Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sugar Cane in El Salvador...the bitter and the sweet.

  Sugar is a big industry in El Salvador.  According to AAES, la Asociacion Azucarera de El Salvador, the industry generates over 50,000 jobs.  Of the national production, half is consumed in Salvadoran homes.  El Salvador is the ninth biggest exporter of raw sugar in the world.  Eighty percent of the sugar produced in the country is exported to the United States, Canada, Russia, Chile, and Taiwan. 
  Sugar is supposed to be sweet, right?  That’s why we grow it and put it in almost everything.  Sadly, sugar cane workers’ lives, here and in Central America, have a bitter side.  The workers are at great risk for developing kidney disease to the point of sickness and even death.  There are a variety of reasons: exposure to extreme heat and dehydration, exposure to chemical pesticides and herbicides (exacerbated by the industry’s lack of providing proper protection), and the funny fact that the workers may be eating too much sugar…fruit juice, soft drinks, and the sugar cane itself. 
  This recent article in the Guardian is not the first to go into the details of what, why, and how.  What is alarming to me is the lack of action being taken to protect the workers.  Whether the causes are singular or multiple, it IS clear that action can be taken now to prevent kidney disease. 
  Sugar cane isn’t the only agricultural industry that creates ill effects for its workers.  In the United States, many farm workers are undervalued and overexposed to chemicals, pesticides, dehydration, and unethical working and living conditions.
  When will the world begin to give farm workers the value they deserve?  Where is the sweetness to be found in an industrial agriculture system that fails its very own workers?  

This map reflects the increase in deaths from kidney disease between 2005 and 2009.

Driving between El Cuco beach and San Salvador we often found
 ourselves stuck behind one of these trucks overfilled with sugar cane. 

Note: these photos have been borrowed from various news articles.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Lauren, for bringing this very important topic to our attention.