Diagnosis reveals impacts of grain monoculture on the Tekoha Guasu Guavira Indigenous Land, such as hunger, pesticide poisoning, threats to agrobiodiversity, excavation, deforestation and confinement
More than 60% of an Indigenous Land in Western Paraná is dominated by agribusiness, while the Avá-Guarani people resist in 1.3% of the area, with traditional farms. This is what the diagnosis Impacts of the production of agricultural commodities on the Avá-Guarani communities of the Tekoha Guasu Guavirá Indigenous Land/West of Paraná, produced by the Yvyrupa Guarani Commission (CGY) reveals.
The municipalities of Guaíra and Terra Roxa, in which the Tekoha Guasu Guavirá Indigenous Land is almost entirely located, currently have 80% of their areas dedicated to agribusiness. More than 3,000 indigenous people from the Avá-Guarani people live in this Indigenous Land, surrounded by large soybean, corn and eucalyptus plantations. The consequences of this scenario range from hunger to pesticide poisoning, including threats to biodiversity, the report points out.
The document also indicates the presence of the fields and backyards of the tekoha or villages of Guasu Guavirá as small islands with a great diversity of food and medicinal plants, which is a way of circumventing the homogenization of industrial species from the surrounding crops and the food scarcity that permeates the villages. “We managed to plant something but not in sufficient quantity to maintain our sustainability. The difficulties in maintaining these seeds are due to lack of space, pesticides and also climate change”, highlighted Ilson Soares, regional coordinator of CGY and one of the leaders of tekoha Y’hovy in an interview.
Hunger, pesticides and impacts on biodiversity
To face situations of extreme food vulnerability imposed by territorial confinement, the Avá-Guarani indigenous people, confined to a portion of 1.3% of the total claimed for demarcation, have been resorting to donations of basic food baskets from the federal government, as well as the consumption of snacks school in the case of children’s nutrition, the study points out. Still, there are cases of families that depend on food scraps that they collect from the Guaíra landfill.
“Territorial confinement, accompanied by severe climate effects, mutually aggravate the risk of loss of agrobiodiversity, with consequences also on hunger”, explains geographer Teresa Paris, consultant at CGY and one of the authors of the study.
CGY research points out that, according to data from the 2017 Agricultural Census, of the 661 establishments in Guaíra, 509 declared to use pesticides, while 144 declared not to use pesticides use. In Terra Roxa, of the 1,209 establishments, 921 used pesticides and 281 declared not to use them. In view of this, reports of damage to the health of indigenous people, with the appearance of symptoms such as stomach pains, headaches and diarrhea after the dispersion of these substances are recurrent.
“An elderly resident of this village reported that they often find gallons of pesticide storage thrown into the river, in the place where children bathe and where some families fish, instead of being correctly discarded”, describes the study referring to tekoha Guasu Guavira.
In addition, impacts on plantations and animal life are mentioned. “Often, some people get sick, the animals die, like chickens always end up dying. Every time pesticides are used, people in the community get headaches, nausea, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. And since we don’t have quality basic sanitation, we are more exposed”, pointed out Karai Okaju.
The same occurs in the tekoha village Pohã Renda, where they reported the death of countless chickens not only as a result of the spraying of pesticides, but also due to the fact that the animals scratched up poisoned corn seeds that were thrown into the eucalyptus plantation, adjacent to the village, the in order to reach the leafcutter, describes the research.
With the exception of three villages located in the urban area, all tekoha in Guasu Guavirá border soybean crops, in some cases having a space of less than two meters between the plantation and the houses. Therefore, exposure to pesticide drift is systematic.
The Avá-Guarani have even witnessed the use of pesticides as a chemical weapon, that is, being intentionally sprayed on villages with the aim of reaching homes, fields and the indigenous people themselves. “They take advantage of these tools and use them as if they were chemical weapons. We had this problem where farmers sprayed poison on the community and made everyone sick, it’s already happened in at least two communities, they sprayed poison with a tractor and once by plane ,” says Karai Okaju.
In this scenario, Teresa emphasizes that “it is essential to protect communities and the territory from contamination, as well as preserve agrobiodiversity and associated practices and knowledge typical of the Avá-Guarani, as well as strengthening the communities’ food sovereignty project, guaranteeing access to food in quantity and quality needed by all families in Guasu Guavirá.”
Companies profit at the expense of hunger
Even so, the revenues obtained by the main cooperatives and agricultural companies in the region, such as C.Vale Cooperativa Agroindustrial (C.Vale), Copagril, Integrada and I.Riedi Grãos e
Inputs multiply year after year, breaking records, the diagnosis reveals.
