Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dominga: an unknown victim of EU "free" trade agreement

News is just coming out that in the EU “free” trade negotiatons with Colombia, the first victims are to be the small scale milk and cheese producers. The Andean price band, a system that stops the price going too low or too high, will be elimiated and Colombian milk will have to compete with subsidised milk arriving from Europe. This will have an effect on 450,000 milk producers

Thousands of small milk producers, that are not able to access loans nor do they have leverage in high government, will suffer from an avanlanche of 5500 tonnes of powdered milk, 2310 tonnes in cheese and 1100 tonnes of other milk products those arrival in the country will increase by 10% annually until this vital part of the peasant economy disappears. Is this not about the human rights of thousands of peasant families?”[1]

Photo: Dominga leaving to take her cheese down to the main road, one hour away.

One of these families is that of Dominga, who I first met and wrote about in October 2008. I have been to stay with her several times since then. Darian is now living in the nearby small town where he can continue his studies. There is no secondary education in his hamlet. Cheese production pays for his transport, food and accomodation costs.

The last time I stayed with Dominga was in January. I told her about my good friend who has recently been sentenced for a year and a half after being found with two kilos of cocaine on him. He was doing the more risky job of carrying out the region as his two babies had rashes and he needed to buy medicines urgently.

She wasn't that sympathetic. “those lads in the

se coca areas just want easy money without having to do much work” I remember her saying. An interesting conversation around the kitchen table followed where we chatted about why we each thought that there had been a big increase in coca production in Catatumbo:

- paramilitaries imposing it as got 70% of their national revenue from cocaine in that one region

- twelve hour walks from many farms to just get to the road makes transporting yam or plantain very costly (you would need a lot of donkeys) for the price you would be able to sell it at while a kilo of cocaine in the rucksack is practically actually possible
- lack of State support for peasant farmer agriculture

Photo: Milking her cattle, the daily morning work.

I wonder if Dominga will remember this conversation as she hears news of this threat to her livelihood. Will she have to turn to coca looking for a way to get food on the table and an education for her kids as the neoliberal policies continue to destroy peasant farming?

[1] RECALCA (Colombian Action Network against Free Trade) http://www.recalca.org.co/

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