May 15th World Agriculture Day in Costa Rica

Hundreds gather in San José against Pineapple expansion

March of the Spheres attracted quite a crowd

The main point was to ask for the nullity of recent environmental permits given to Del Monte.

The call for a national Raleigh at the National Museum last Monday may 15th, on World Agriculture Day, was met with great success in the heart of San José. The protest started at the National Museum Boulevard and headed to the Ministry of Environment, where members of all the participant movements spoke their minds about what they call an “out of control” pineapple monoculture expansion.

As noted in a previous TCRN article, this expansion is ongoing in Costa Rica, but especially in the  Térraba Sierpe in Osa, where 600 hectares have been given a green light. In the middle of wetlands, sphere archaeological sites, and the Terraba-Sierpe region, which is the most important wetland area of Costa Rica and Central America. It’s being affected not only by pineapples but by other destructive actions reported in other pieces by TCRN.

The march of the spheres gathered the diverse and at the same time united movement against SETENA´s environmental license to Del Monte. Indigenous, peasant and affected communities came from the southern region, especially from Osa and Térraba, and were received in San José by a cheering and ecstatic crowd, composed of students, ecologists, human right activists, socially concerned citizens, and also academics related to the archaeology, sociology, social psychology, and anthropology disciplines.

Ignacio Dobles, an iconic figure from the University of Costa Rica, from the social psychology arena, said “I wouldn´t miss it for the world. The Spheres are the limit”!

Ignacia Dobles

Uri Salas a younger consultant archaeologist, used to digging national patrimony for a living, noted that “we are all worried in the archaeology community that the national patrimony, one the most out important regions of the country, the Spheres that we are known for in the world, might be at high risk with pineapple expansion. Pineapple monoculture has already destroyed many archaeological sites in the Atlantic and the northern regions. Costa Rica is risking the status given by UNESCO to the sphere culture as Patrimony of Humanity ”

Uri Salas

There was a petition signed by participants, asking for the annulment of the SETENA environmental permit to the Del Monte expansion in Térraba-Sierpe.

On the megaphone, Eva Carazo took the stand to tell the crowd that “there is a group of walking protesters, who are coming all the way from Osa, walking, and they will be here in San José on Thursday (05/18/17), and we will go with them to the Presidential House, on Friday (05/19/17). Mr. Carlos is walking with a mule, a cow and a bull that are all very ill because of drinking poisoned water from the pineapple monoculture”.

Then, a representative from the governing elected body of the Central Puntarenas Municipality spoke, in an evidently emotional tone: “I had been missing these concentrations for nature, for water, for life. I am thrilled to see so many young people today. We need to have more of these, multitudes defending nature”.

Sergio, a staff member of the University of Costa Rica UCR Kioskos Ambientales, announced that the “buses from Chánguina and Térraba had arrived”. It was past 11 am, and the heavy sun instead of being discouraging appeared to make the crowd feistier.

Fabián Pacheco, a very well known ecologist, agro-engineer and fierce promoter of organic agriculture, gave the official welcome to the leaders of communities who came to San José “We  are united as ecologists with you, united we stand and protest today, defending agriculture against the extractivism that we face, the pineapple monoculture which they want to fumigate us, we stand together with these communities who are saying no!  Today”.

Chánguina, Térraba, Finca 6 and Finca 9 disputes

A member of Changuina community took to the microphone after that and stated that “the best defense against pineapple monoculture expansion is the small-scale ownership of land, in the hands of the peasants”. This is not a surprising statement, as Chánguina is a land in dispute with a banana plantation company, for several years now. It is occupied by ex- banana plantation workers, who have started to grow their own crops there.  This is a conflict that has been reported by Que Pasa Osa.

It was Mrs. Ana´s turn to talk about her reason to be at the March “We peasants need our land to work it, to produce our food, we don´t want pineapple, and we don´t want any eviction in our land. We represent our Chánguina and Térraba fincas, we are struggling to keep the land to work it”.

Mrs. Sonia, from Finca 6 said “we are here to make ourselves heard clear: we reject the pineapple project in Osa, we don´t want the destruction it brings, we want our sons and daughters to get to know our nature and resources as we know them. This is why we are here today”.

There was also representation from the northern region. Communities who have been suffering the impact of pineapple, and decided to join the protest. A representant from the north said “we left our community today at 2am, because we had to be here with the communities of Osa, protesting pineapple monoculture. We have suffered long enough and it is time to stop it”.

Finca 9 was represented by a woman who stated: “Here we are, representing the Palmar Sur communities. Too many people are sick or have died because of the poisonous pineapple. We are invaded by pineapple expansion all over the country. We are struggling to keep our southern region clean and not poisoned by this expansion. We need to stop it. We have to be strong and continue struggling.

The last testimony at the National Museum was given by Erlinda, from Siquirres- Guácimo- Pococí, a community leader who is very well known for her ongoing legal and social battle against pineapple monoculture. “ We have been able to prove in court several cases in which this activity has invaded river margins, protected areas, and wetlands. We are united against pineapple expansion in Costa Rica. We have been suffering and struggling for years and we stand in solidarity with the south”

Before te protest moved to the Ministry of Environment, the Congresswoman Patricia Mora declared that her heart was not at Congress inside those walls, but was with the Changuina and Terraba peasants who are struggling for that land. “we will be giving a legal battle to defend the right of the peasants”.

The testimonies continued at the Ministry o Environment. At some point an astonished crowd was listening carefully to a woman who narrated how she grew up in banana and then pineapple fields; how her whole family had been affected, sick, or dead, by pesticides and by living in an exposed and toxic environment. This was probably a moment of silence when the crowd realized how serious this is. It is a matter of life or death in many communities around the country.

A duet of actors also performed a “happening”, dressed up as bizarre business corporation characters. They also had a nylon stocking on their heads, making them look like criminals. At some point, someone took their pineapples and threw them on the floor, as the angry “suits” yelled “Do not touch my pineapple! Don´t you dare touch my pineapple!”.

The third and final stop for this enthusiastic and determined crowd was the Supreme Court. Two legal actions were presented (see our other piece with details) by Mauricio Alvarez, President of FECON (Costa Rican Ecologist Association),  and Edgardo Araya member of Congress. Their aim is to achieve the annulment of SETENA´s environmental permit to Del Monte´s pineapple expansion plans. The permit was given by SETENA last December 15th, in a record 11-day analysis (reported previously in a TCRN).

Written by Alicia Casas