Andean Amazon Rural Development Forum

Tuesday 3 September 2013

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Authorship: Luis Fernando Heredia.

Editorial and Canal: South American Institute for Rural Development (Instituto para el Desarrollo Rural de Sudamérica (IPDRS)).

Type of document: Article.

Language: Spanish.

Subject: Food sovereignty.

Keywords: Agro-business, biofuels, rural development, raw materials, extraction models, indigenous peoples, land, territory, natural resources and food security.

Countries and Regions: Andean Region.

The Amazon Andean region is a social space unit located to the south of the American continent formed by Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Guyana; it covers an extension of around 11,6 million km2 and groups a population passing the figure of 55 million people.

The zone has a mega diversity in flora and fauna, it is bathed by over 12 macro hydrological basins and 158 water sub-basins and it is under the watch of gigantic Andean mountain ranges with height away above 6400 meters over the sea level. In that area there are around 385 indigenous peoples using this area as the habitat where they reproduce their material and spiritual life. (Estimates are drawn from the Social-environmental Amazon Information Network -RAISG. Amazon under Pressure, 2012 and the Andean Community of Nations -CAN. Regional Body, 2012. ).

A lung for the world

Given its environmental functions in the regulation of the bioclimatic process, its important fresh water reservoirs ( 1/3 of the reserves in the planet) and its fossil energies ( 20% of the world reserves) and the very important role it plays in the production of food, the Amazon Andean region possesses an undoubtful importance for the planet.

This multi-diverse condition, to which it should be added its strategic nature in continental geopolitics given its wealth in hydrocarbons, water, mining and for its agro-feeding and forestry potentiality, determine that the Amazon Andean region is under an intense pressure given the economic, social, political, cultural and environmental dynamics which condition the approach, the policies, the plans and the programs fostered by the States in the region to generate rural development.

Development models in the Andean Amazon Region

During the last two five year periods and in response to the world food crisis, global markets – in particular those of emerging regions, such as Asia – have increased exponentially their demands of volumes of raw materials, energy and food. The pressure to satisfy this demand has given back to the Andean Amazon region its traditional role as a supplier of raw materials, and, with that, the deep rooting of extraction productive models that have not represented a real alternative for overcoming the levels of extreme poverty and social inequity in the region. Quite to the contrary, the conflict scenarios have sharpened around the access, ownership and management of the land, territories and natural resources.

On the other hand, peasant indigenous economy and rural products are facing every day discriminatory policies by States that have decided to prioritize immediate economic benefits provided by the extraction models.

This development process based on an extraction model, is also promoted and financed by the international capital. A recent report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) stresses that during 2011 economic management the region of Latin America and the Caribbean got US$ 153.448 million dollars from direct foreign investment, figure representing 10% of the world capital flow. The Andean Amazon countries are presented in the report as follows: the first recipient country of these investments is Brazil, with a total amount of US$ 66.660 million dollars, figure representing a 37% over the one of the year 2010; the third place was taken by Colombia, win US$ 13.234 million dollars; the fourth place is occupied by Peru with US$ 7.659 million dollars; in the sixth place we find Venezuela with US$ 5.302 million; in the eighth place there is Bolivia with US$ 859 million dollars (70% of this investment is aimed at the extraction activity); and lastly, Ecuador with US$ 186 million dollars. The same document stresses that 57% of the direct foreign investment received in South America was geared to the natural resource sector. (ECLAC, Direct foreign investment in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2012).

Under the pretext of contributing to the confrontation of the world food crisis, in the Amazon Andean region a process of placing the land in foreign hands for the reproduction of an extraction model is taking place. China alone has 20% of the world population while only 9% of its lands are arable ones. Just like the Chinese state, others facing the same or a similar situation have opted to lease and buy in huge amounts lands in other countries, some of them (such as Brazil and Bolivia) are part of the Amazon Andean region.

A study prepared by the FAO (Land grabbing: a study on seventeen countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2001. expresses that out of the 71 million hectares bought in Latin America by foreign capital companies, 22% were destined for mining and tourist activities and the rest (78%), for food production and bio-fuels. In the year of 2010, foreign investors showed their interest over 32 million of hectares in the region, this based on the fact that they should be used in food production for world food security (International Seminar of the Amazon Andean Forum. Memoir International Seminar: development, rural development and indigenous peasant economy models, 2011.

Within this context, in the years ranging from 2001 and 2011, the Amazon Andean region increased its commercial Exchange with the Asian market from US$ 15.000 million dollars to US$ 182.000 million dollars. This commercial increase is a result of higher volumes of raw materials coming from the extraction activity and from the exploitation of natural resources. For example, exports by Venezuela are fundamentally made in a 92.7% by primary consumption goods such as hydrocarbons and minerals. This figure reached 91.7% in the case of Ecuador, while in Peru it reaches 86.6% and in Bolivia it is of 92.8% (Gudynas, Beyond the new extraction activity: sustainable transitions and development alternatives, 2011.

According to the extraction development models, for the implementation of agro-business and forestry exploitation, in the period between 2000 and 2010 an area of 240.000 km2 in the Amazon jungle has been cleared, which is equivalent to the double of the Ecuadorian Amazon area. An amount of 96.5 thousand kilometers of roads with sections going through protected areas, hydrographic basins and indigenous territories and its design has been conceived bearing in mind a main aim: to directly link extraction sites of natural resources with the markets. In the same way, 327 oil lots were granted in concessions, covering an area of 1.082.704 km2 – representing 14% of the Amazon – and with an over position of 42% with the basins of the High Amazon and 13% of indigenous territories. Up until 2012, 417 hydropower plants have been constructed, most of them located on protected areas, indigenous territories and waer basins which are the living means for these peoples. If the pressure of the extraction models were to continue with the same intensity in the Amazon, in a near future half of the present Amazon jungle might disappear (Social Environmental Amazon Information Network, Geo-referenced- RAISG. Amazon under Pressure, 2012).

