Protesting Against the Central American Free Trade Area
GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- Local farmers and ranchers are asking the Guatemalan government to exclude them from the free trade agreement that five Central American countries are negotiating with the United States.
“The United States says it wants to compete on an equal footing, but it is talking about phasing out tariffs on our products over a period of 10 to 15 years, and it refuses to open its market to our sugar and coffee,” the president of the Association of Rice-Growers of Guatemala, Luis Mazariegos, told Tierramérica.
If the free trade deal is signed this month as planned, over two million people with links to the sector “will be affected by unfair competition that will drive us into bankruptcy,” the farmer warned.
A group of rice and bean farmers and ranchers “is demanding that the government leave us out of the treaty, because otherwise thousands of people will be put out of work,” he added.
But Deputy Minister of the Economy Guido Rodas said no sector can be left out, and promised that the free trade agreement will not be signed if it does not benefit Guatemala’s producers.
Cuban Flicker Changes Habits
HAVANA, (Tierramérica).- The bird known as Fernandina’s or Cuban Flicker (Colaptes fernandinae) no longer pecks holes in tree trunks to make its nests, which is accentuating the risk that the species will go extinct, say researchers.
Experts in Villa Clara, 300 kms from Havana, warned that the change of habits is leading to a reduction in the number of flickers, which live in forested areas in the western and central parts of Cuba. But they have not yet determined why the flicker changed its nesting habits.
The 34-cm-long bird normally uses its beak to make nesting holes in the trunks of sick or dead trees. The hollows are then used year after year by other birds.
Although there is no lack of sick or dead trees, the flicker now prefers to use hollows created by other species, unusual behavior that is worrying researchers at the National Company of Protection of Flora and Fauna.
TV Campaign to Protect Natural Beauty
MANAGUA, (Tierramérica).- Nicaragua’s Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Arturo Harding, announced a televised campaign aimed at preserving and publicizing the natural beauty and biodiversity of the Biological Corridor of the Atlantic (CBA).
Local flora and fauna and pristine spots on the country’s Caribbean coastline recently began to be aired on TV as part of a government publicity strategy.
The campaign, aimed at raising awareness on the need to preserve nature in Nicaragua and to prevent the destruction of the environment, will run through May 2004.
One of the objectives is to publicize the CBA, how it can be sustainably exploited, and its importance for the development of sustainable tourism.
The CBA, which stretches along Nicaragua’s Caribbean shoreline and encompasses half of the national territory, covers one of the biggest protected areas in the country, Bosawás, where ancient trees of precious wood and abundant wildlife are found.
The CBA project was launched in 1994, with the support of international bodies, to promote sustainable development.
Farming Community Fights Construction of Thermoelectric Plant
SANTIAGO, (Tierramérica).- The rural community of San Francisco de Mostazal, 70 kms south of Santiago, filed a legal motion in court to block the construction of a thermoelectric plant that would hurt farm activity in the region and pollute the environment.
The mayor of San Francisco de Mostazal, Mirentxu Beitia, brought the lawsuit in the name of 20,000 residents of the municipality, 50 percent of whom are farmers.
Because of the proposed location for the natural gas-fired plant, its emissions would blow towards Santiago, a city that already has one of the highest levels of air pollution in Latin America.
Beitia and ruling coalition Senator Rafael Moreno are fighting the central government’s authorization to build the La Candelaria plant, issued by the National Environment Commission.
Construction of the plant would entail an investment of 200 million dollars. The plant would generate 500 megawatts of energy, which would be consumed by the El Teniente state-owned mining company.
Peasant Farmers Occupy Yacambú Park
CARACAS, (Tierramérica).- Sixty landless peasant families have occupied part of the Yacambú Park, 300 kms west of Caracas. The park is the heart of the Yacambú River basin, which is to feed the Yacambú-Quíbor irrigation project.
“There are around 60 families” occupying 200 hectares of the park, the vice-president of the non-governmental organization Bioparques, César Aponte, told Tierramérica.
“That’s a small portion of a 26,916-hectare park, but with the resultant deforestation and burning of forests, water sources that are to feed the irrigation project could be affected,” he noted.
The Yacambú-Quíbor irrigation project, which is still being built after 19 years of work, would carry the river’s water through a 24-km-long tunnel to the semi-arid valley of Quíbor, a potential farming emporium, and to the thirsty city of Barquisimeto.
Several families “are willing to move, if they are assigned land elsewhere,” according to Bioparques.
The government of Hugo Chavez has distributed nearly one million hectares of land throughout Venezuela as part of its agrarian reform program.
Collecting and Storing Rainwater
RIO DE JANEIRO, (Tierramérica).- There is a growing focus on converting rainwater into a source of water for use by the population of Brazil, a country with enormous hydric resources, which are, however, poorly distributed. Experts are recommending, for example, the construction of underground dams to prevent evaporation, and the plowing of furrows with no inclination, to keep the rainwater from running off.
The Brazilian Association of Rainwater Catchment and Management, set up in 1999 by researchers and activists, already has 120 members, according to its president Joao Gnadilinger, an expert who works in support of small farmers in Brazil’s impoverished northeastern region.
In the rural areas of Brazil’s semi-arid northeast, one million rainwater catchment tanks are to be built over the next five years, to store the water collected from the rooftops of rural homes for use as drinking water. Interest in harnessing rainfall is also beginning to grow in other parts of the country, which can look to numerous successful experiences in Asia and countries like Germany, said Gnadilinger. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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