Given this situation, CGY draws attention to the narrative that Brazilian agribusiness supposedly feeds the world, used even by the state governor, Ratinho Junior (PSD). “In the factual context of the largest soy producing country in the world, contrary to what propagates the hegemonic ruralist narrative that Brazilian agribusiness feeds the world, 125.2 million people faced some level of food and nutritional insecurity and 33.1 million of people were facing the most serious form of hunger – they had nothing to eat at the end of 2021”, highlights the study.
The research also highlights the fact that the production of basic foods in the population’s diet, such as rice, cassava and beans, is losing more and more space in Guaíra and Terra Roxa, as crops grow for the production of agricultural commodities, according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) included in the investigation. In the case of soybeans, the growth was more than 200% of hectares planted between 1974 and 2020, in the municipality of Guaíra, and in Terra Roxa, the hectares cultivated with soybeans in the region increased by 245%.
Combined with large-scale production, great environmental devastation was caused in the two municipalities, and in 2014 the percentage of forests and natural forests corresponded to just 9% in each city, reveals the Diagnosis.
The native vegetation that survived environmental devastation currently constitutes only 12.4% of the delimited area of the Tekoha Guasu Guavirá Indigenous Land, to which indigenous people are often prevented from accessing by private landowners. “This means that access to key forested areas for the Avá-Guarani is extremely restricted,” says an excerpt of the report.
The situation in which the Tekoha Guasu Guavira IT currently finds itself is mainly due to a history of territorial dispossession of the Avá-Guarani people, marked by forced removals, deaths, environmental devastation and partial flooding of their territory by the Itaipu Hydroelectric Plant (UHE) reservoir from the 1980s.
According to information from the identification report produced by the National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples (Funai), in 2018, around 165 farms affected Tekoha Guasu Guavirá, these possessions originated from the undue concession of lands traditionally occupied by indigenous people, provided by the State , in favor of companies and individual private owners.
Furthermore, according to the study, “after the Constitution of 1891, which transferred the power of land titling to the States, several concessions were made by the State of Paraná, then governed by oligarchies associated with the exploitation of yerba mate and wood.” In this context, titles in the current municipality of Guaíra were granted by the Paraná government to Companhia Mate Laranjeira and other obrage companies.
Despite numerous difficulties, from the end of the 1990s onwards, families who were forcibly removed occupied part of the land that was not submerged after the operation of HPP Itaipu, reaffirming the need for recognition of the territorial rights of Tekoha Guasu Guavirá.
The vulnerable situation in which the Avá-Guarani communities live, marked by the constant denial of guarantees and fundamental rights, is worsened by the State’s slowness in recognizing their right to traditionally occupied lands. The administrative process of identification and delimitation of the Tekoha Guasu Guavirá Indigenous Land was only made official in October 2018 with the publication of the summary of the Detailed Identification and Delimitation Report (RCID) of the Tekoha Guasu Guavirá Indigenous Land prepared by Funai. However, the administrative process was subsequently suspended by a court decision of the TRF4, in favor of the Federation of Farmers of the State of Paraná, and subsequently annulled by a decision of the Federal Court of Paraná in favor of the municipality of Guaíra. Under the management of the Federal Government of President Jair Bolsonaro, Funai, which should act in accordance with its constitutional obligation in defending indigenous territorial rights, reported a lack of interest in appealing the sentence that annulled the demarcation procedure of Tekoha Guasu Guavirá, with the edition of Ordinance No. 418, of March 24th, 2020. Only in April 2023, under the Lula government, the president of Funai, Joênia Wapichana, annulled this Ordinance, making the identification and delimitation report valid again.
At this juncture, territorial insecurity, racism and consequently unemployment and serious psychological effects on indigenous people, who are marginalized by the rural sector of the cities, are added. Karai Okaju narrates how the orchestrated movement took place to prevent the continuation of the demarcation of the Tekoha Guasu Guavira Indigenous Land. “They held demonstrations in BR and silent demonstrations with banners at the entrance to the city, which said: ‘Indigenous invasion does not match order and progress’, with stickers on cars that said: ‘No to the demarcation of indigenous lands’”, he says.
From then on, racist practices, according to him, became even more extreme. “To the point where we have relatives being murdered by shooting, lynching, being run over and also other psychological impacts. Suicide has become an epidemic with prejudice in the city, lack of jobs and discrimination in schools.”