By the WFP Nicaragua International Team
A couple weeks ago, we visited several communities in the Bajo Aguan. We heard stories of their struggles for dignified homes and food sovereignty. The slide show below includes pictures from these visits. Please click each photo to see text that provides background on the situation in the Bajo Aguan. For further reading, click here for a detailed report from an international fact finding mission published last year. Photo captions can be found below.
Photo 1: Memorial for Martyrs
A young boy sits in front of the memorial for martyrs at International Human Rights Conference in Solidarity with the Bajo Aguan. At least 45 campesinos have been killed in the Bajo Aguan since the coup détat in 2009. (Photo credit: Lucy Edwards)
Photo 2: International Human Rights Conference in Solidarity with the Bajo Aguan
From February 17-19, 2012 over 1,000 participants from around the world gathered to stand in solidarity with the people of the Aguan Valley and hear testimonies. The massive event was coordinated in part by OFRANEH (Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña) and COPINH (The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras).
(Left: Miriam Miranda, OFRANEH, Right: Berta Caceres, COPINH).
Photo 3: Garifuna Ceremony
Afro-indigenous Hondurans pay homage to the assassinated campesinos of the Bajo Aguan through a ceremony including song. Members of Garifuna communities gather to enter the auditorium. (Photo credit: Lucy Edwards)
Photo 4: Camille Chambers
Haitian grassroots leader, Camille Chambers, spoke about the ties between the struggles in Haiti and Honduras. He warned of the danger of the international community and media calling Honduras a "failed state." Chambers argued that like in Haiti, it gives international actors justification to swoop in to "stabilize" the country with military forces.
Photo 5: Aguan River
The Aguan river divides two parts of the valley. Campesinos on both sides are seeking legal titles of land that was illegally sold or sold under intimidation. Honduran agrarian laws changed in the early 1990s to comply with structural adjustment programs promoted by international financial institutions such as the IMF. The new laws fostered privatization and paved the way for large business owners to divide cooperatively owned lands.
Photo 6: African Palm
African palms take up large swaths of land in the Aguan Valley. There are 120,000 hectares of African Palm growing in Honduras. Much of this land is owned by a handful of large businesses. 70% of the palm oil produced is for export.
An estimated 200,000 campesino families in Honduras or 44% of the rural population. do not have access (or inadequate access) to land.
Photo 7: Military Checkpoint
After the 2009 the Bajo Aguan has become increasingly militarized. This soldier stands at one checkpoint between Tocoa and the community of Rigores. Community members reported that military presence diminished temporarily during the International Human Rights Conference.
Photo 8: Military Outpost in Guadalupe Carney
The community Guadalupe Carney sits on lands that used to serve as the Regional Center for Military Training (CREM). At the CREM, the United States military and the CIA trained Contras and other Latin American armed forces responsible for human rights abuses.
Today while the base no longer exists, U.S. trained troops are stationed there to monitor the campesinos.
Photo 9: Mother in Rigores
Maritza is a mother from the community of Rigores. Her home was destroyed in June 2011 when Honduran police forcibly evicted community members who had been living on the lands for 12 years. Police burned and bulldozed homes, churches and schools.
Photo 10: Home Destroyed in Rigores by Police
Remains of a home that was destroyed in June 2011 by Honduran police during the eviction. The family was unable to collect many of their belongings before their home was destroyed.
Photo 11: Newly Constructed Home in Rigores
The newly constructed home built on the same small plot of land where the family has lived for 11 years. Rigores still lives in fear of a new eviction.
Photo 12: School in Rigores
Children play in front of the school, which is being reconstructed after being damaged last June during the violent eviction.
Photo 13: Marañones
According to a community leader from Marañones, "Here it is a crime to be a campesino."
Photo 14: Justicia, Libertad, Tierra
A sign waving at the entrance of the community Marañones reads: "Justice, Liberty, Land."