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In Uruguay there are state-owned lands purportedly aimed to promote the population of the countryside. However, these lands are exploited by soy and forestry agribusiness corporations, as expressed by Carlos Ariel Santos Silveira, family farmer of Paysandu department.
He works in a state school and he also produces organic vegetables and raises birds, although the lack of land has forced him to get rid of his animals.
The National Institute of Colonization, which is responsible for distributing land among family farmers in Uruguay, has rejected the project submitted by Carlos and his family of appropriating a land that was available in Guichon town.
“I’ve been waiting since 2001. I wrote a project proposal for two years to access land where I can expand my greenhouses and raise animals. I even offered to pay the rent beforehand. I don’t know what happens in our country: I had this project rejected, while they gave lands to foreign soy producers. I am not against producers, but against those who fail to run controls when it is their duty to do so”, Carlos told Real World Radio.
Although the legislation created by the National Institute of Colonization (INC) expressly bans to sublet state lands, Carlos says that many of the people who acquired these lands obtain a high income without either working or living in the countryside.
The road that connects Paysandu and Guichon is planted with eucalyptus or pine monoculture plantations. Transnational companies like Stora Enso and Arauco, besides Uruguayan pension investment funds occupy this vast region with these plantations, which effects include the expansion of natural predators like the wild boar, who kills the sheep. Another effect is lack of access to water for human or animal use.
The residents of Guichon have also suffered the effects of the “spraying” of these thousands of hectares of forested land, many of which are done by air with spray planes. In 2010, 50 animals owned by small farmers died when one of the planes broke down and spilled the toxic substance on the pastures and water streams. The company responsible for the accident concealed it, and it continues to fail to pay damages to the producers.
Carlos says: “I wanted to work in a sustainable way and they won’t give me land. Soy poisons our fields, but they get lands. As an Uruguayan citizen who defends his land I wonder “What are we going to leave to our children? Soy is a package that nobody controls”.
The farmer, together with other applicants asking for lands have summoned the authorities of the INC to tell them about this situation: “The nearby town of Algorta is amid forest plantations and if there is a fire there could be a catastrophe. We are witnessing what happens in Argentina, where thousands of hectares of land burned down. What could happen to the people living here?” wonders Carlos.
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