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Witness

Raising Resistance

A Paraguayan farmer's fight against agricultural corporations destroying the livelihoods of many like him.

Last updated: 15 Jan 2014 12:27
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Filmmakers: David Bernet and Bettina Borgfeld 

Raising Resistance explores Paraguayan farmers' struggle against the expanding production of genetically modified soy in South America.

Biotechnology, mechanisation, and herbicides have radically changed the lives of small farmers, known as campesinos, across Latin America. For farmers in Paraguay this means displacement from their land, loss of basic food supplies, and a veritable fight for survival.

Geronimo Arevalos, a small farmer, together with some other farmers, stands defiantly in a corporate-owned soy field adjacent to his own, blocking a tractor from spraying herbicides that will decimate his crops and expose nearby families to toxic chemicals.

As corporate farms seize farmland and rapidly expand production of genetically modified soy, Geronimo and the campesinos find themselves in a life and death struggle. This film illustrates the mechanisms of a global economy that relies on monocrop agriculture (the practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land), and corporate ownership of land, at the expense of the individual and small rural communities.

In telling the story of Paraguay, Raising Resistance poses the larger question of whether the global community wants to go on living with a system that allows one crop to prosper at the expense of all others.

Filmmakers' view

For many campesinos - or farmers - in Paraguay, the expansion of soy fields is like a large, heavy barrel rolling towards them. It takes away the land on which they live and the air they breathe.

The problem of expanding soy fields affects many South American rural populations, not just in Paraguay. In our film, Raising Resistance , we identify a fundamental level of social conflict. It is a conflict that has an archetypal character because it takes place in many regions around the world where the global production of raw materials is the most important factor, while smaller interests are secondary.

For us, it painfully expresses one of the harsh truths of our civilisation - those who have the technological advantage will use it, no matter who suffers as a result.

Around the time we first travelled to Paraguay, the rural population had just decided to begin resisting the soy field expansion. Across the country, groups of campesinos put up their plastic tents in front of the soy fields in an effort to halt soy farming which was damaging their own crops and destroying their communities.

Before our very eyes, the rather abstract connection between the production of raw materials, agricultural chemistry and land conflict suddenly had faces, voices and feelings - and we felt what we saw had to be made into a film. We wanted to show that the campesinos also have the right to exist and feed their families.

The problem of the expanding production of genetically modified crops is not just limited to rural areas of Paraguay. The expansion of raw material production is going on in all regions of the world. At one point in the film, Geronimo, our main protagonist, predicts, "There will be collisions ... violent conflicts … maybe even war".

We believe the escalation Geronimo predicted at that time points far beyond this film and beyond Paraguay. We also believe that battles will happen wherever people are fighting for a basic livelihood and dignity.

After we left Paraguay and flew back to Germany to edit our film, we tried our best to create a film that not only presented a subject well but that helps our audience to see, hear and feel what the campesinos are experiencing.

In Pictures:

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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