Indigenous land defender attacked
Bernarda Pesoa belongs to the Organization of Peasant and Indigenous Women – CONAMURI- and the group of artisans of her community of Santa Rosa. She has participated in activities for the defense of land and environment for the past 28 years along with other members of the Qom people. According to Bernarda, the Qom people were originally forest dwellers and hunter and gatherers for their subsistence, and since the 1970s they have been living on the community land where they now live. They make a living through making artisan products from local plants as well as through small scale subsistence activities breeding animals such as goats, sheep and chickens. Their lands have been affected in recent years by the encroachment of cattle ranchers and private companies who seek to carry out projects that would affect local ecosystems.
Fundación Paraguaya is a private foundation that is developing a project for a eucalyptus plantation on approximately 20 hectares in the community district of San Francisco Asis, in which Bernarda´s community is located. The Foundation says that it reached an agreement with two community leaders of San Francisco. Nevertheless, the community lands of San Francisco pertain to 8 communities and their communal agreements stipulate that that all communities must be consulted about matters that affect their land. Various leaders, including Bernarda, have denounced that in the area where the eucalyptus is to be planted, there are medicinal plants, native trees, native species that they use for their consumption and for making handicrafts. They also highlight the loss of biodiversity, the drying up of the soil by erosion and the effect on the use of water in the area that would come from introducing this monoculture plantation into the native ecosystem. According to the Fundación Paraguaya, the project aims to sell biomass and wood from the eucalypts over the next ten years.
Community leaders have denounced their concern over the planned eucalypt plantation, including with complaints made and a hearing with the Commission of Natural Resources of the Paraguayan Senate. In addition, it is important to note that the Paraguayan Institute for Indigenous Peoples (INDI), confirmed on 28 October that no process of free, prior and informed consent has been carried out in relation to the eucalyptus plantation planned by Fundación Paraguaya. Paraguay is a state party to Convention 169 of the ILO and has integrated the binding obligations of this treaty into its national legal system, which calls on projects that affect indigenous communities to be consulted to ensure their free, prior and informed consent before any projects go ahead.