Avocados are the “superfood” du jour – the EU alone imported more than 700,000 tons last year. This boom has had a terrible impact on the growing regions: In Chile, the avocado industry is buying up water rights and drying out whole regions with their irrigation pumps – leaving local communities literally in the dust.
Call to action To: President of the Republic of Chile, Sebastián Piñera; Ministry of the Environment, Minister María Carolina Schmidt Zaldívar; Provincial Government of the Province of Petorca; General Directorate of the Water Authority DGA. Water is a human right. Repeal Chile’s 1981 water privatization law, clamp down on avocado cultivation and guarantee access to water for local communities. READ LETTER
The mountains in the province of Petorca are arid and dusty. This region, 150 kilometers north of the capital Santiago de Chile, receives a mere 200 mm of rain per year. The local people live in the valleys, where rivers flowing down from the Andes support small-scale farming.
In recent years, however, millions of thirsty fruit trees has been competing for that water. Companies are growing fruit on an industrial scale for export – mostly avocados – on 8,000 hectares.
Endless rows of lush green avocado trees stretch from the valleys up the mountain slopes. Each avocado tree needs 600 liters of water every week. The plantations pump the precious water from deep wells into irrigation ponds.
As a result, rivers have run dry, vegetation has withered and the fields of the small farmers lie barren in the surrounding areas. For the past ten years, the region has been suffering a mega-drought. Groundwater is also running short – according to the responsible water authority, water supplies have already fallen by 80%.
Local people are up in arms over what they see as water theft: the authorities granted water rights to avocado companies, and many wells were likely drilled illegally. Business interests and the export of fruit seem to have a higher priority than the rights of local people.
The local governments currently deploy tanker trucks to deliver 50 liters of water per person and day. The quantity is not enough, however, to live a dignified life, cover basic needs and practice traditional agriculture.
Organizations like the Movimiento por el Agua y los Territorios and the Germinar School for Agroecology want to reclaim the region’s water for local people and nature. They demand a fair distribution of water and the repeal of water laws that were enacted during the time of Chile’s military dictatorship. Background
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