¡Defendamos la vida…Sembremos caña responsablemente!
Let’s defend life…. Let’s plant sugar cane responsibly!
On Friday September 7th, a group of roughly 40 people gathered in Ciudad Romero for a workshop on sugarcane. The participants were community leaders from the Bajo Lempa, including representatives from the communities San Hilario, Amando López, El Marillo, Ciudad Romero, and Mata de Piña. The Mangrove Association and PRISMA (Salvadorian Program of Investigation about Development and the Environment) facilitated the workshop.
This workshop is a part of a movement here in the Bajo Lempa, officially called “The Movement in Defense of Life and Natural Resources” (el Movimiento for short) that formed in 2009 as a response to the unregulated sugarcane industry. It includes community members, local NGOs, and local government offices.
Sugarcane is a major industry throughout El Salvador, and has a large presence in the Bajo Lempa. Members of el Movimiento want to be clear that while they are not opposed to the cultivation of sugarcane, there are opposed to the harmful practices that the cañeros- sugarcane producers- utilize. These practices include the heavy and indiscriminate use of agrochemicals, burning of the fields before harvest, deforestation, and a loss of biodiversity in the area. Additionally, many of the fields are located extremely close to communities. Because of the close proximity the burning of the fields and aerial spraying of chemicals, both of which come unannounced, directly affect community members, not to mention the Lempa River and extensive mangrove forests. The production of sugarcane has been linked to high rates of kidney failure in the region and people have been both badly burned and killed when caught in the midst of a burning field.
Community members are taking action and calling for “zafra verde” or “green harvest” which would reduce the use of agrochemicals and increase the acreage of sugarcane not burned before harvest.
In the workshop, community leaders worked together to identify the key problems and brainstorm both solutions as well as organization who could be allies. At the end of the event, community members agreed on a slogan to represent their campaign, proudly stating “¡Defendamos la vida! ¡Sembremos caña responsablemente!” “Let’s defend life! Let’s plant sugar cane responsibly!”