El Chaco:

when livestock is a threat

Paraguay, 2015

Often overlooked to the detriment of Amazonia, the Paraguayan Chaco, is a semi-desert ecosystem that has suffered the highest rate of deforestation in the world for two years. The deforestation of this rather atypical natural space is generated by the development, sometimes anarchic, of cattle breeding. Focusing on intensive farming, landlords abuse the bulldozer and deforest large plots without even having the necessary permits ... The first breeders came from Russia, Germany and Poland. These are the Mennonites. Nearly 100,000 have settled in Paraguay. A land of welcome that offered them a religious exile to practice anabaptism. The Mennonites thus spread over the territory and formed colonies more or less adapted to contemporary life. Some Mennonites have settled in the Chaco. At the time, this land was synonymous with arid desert where the promise of a prosperous life had flown. There was everything to be done. Thus, the migrants created the first roads, transported the materials to build their colonies, their towns and developed their peasant know-how: agriculture and livestock. Very quickly, cattle breeding proved to be an interesting trade. The first slaughterhouses have emerged from the land and the estancias are constantly being born. Moreover, Chaco's salty soil, rich in trace elements, allows the production of a tender and tasty meat that is now exported internationally. Parallel to the breeding, colonies have developed their dairies and feed the whole country today. This severe deforestation disrupts an entire ecosystem and leads to the loss of its biodiversity, climate change, and threatens extinction the last indigenous people of the country who have not yet had contact with the outside world. And to save these brothers and fight against the destruction of their environment, the Totobiegosodes testify of their past. They are the last people of Paraguay to have come into contact with the civilization in 2004 during their meeting with the bulldozers ...

El Chaco, Paraguay, september-october 2015 

©adeline auzuech

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