Magazine article New Internationalist

Birdsong Regained [Displaced Farmers in Paraguay]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Birdsong Regained [Displaced Farmers in Paraguay]

Article excerpt

FEDERICO DUARTE and his eight young children used to wake up to the chirp of birds in the forested farmland of Alto Parana in eastern Paraguay. While living in an inner-city park in the capital Asuncion, at the beginning of this year, the sound of birds was drowned out by the traffic rushing past their tattered tents. 'I had no choice. We were evicted,' Federico explained.

His was among a dozen families from the country's impoverished southeast who packed up their desperation and hauled it to Asuncion, setting up camp in Plaza Uruguaya with 200 others. In this downtown park, a single handwritten sign hung crookedly from a bright orange vinyl tent proclaiming: 'justice for the Displaced.'

Federico's family had previously lived in the Naranjal zone of Alto Parana - a humble but happy existence built on subsistence farming... until Brazilian soybean farmers bought up those lands. Neighbouring Brazil is the world's top producer of soya. But cheaper Paraguayan land has been drawing producers across the border. Paraguay is now the world's fourth largest soybean exporter, producing almost four million tons in the 2004-05 season.

'Paraguay is living a soybean revolution. The indigenous people are being removed from the forest where they live and the forest is being chopped down,' says Alberto Roque, from the NGO Friends of the Earth. This country has experienced the most devastating deforestation in South America. More than 40 per cent of their forests were eliminated in less than 15 years. …

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