They are the sugar cane peasants of COPROPAP,
Do you want to know a bit more about COPROPAP? Check out our new journal -> Ecuador 2022/2023
Is it possible to lift a country out of poverty and turn it into an example of sustainable development?
The answer is COPROPAP, Cooperativa de Producción de Panela El Paraíso.
The campesinos have invested everything they have to make it happen: their work, their savings and their courage. It takes courage to put the defense of a sustainable economy before fear and to oppose mining exploitation that destroys the environment. It takes courage to respond to intimidation by asserting one’s rights through legal means, even at the risk of one’s life.
In the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of the Chocó Andino, organic sugar cane cultivation is the most sustainable alternative to mining exploitation that threatens to destroy an entire ecosystem. The reserve lies between 360 m and 4,480 m and covers 286,000 hectares, one-third of the province of Pichincha, of which the municipality of Pacto is part. The rainforest covering this territory is home to around 350 species of birds, hundreds of orchids and 100 species of mammals, including the spectacled bear.
Twenty years ago, isolation, low productivity and no national development policy or assistance prompted the cane sugar farmers to unite in a cooperative. Today, the cooperative brings together 49 members, providing economic support to more than 200 families in Pacto’s rural communities.
However, a threat looms over the prospects for sustainable living and development in the area. The Ministry of Non-Renewable Natural Resources has approved 15 mining concessions within the Biosphere Reserve, which operate illegally as they lack an environmental license; of these concessions, two in particular, Urcutambo and Ingapi, are the most impactful.
The mining concessions amount to more than 4,600 hectares and will have a direct impact on the communities of Pacto and Gualea. In addition to the social impact with consequent migration, the Chirapi River water system, which includes the Pishashi, Chulupe and Peripe rivers and twenty ravines and gullies, would be irreparably damaged if mining were to prevail. The farmers of COPROPAP, together with a regional front of associations coordinated by the Municipality of Pacto, oppose it in defense of their Constitutional Rights.
The State continues to allow mining concessions despite the prohibition imposed by the Constitution of Ecuador itself. The Frente Antiminero, supported by the local government of Pacto, has built a garrison that concretely consists of a road blockade organized by the inhabitants of the Pacto community to prevent mining material (mainly gold) from being illegally stolen from the area. This garrison organized by ordinary women and men is an exceptional testimony of non-violent resistance to oppose the interests of big business. In the same way, it aims to defend the human rights of the inhabitants of the reserve: for example, the right to water, which could be lost if mining is encouraged, but also the right to live in a healthy and unpolluted environment, and logically the rights of workers, such as the right to a fair wage, the cooperative’s main objective.
All these topics also have a deep connection with our South Tyrolean territory, and for this reason, we will be happy to explore them in depth during the course we will build for the coming school year. In addition, we will have the opportunity to collaborate directly with the Fondazione Altromercato and the Rete d’impresa delle Botteghe del Mondo dell’Alto Adige/Netzwerk der Südtiroler Weltläden, realities present and active in Trentino-Alto Adige, already partners of COPROPAP.
Objectives of COPROPAP
The overall objective is to improve the socio-economic conditions of COPROPAP‘s small member producers and their families and to extend the benefits to new members in order to help counteract the mining projects looming in the area, strengthening a sustainable economic alternative for the local population of 21,000 people in the Pacto area. The direct beneficiaries are more than 200 families of small producers and agricultural laborers, associated with the COPROPAP cooperative, as well as a local population of more than 21,000 whose fundamental right to enjoy basic goods such as pure water and a pristine environment is at risk.
1) To strengthen an entire economic chain of organic agricultural production that is a virtuous example of the application of the principles of agro-ecology and sustainable agro-forestry management that benefits an entire community. Until now, the milling of the cane took place in an artisanal manner at a family level, with small motor-driven mills that extracted the juice from the cane mechanically and boiled it by evaporating the water. This management could lead to the risk of serious work accidents with injury to workers (risk of amputation of hands or arms) or risk of fire. The support will help to achieve the goal of completing the construction of the new sugar factory by improving sugar production technology, with the advantage of being able to achieve significant energy savings, but also a high level of work safety.
2) Strengthen COPROPAP‘s activities in raising awareness among local communities in support of the ‘frente antiminero’, which includes COPROPAP members together with numerous associations, the Pacto municipality and all the local communities in the reserve, coordinated by Richard Mario Paredes (president of the Pacto municipality) and Eddy Cortès, former president of COPROPAP. The Frente has won a case in the High Constitutional Court to carry out a popular consultation in the coming months to put an end to mining exploitation that threatens the ecosystem and pollutes the waterways on which life in the Reserve depends;
3) contribute to the preservation of the Nature Reserve by supporting the legal actions to be taken by COPROPAP leaders to protect the constitutional rights to enjoy the right to water and to enjoy a healthy and uncontaminated environment.
How did we get here?
Since 2007 Operation Daywork EO has annually supported a development cooperation project chosen at the General Assembly. Since 2015, the Board of Operation Daywork EO has decided to give a human rights award instead of supporting a project, funded as always from the proceeds of the Action Day. The impetus for this change stems from the difficulty for OD to establish a thorough relationship with the local project partner in the years following funding.
With the Human Rights Award, Operation Daywork EO is in direct contact with the partner organisation receiving the award so that a relationship of solidarity and trust can develop.
The human rights prize will also facilitate OD’s awareness-raising activities by directing attention to different issues, giving a voice to human rights defenders and encouraging others to do the same.
The selection of the Human Rights Award winner, as well as the awareness-raising campaign, remains unchanged. OD publishes an annual call for nominations, to which organisations and individuals wishing to nominate a candidate for the award are especially invited to participate. Prior to the OD General Assembly, a pre-selection will be carried out and 3 finalists for the award will arrive at the General Assembly. The finalists are invited to indicate which concrete activities and projects they will realise with the prize money. The winner will have to come to South Tyrol and Trentino for the subsequent awareness-raising campaign and will contribute to the elaboration of educational materials.
Through the Human Rights Award we hope for an increased participation of students in the Action Day, as they are motivated to directly support people active in the field of human rights.
What do we want to achieve?
We honour people, organisations, movements or informal groups that stand out for their commitment to civil society and their concern for universal human rights. With the awarding of the Operation Daywork prize, OD wants to recognise this courageous commitment, which often involves major risks.
This award will not only recognise the value of the individual’s or the organisation’s commitment but will also serve to raise awareness in the civil society. The aim is therefore to get the people to know these human rights defenders and encourage others to become involved in this field.
The award is open to individuals, organisations, associations, informal groups, committees, unions, foundations and cooperatives that are non-profit making.
Nominations must be received by OD no later than 8 May 2023, 12:00 P.M.