Jul 9, 2013

Guatemala's sugar cane land rush anything but sweet for corn growers

Screen shot 2013-07-09 at 10
crédito de foto:Priced out … Guatemalan farmer Victor Manuel Vasquez tends his land. Industrial plantations are affecting livelihoods. Photograph: Juan Manuel Barrero Bueno/Oxfam

July 9, 2013

Source: Guardian

By Sibylla Brodzinsky in Astillero, Guatemala

For the past decade, the corn farmers of this village in southern Guatemala managed to scratch out two harvests of maize a year from the 10 hectares (24.7 acres) of land they rent. But the crop they planted in May will be their last.

"We no longer have land to grow on because the owners of the land told us that this will be our last harvest there," says Moisés Morales, president of the Amanecer farmers' association. Sugar cane growers, they were told, had offered double the rent that the corn growers paid. The corn farmers couldn't match the price.

The plots farmed by the Amanecer members used to be among thousands of corn farms in the municipality of Taxisco. Today they are surrounded by a sea of sugar cane fields. Most small plots have been bought up and crowded out by expanding cane farms. Many corn farmers have left the area for the low foothills of nearby mountains "where cane harvesting machines can't go", says Morales.

"We're being surrounded bit by bit," he says. "We're like on a small island in the middle of all this cane."

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