Official Declaration of Chake Ñuhá on the Agro-fuels and Environmental Services Traps
Asunción, Paraguay, 24 April 2007 – Paraguay has set a short term goal of exporting agro-fuels. The plan is to export at least 50 million dollars worth of agro-fuels in the next four years and in the same time frame to stop importing at least 150 million dollars worth of fossil fuels. However, according to scientific research, the math of this proposal does not add up. Researchers like Pimentel argue that the net result of the energetic equation for agro-fuel production would be negative, not positive, because more fossil fuels are needed for production, processing and transportation than would be conserved by burning agro-fuels instead of fossil fuels to power a car.
Furthermore, in order to increase the cultivation surface dedicated to energy plants, large scale monocultures will be exponentially expanded. This expansion would entail cutting down the remaining forests, substituting current crops and forcing the eviction of small farmers and indigenous peoples. Expanding agro-fuel monocultures also requires more fossil fuel consumption and releases more carbon dioxide emissions than the agro-fuels hypothetically produced and the emissions hypothetically avoided. The expansion of monocultures is the direct cause of the dire situation that the vast majority of the Paraguayan people endure. It is a pillar of the soy feed export economy which destroys the health of thousands of people intoxicated by soy plantation fumigations, promotes the clear cutting of the Atlantic Forest, the corresponding loss of biodiversity, causes the loss of rural jobs and the loss of the cultures of indigenous peoples and small farmers, as well as the constant exodus from the countryside to the city where the rural emigrants face unemployment and misery. The statistics of macroeconomic growth do not mean that there is an improvement in the living condition of the majority, but rather indicate the disproportionate accumulation of wealth of a tiny oligarchy and its transnational allies.
We reject all policy and economic measures that promote the development of agro-fuels and the expansion of large scale monocultures:
- We reject the reform of the biofuels law which will only give tax breaks to transnational companies for putting in place the infrastructure needed to accentuate the pillaging of our natural recourses. This new industry does not bring any progress to the people. It just duplicates the GMO soy silos paradigm, that is to say that it is an industry without workers that is based on agriculture without agricultural workers. Just like it did with the soy model which has not brought any benefits to the majority of the population, Paraguay is selling out to the new agro-energy business offering the greatest tax incentives in the region and, with nary a twinge of conscience, offering up the last remaining forests and the lands and territories of indigenous peoples and small farmers.
- We denounce the “Ethanol Alliance” and the proposal whereby Paraguay will supply the Brazilian “Alcohoduct” [a proposed pipeline for ethanol transport] because they will have grave consequences for the people and environment. This strategic alliance with Brazil for carburant alcohol production is for exporting to the U.S.A., Europe and Japan. The economic agreement between Paraguay and the U.S.A. and the European Union on agro-fuels are drawn up in similar terms.
- We also denounce the First American Congress on Biofuels to be held May 10th to 12th in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the participation of a former vice-president of the United States, Al Gore; the former president of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana; the former U.S. Ambassador to Chile, Gabriel Guerra Mondragón, and Alberto Moreno, Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). This event seems like a pep rally for the recently approved IDB funding that is estimated at something like USD 200 billion to control and shape agro-fuel production. The IDB in conjunction with the Brazilian Government which is closely tied to a Sao Paolo business community and the European Union will administer this fund.
- There is no acknowledgement that these strategies necessarily include expanding communication infrastructure, like highways, ports, pipelines, etc, that will cause greater deforestation and will not remove the obstacles faced by Paraguayan small farmers and indigenous peoples for marketing their products nor will it mitigate their isolation. This infrastructure expansion is part of the implementation of the IIRSA mega-project (Initiative for the Integration of South American Regional Infrastructure).
- The development of this agrofuel market is not intended to help diminish the poverty of the country nor mitigate climate change, nor lessen Paraguay’s dependence on fossil fuels. Rather it aspires to supply the new agrofuels market of the Northern auto-industry.
- Furthermore, we reject all proposals for implementing environmental services schemes which are thinly disguised strategies for expropriating our natural resources and territories.
Our proposal is:
That public policies promote the permanence and well-being of rural and indigenous communities by promoting community and territorial development as part of an integral agrarian reform and the recuperation of National Sovereignty (including Food, Territorial and Cultural Sovereignty) as the principal axis of the democracy of our society.
Instead of promoting agro-fuel production, we need sound measures for ensuring Food and Energy Sovereignty in America Latina as well as measures for diminishing energy consumption in the North and better energy supply in the South and special efforts to support rural communities’ permanence and the repopulation of the countryside.
We demand a worldwide moratorium on agro-fuels monocultures and the international trade in agro-fuels, including the trade in carbon credits. We need a moratorium to evaluate the potential impact and the dangers of this market. We denounce that we are victims of the adverse impacts of industrialized monocultures and that we fear that the bio-fuel market could result in even more catastrophic consequences. We understand that the climate change phenomenon requires swift responses. But climate change mitigation strategies have to focus on decreasing the consumption of the North and must not hinge on promoting agro-export models that put the screws on our land and peoples.
Organizaciones firmantes: ALTER VIDA, ASAGRAPA, BASE IS, CCDA, CEIDRA, CMB, CNOCIP, CONAMURI, Federación de Pueblos Guaraníes, GRR (Arg), IDECO, Iniciativa Paraguaya de Integración de los Pueblos, MAP, MCNOC, ONAC, SEPA, SERPAJ, PY, SOBREVIVENCIA/Friends of the Earth-Paraguay, Universidad Nacional de Pilar, … y otros