There are clear signs of positioning depicting a growing trend to the rooting of extraction models in the region. For example, the Bolivian state, through its Vice President, Álvaro García Linera, on the occasion of the Oil Congress held in the city of Santa Cruz last May, informed that in, Bolivia, from 2007 to 2014, the hydro-carbon border will be expanded to 2,8 million of hectare to 24 million hectare, figures that cover 22,4% of the national territory.

Activist Rafael Puente, with data from the Information and Document Center from Bolivia (CEDIB) proposes estimates determining that the decision by the Bolivian state will affect eleven protected areas of the 22 existing in the country; among them, that of Madidi to be affected in a 75%, that of Aguaragüe in 72% and that of Pilón Lajas in 82% (Daily Página Siete. 06.06.2013).

Along this same direction, the national authority, within the framework of the Productive Agro-industrial Meeting: More investment, held last July, also in Santa Cruz, expressed, expressed: “I’m in favor of the 13 million hectares for production, this is possible, I would say even more… we must feed the country but alto we can feed the world” (Hoy Bolivia, 11.07.2013). This projection means a level of growth in the agricultural border surpassing 200%, going from 3,8 millions to 13 million hectares.

According to estimates prepared by FAO it is said that in the next four decades there will be the need to produce around 70% more food in the world, for which it will be necessary to prepare 120 million hectares. At the same time, according to this and other international bodies, peasants and indigenous people at a world level – at present in charge of producing 30% of food production at a world level – are once again called to solve the hunger problem in the world. (Amazon Andean Forum. Memoir International Seminar: Development, rural development and indigenous - peasant economy models, 2011. is the third world food producer, with 5,1 million of agricultural establishments, of which 84% are engaged in family agriculture and animal husbandry production, but they only occupy 24% of the area of arable land (Bruckman, quoted in the Memoir International Seminar: Development, rural development and indigenous peasant economy models, 2011)

And what about people?

Indigenous people living in the Andean Amazon region have the territory, the land and the natural resources as their main living mean. Its food economic strategy, its socal-cultural system and its religious and spiritual live, have the territory as its source of reproduction. These peoples, the original owners of their territories attained through their fights for the attainment of the legal acknowledgement of their ownership rights by the States. Nevertheless, hydrocarbon, mineral, water and forestry resources and the land with proper agricultural potentiality constitute the basis of development models based on extraction, encouraged and supported by the governments in the Andean Amazon region, and to a large extend they are located in the territories of indigenous peoples and peasant communities. In Brazil, during the period 2009-2012, over 60 indigenous leaders were killed while defending their territories (Andean Amazon Forum. Memoir First Andean Amazon Forum on Rural Development, 2012. In Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, mobilizations by indigenous peoples to defend their territories are criminalized and their leaders suffer permanent persecutions. Within this context, it is an urgent need that the States and the actors of the civil society in the Andean Amazon region analyze, reflect and explain this complex reality to provide certitude to the future of the peoples.

There are innumerable questions awaiting for an answer: Which are the effects and impacts of extraction development processes on the society, the environment and the States in the Andean Amazon region? Is it viable to implement new paradigms of sustainable development in the Andean Amazon region? Which is the future of the peasant indigenous economy within the framework of its role in food security and the effects, every time more direct, of extraction models with the process of foreign hands taking control over the land? How could we strengthen the capacity, the rol and the contribution of rural producers in the present process of state transformations and in the transit toward a paradigm of Good Living? Which is the present situation of both sovereignty and food security in the Amazon Andean region and which is its sustainability? What is the role played by transborder economies and migrations in the development of states in the Andean Amazon region?; What is the situational condition and the institutional viability of democracies in the states of the Andean Amazon region? And which is the perspective of Good Living in the peasant indigenous world of this region within this scenario?

Andean Amazon Forum on Rural Development

Motivated and under pressure by this complex reality, a group of institutions and organizations working in the rural, national and regional development in Bolivia, Brazil Ecuador and Peru, seek to generate democratic and plural spaces from the civil society in order to assess, reflect and build consensus around the answers and proposals demanded by the problematic of development within the Andean Amazon region. This will was expressed in the strategic alliance to create the “Platform of dinamizing institutions of the Amazon Andean Forum for Rural Development” (FAA-DR).

From within the FAA-DR drafting and diffusion actions for investigations and publications are being fostered ; the creation of spaces and events for the debate such as forum, seminars, talks, symposium; an Exchange of experiences by involved actors and the holding of agro-ecological fairs and of the book. Another important task is the drafting of proposal exerting influence on policies related with the rural world, trying to attain through them, to deepen, propagate and include in the agenda and on the public debate the different thematic forming part of rural development in the Andean Amazon region.

Actions have been planned for 2013 that will allow continuing with the process towards the expansion and deepening of knowledge and of the public and plural debate. Thus, on September 18, 19 and 20, in the city of La Paz, will take place the II International Amazon Andean Forum of Rural Development, space in which the central issues for debate in the creation of alternative proposals by the civil society will be the development, indigenous peasant economy models and the transborder dynamics, the problem of the land, territory and natural resources and the status and perspective of States and the democracy in the region.

The pertinence and relevance of issues in the agenda express in full clarity its strategic importance for rural development in the Andean Amazon region.

See online : Andean Amazon Rural Development Forum

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