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As we go down the Alóag-Santo Domingo road, Xavier León, expedition guide, explains in detail what the purpose of the visit is. He has studied agro-industrial companies for years, and clearly ensures that Ecuador has become in recent decades a paradise for the operation of this industry. León points out that without clear legislation in this regard, many companies settled in the surroundings of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and built dozens of pig and poultry farms without any type of regulation. Today it is estimated that there are at least 30 of these farms in the Province.
María Fernanda Solís, professor and waste expert, clarifies that in the case of pigs, each of the farms has around 5,000 specimens. A study published in 2011 by the Environmental Clinic through its publication Orange Alert, estimates that 5.4 tons of animal waste are produced daily in the country, including manure and urine, which when they cannot be processed go to swimming pools whose accumulation allows the filtration of these wastes to the water table, thus contaminating land and underground water sources.
The bus stops kilometers before reaching Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, while it enters pastures and plantations of African Palm, the expedition members put on their rubber boots and descend on what would be one of the borders of one of the farms of PRONACA intensive breeding.
After a short walk in the middle of trails that, due to their appearance, could pass through jungle to a beginner's eye, you reach the Peripa River.
Our guide tells us that these waters are used by the farm to dispose of animal waste. People who accompany us in the place attest to this testimony and assure that there are hours of the day when it is not possible to travel through the area due to the bad smell and the pestilence that comes with the river water. It is also mentioned that entry to monitor the farms is restricted to anyone who is outside the company, and that sometimes includes local authorities and representatives of State institutions.
In the book "Agribusiness in Ecuador" it is stated that "PRONACA, for example in the province of Santo Domingo, dumps its waste directly into rivers and its farms are less than 100 meters from Tsáchilas and peasant communities."
The birth of a giant
PRONACA takes its first steps in the hands of the Dutch businessman Lodewijk JanBakker who in 1957 created the INDIA company, responsible for the importation of agricultural inputs. For decades, this family group dedicated itself to expanding the branches of its business to the entire food production chain, thus, for example, in the 1960s INCA (Incubadora Nacional SA) was born, the 1970s saw the birth of INDAVES , SENACA, and PRONACA. To control the meat production market, Mr. Chancho was born in the 90s, and products such as rice began to be marketed under the Gustadina company. Today it is present in the sale of seeds, the sowing of fields through the production chain to farmers, processing of crop production, poultry and pig production, as well as feed for animals, and the commercialization of at least forty products in supermarkets and stores in the country. Currently, according to the latest census of the Corporation of Poultry Producers of Ecuador, the consumption of chicken meat has increased from seven kilograms a year, to at least 26 kilograms per person.
Analysts such as María Rosa Yumbla are sure that when a company controls most of the market, or its entirety, it acquires powers over other products and other companies, thus creating a monopoly control axis, which imposes its production and distribution prices, thus affecting those who are not able to produce in that quantity or to withstand this onslaught of the market, and are left with only one possibility: their disappearance.
Tsáchilas, culture of healers facing a culture of contamination
Back on our bus, we head to a Tsáchila community that has experienced pollution first-hand. One of the young community leaders welcomes us in classic clothing, he cordially directs us to the communal house where culturally assemblies and community celebrations are held.
Ricardo Calazacón, one of the local leaders, points out that the company arrived in the area in the 90s, with less than a thousand pigs, and indicates that with the passage of time and with the favors given to some leaders, the expansion of this company, which resulted in the location of dozens of the company's farms.
Justice that takes, is not justice
Since 98, the Tsáchilas communities have been denouncing the contamination caused by the agro-industry farms. The leaders affirm that when the stench caused by the animal waste began, they began to present the complaints in the local authorities, although they indicate that they did not receive responses to their requests.
This version is corroborated by a report written in 2009 by the international Global Integrity, which denounces the company for giving gifts to the environmental control officials of the Santo Domingo municipality to favor its operations in the area, which generates a lack of transparency and regulations for this activity in the area.
This led to the fact that in 2008 the communities took their case to the Constitutional Court, which demanded by resolution in July 2009 the creation of an inter-institutional technical commission to monitor the pollution produced in this area. Despite the fact that this resolution exists, those affected indicate that they do not have the necessary resources to carry out this environmental monitoring and point out that the company claims that it will not pay the value of the pollution studies in the area.
In a report presented by the Compliance Advisor / Ombudsman (CAO) published in June 2011, it is indicated that the Commission was formed in July 2009, made six visits to PRONACA's facilities, and its final report is in process, although not clarifies whether environmental contamination studies were done in the area. In the same report, the company points out that the problems reported are part of the past, since at the moment they have technology to prevent bad odors.
Despite this assertion, the same report indicates that as of that date, only five of the 14 operations related to the raising and processing of pigs have environmental licenses approved by the Ministry of the Environment of Ecuador.
Photo 1: Peripa Commune
Photo 2: "Chanchos plata" facilities next to Comuna Peripa
Photo3: Pollution monitoring Rio Tanti Waterfall