, including an overhaul of the constitution in 2009. However, his efforts to help Indigenous and impoverished communities by increasing access to food and land for more citizens have lost him the support of many, due to his promotion of large-scale agriculture corporations.

A recent agricultural summit brought together representatives of all corners of the agriculture process: growers, producers and funders – those who stand by traditional ways and those who favor continued use of genetically-modified argriculture (more commonly known as GMOs). Together, these constituents engaged in heated debates about land occupation, use and GMOs.

This was in the run up to a government and agricultural producers’ re-launch of the agricultural sector for the state of Santa Cruz (which is geographically the largest state, and the one most affected by deforestation). However, interestingly enough, environmental NGOs and those Indigenous groups who, because of their opposition to Morales’ policies, have lost favor with him were absent from the summit.

Bolivian women farm the land wearing the traditional dress of indigenous and peasant people of the highlands. Photo: Elias Quispe under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Bolivian women farm the land wearing the traditional dress of indigenous and peasant people of the highlands. Photo: Elias Quispe under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Morales’s mixed environmental record is also reflected in the actions of Bolivia’s indigenous people. They are often painted as stewards of the Earth, having fought alongside environmental activists to protect rainforests, halt construction of mega-dams, and enshrine strict legal protections for the environment. However, at the agricultural summit small-scale indigenous farmers often joined large landholders — who still comprise by far the largest threat to Bolivia’s forest — in arguing for looser environmental regulations.

“[Some] sectors of small producers… want an expedited expansion of the agricultural frontier, they want to change the Forest Law… They [even] want genetically modified seeds,” said Gonzalo Colque, the director of The Land Foundation, a Bolivian NGO dedicated to supporting small producers.

It’s important to notice who received an invitation from the Morales government to attend the agricultural summit – or any important national conversation – and who did not get a place at the table, since attendees’ views largely shape the outcome of the discussions.

A report by the Land Foundation argues that small-farmers and indigenous people were not adequately represented at the conference. “In the planning stage of the agricultural summit, the indigenous and peasant sector was absent,” it said. Ultimately, peasant and indigenous groups were allowed to send 25 representatives; medium-producers sent another 25; and agro-industrial groups sent 50.

At the heart of this debate is deforestation and the severe impact it has on all living species in the forests and rivers in Bolivia. Currently at risk are endangered species like the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), spectacled bear (remarctos ornatus) and jaguar (panthera onca), and delicate ecosystems such as the Chiquitano Dry Forests, and the Gran Chaco, each home to hundreds of plant, insect and bird species.

You can read the full article on this debate and its impacts over at Mongabay.

Resistance of Indigenous Women Stretches from North to South

Project: Shedding Light on Environmental Violence in North America

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Resistance of the the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam. Source: ESCRIBANA, CONAMUIP &
Resistance of the the Barro Blanco hydroelectric dam.

Across the Americas, the plight of Native people, and women in particular, continues to be ignored.

From North to South, the systematic state discrimination against women excludes their participation in politics, discourages their participation in movements through the threat of violence, and belittles not only their political demands but also their very lives.

1,200 indigenous women have been murdered or disappeared in the last 30 years in Canada, but the government still refuses to launch a national investigation. In Mexico, 7 indigenous women are killed every day and 400 more were disappeared in the central state, just in 2014. Guatemala and El Salvador have the highest rates of femicide in the world, and women are still struggling to gain justice from the atrocities that occurred during the regions’ civil wars. But women are refusing to be disappeared, targeted, murdered and attacked. They are rising up, organizing, educating and expanding their search for justice outside their immediate communities.

Indigenous women’s resistance -rooted in community, future generations, and ancestral struggles for land and livelihood – is a feminist resistance, but it is also fundamentally anti-capitalist and anti-imperial, demanding respect and protection of not only women’s bodies, but also of land, water, mother earth, culture and community. 

You can read the entirety of the article here.

WEA and Fondo Semillas Support Indigenous Women Leaders

Project: Mexican Indigenous Women Uniting for Land Protection

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In Mexico, the legal system fails to include any specific legislation protecting women’s land and property rights. Therefore, Indigenous women’s actual control over property has been very limited. Despite the urgency and importance of the situation, there are very few organizations working to improve women’s access to land.

That is why WEA has partnered with Fondo Semillas—the only women’s fund in Mexico—to support Indigenous women leaders who have come together to represent “an unprecedented effort to spark a movement for indigenous women’s land rights in Mexico.”

Meet Silvia (Zapoteca-Chinanteca), one of the courageous grassroots women supported by our partnership, who is working for Indigenous women’s land rights in Oaxaca.


Current State of Indigenous People in Mexico

Project: Mexican Indigenous Women Uniting for Land Protection


OneWorld gives a broad overview of the current issues facing the indigenous communities and especially women, in Mexico. Systemic rape, aggression and assassinations of indigenous women has skyrocketed in the past 10 years, as has natural resource extraction, issues with organizing indigenous communities, and the ever-lasting search for justice. Compounding these issues is the fact that the majority of the six and a half million indigenous people in Mexico live in poverty, lack access to the justice system, and above all, do not speak Spanish.

The political turmoil associated with the recent change of government will likely spur the reactivation of other indigenous organizations, reminding Peña Nieto of the many pending matters in terms of social justice.

But the people are skeptical and worry that it will continue to be more of the same and change will not come.
You can read the rest of the article here.