Argentina: focus on Amigos de la Tierra
Protest against the purchase of land in the Parana Delta for real estate.
Over the years the organization's focus has increasingly been directed towards socio-environmental projects. These projects are often worked on in alliances with local groups from different parts of the country.
"We work on three different levels: strengthening grassroots struggles, educating the general public and raising awareness, and filing legal
actions" says Natalia Salvatico, the coordinator of the water and sustainability campaign.
The group works on four main issues: forests and biodiversity, water and sustainability, climate change and food sovereignty. In 2011 the organization commenced work on a land grabbing project. Land grabbing is the buying or leasing of large pieces of land in developing countries often by transnational companies. The project integrates the issues of soy production, mining and water in Argentina.
Today's big challenge
The land grabbing campaign is what's know in the Friends of the Earth federation as a cross-program project. It incorporates many issues. Firstly, there is a campaign in the Parana Delta, an area of islands and wetlands where the real estate industry aims to build a private estate of nearly 300 hectares called Colony Park. This will cause the displacement of local residents already living on the land. The project will also have a great impact on the region's vulnerable ecosystem.
After two years of struggle, Friends of the Earth Argentina's demands for a public hearing have been granted. This could lead to sanctions or the halting of the project altogether.
Secondly, there is an ongoing legal action against Barrick Gold, a mining corporation that is exploiting the Pascua Lama open-pit gold mine in San Juan province. The company's operations go against the Argentinian Glaciers Act - a law to protect the nation's glaciers - since it is located in the periglacier region. Friends of the Earth Argentina, together with other organizations, have filed a legal action to request the closure of the mine in accordance with the Glaciers Act.
Last but not least, Friends of the Earth Argentina work with La Via Campesina, the international peasant movement, against the advance of soy monoculture plantations in the central part of the country.
The work on soy is of particular importance as Natalia explains:
"Argentina is one of Latin America's worst examples in terms of soy expansion. Half of the cultivable area of Argentina is harvested with GM soy. Soy has high economic yield and it benefits certain social classes that have control over land. This results in the loss of the native forest and other crops. It also means that many communities are losing their food sovereignty."
Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally
appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable
methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture
"All these campaigns are ongoing. There have been partial victories, but we always need to be on the alert for new dangers. It is important to be in contact with local groups as they are usually the first ones to warn us about what is happening on the ground."
on being a member of an international federation
Natalia Salvatico conducts an interview
Friends of the Earth Argentina became a member of Friends of the Earth International in 1985. Natalia believes being a member enables them to "act globally and have a broad perspective on environmental issues."
The solidarity of the groups in the federation can often have a positive outcome on their work.
"We feel we now have more visibility, because in Argentina and Latin America sometimes your work is not recognised locally unless you are recognised in the [global] north. We need to make campaigns visible beyond our borders. The north-south exchange has proved productive. It involves extra effort but it has good results” concludes Natalia.
Diego Andres, a volunteer for the water campaign, believes the federation represents a new political horizon.
"There are many conflicts that are more than ecological issues, they are cultural conflicts. Being a part of the federation enables us to have a general and global overview of these conflicts. It also enables us to share visions with colleagues from other countries" he says.
Members of Amigos de la Tierra
about Natalia and Diego
Natalia is the coordinator of the Water and sustainability campaign. She works with Diego on the land grabbing campaign and also collaborates in communications work. She has always been interested in environmental issues and began working for Friends of the Earth Argentina as a volunteer in 2000.
"What I like about Friends of the Earth is the inclusive, assembly-based form of working. These past years have also enabled me to meet people from different places and to do things that would have not been possible without being part of the environmental struggle” she says.
Diego's relationship with Friends of the Earth began with Friends of the Earth Colombia, in his country of origin. There he found "a learning space and a space for social and political commitment."
He currently works as a volunteer for the water campaign and coordinates the land grabbing campaign.
"My participation is motivated by the political construction that can be achieved thanks to the Friends of the Earth Argentina" he says.
"I believe the environmental struggle has to be linked with a cultural change. We need to change our perspective, our way of thinking in order to improve our lives. This is my main motivation” he concludes.