Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 11, 2002
Share Lent lets valley speak
Peruvians live community first, Church-based lives
By GEORGINA LAWRENCE
They have installed beautifully painted billboards at the entrance to the town with a variety of messages such as: The valley is More Than Gold, Jesus Created the Valley For Agriculture.
CEAS asked the Alberta group to visit Piura to see what is going on. (Piura is the largest town and the administration centre for the area.)
The group discovered Manhattan Minerals is the lead company doing feasibility studies and they have identified mineral deposits (gold, silver, copper and zinc) in the valley.
There are three sites planned for open pit mining. If they proceed with work on the largest site, they will dig up approximately 45 per cent of the town, including the town square, which is significant in the Spanish culture.
The mine will divert the course of the river which runs alongside the town as well as several tributaries that run into the river. This area of the San Lorenzo valley is the most productive agricultural area of Peru.
The impact of the mining operation is significant. Mining operations use huge amounts of water and all the water in the area is earmarked for irrigation as the area is semi-arid.
In the 1950s, the World Bank and Peruvian government financed a huge irrigation program for the San Lorenzo valley.
The people are concerned they will lose all the water which is now being used for irrigation.
The mining company told the Alberta group there is enough water for 15 companies for 100 years.
There is also a question of pollution of the river and its effect on the rest of the region. The mining company admits there could be some seepage, but they claim it would not be enough to cause a problem.
But the pollution fear is a major concern for people living down river. Chulcanas is also an agricultural area and a large irrigation program is planned. If the mine goes into operation, the irrigation program would probably be shelved.
The beautiful port town of Paita, one of the most important fishing ports in the country lies further down the river. If that river is polluted, it will kill the fishery or at least drive the fish away until the fishery is no longer viable.
About 250 million tons of freight is also shipped out of the port annually. The mining company's position is that they will put that much tonnage through each year.
It is still a huge environmental concern though, as it could have a negative impact on the fisher folk.
The people of Tambogrande have organized into a group called the Frent De Defence (defence front) of Tambogrande and the San Lorenzo Valley. They have requested an environmental effect study.
One is now being conducted by Manhattan Minerals, but it has been delayed. The people say that the mining company is doing the study, so they already know what the answer will be. The mining company claims they are completely independent and using World Bank standards to do the study.
However, Oxfam, UK hired a hydrogeologist, whose specialty is open pit mining, to do a short environmental assessment. He listed a series of activities that a normal assessment would require in Canada and the United States.
None of it was being done.
The defence front also wants a district-wide referendum on mining in the whole area. They are not saying no to mining: They are asking that the mining stop until a study is done properly.
The people of Tambogrande have received support from the bishops of Tambogrande and Chulcanas and from Creo Pueblo, a group in Piura, the state capital (also the state name).
Creo Pueblo is a group of professionals who are concerned about the development in Piura and its effect on the environment and on the people. Their academic, well organized research has shown there is not enough water to support mining and agriculture together.
The people of Tambogrande have escalated publicity. They have installed beautifully painted billboards at the entrance to the town with a variety of messages such as: The Valley is More Than Gold, The Valley Belongs to Agriculture and The People, or, Jesus Created the Valley For Agriculture.
They also established a radio station which broadcasts a variety of programs including a soap opera that weaves current information about the valley and the lives of the people into the plot.
One agricultural program catalogues crops grown by the farmers. Another experimental farm uses organic techniques and companion planting. The farmers are enthusiastic about this program, since it reduces the cost of fertilizers and pesticides.
Guaman Poma de Ayala also supports a carpentry workshop in Cusco. The program is open to males and females and candidates must meet specific standards before applying for training. Graduates set up their own small businesses or teach carpentry.
Another program involves women's leadership where they teach people how to identify and solve specific community problems.
Another Lima partner was Manthoc, which runs a program for homeless street kids. Here they learn all kinds of hands-on skills such as paper making, making notebooks and Christmas cards and cooking. They also learn business skills and accounting techniques.
Bob Schmidt said the group learned at least two powerful lessons from the trip. People in Peru know their lives are centred around the Church and their faith. The Church is where they go when they are in trouble and it is also the place they go to celebrate.
The other lesson they learned is about the dedication and commitment of the people who work for the various organizations. Although they are well-educated, qualified, young and could make large salaries elsewhere, they choose to work for the community.
The community is first and it is Church based.
(Share Lent donations enable the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace to support people-centred programs like those in Peru throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. Funds raised during Share Lent 2002 enable these programs to continue.)
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