Green Tropics issues eviction notice to Valley of Peace farmers
There is tension tonight among the farming community of the Valley of Peace. As you know by now, the farmers lost their vegetables when the herbicide Roundup was used in aerial spraying. The company, Green Tropics, was fingered in the spraying but the company says it owns the land. On Wednesday, the farmers received an eviction notice and clearly they don’t want to leave the land that they have harvested for more than two decades. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Guillermo Maroquin, a resident of Valley of Peace, is one of a handful of farmers who have been tilling the soil near the outskirts of this predominantly Hispanic community for at least two decades. For him and his family agriculture is the only livelihood they know.
Guillermo Maroquin, Farmer, Valley of Peace
“I used to work along with my father, when I feel I had some strength I came apart from my father and started to work my own area and then it’s just since I remember I am working there.”
Of the three plantations that he now owns and manages, Maroquin is busy harvesting a variety of produce, including sweet peppers, from this twenty-five acre spread. While the yield has been rather successful, given the obstacles that he has had to face over the past few months, the future of his occupation in this area is uncertain.
“All of a sudden this company comes and says this land is ours and you have to come out and that’s, well we feel bad right because we have been working here for a lot of time.”
That company is Green Tropics Ltd. The foreign concern is responsible for the recent destruction of vegetables on a huge swath of farmland used by members of the Valley of Peace Farmers Association. On Monday, an eviction letter was issued to several farmers ordering them to abandon their respective acreages no later than July fifteenth. The move comes on the heels of what should have been peaceful negotiations to resolve the issue.
Jose Alpuche, C.E.O., Ministry of Agriculture
“It is a turn of event that is regrettable because we had, when we last had a discussion with all three parties they were to go out and negotiate amongst themselves. Neither party has alerted us that they had reached an impasse and certainly none of them really informed us of this development. I learnt of it late yesterday evening and, as I said, I haven’t had a chance to speak to them as yet.”
Maroquin, as president of the local association, says that his colleagues aren’t prepared to part with their lands. After all, they have invested everything into making their business profitable.
“They say that they are not coming out of the land. They say that nobody said nothing from the beginning. If the land had an owner I think we’d have the right for the owner to come and tell us, “you know what this land is for us, it’s for me and you can’t work here.” At least that should have happened right but nobody came. We felt the land had no owner, so how comes all of a sudden this company comes to the country, buys everything and then expects us to move from there and we have been working there a long, long time ago.”
From the look of things the matter will likely be resolved in court.
“The issue of land tenure is one that usually ends up in court and it’s not related to this, it’s basically anyone because you have two parties that are claiming rights and usually it’s the court that would have to resolve that issue.”
“You guys are moving on to get a lawyer involved in terms of representing you in court, should this matter go that far…”
“Well I hope it doesn’t go this far but if it goes this way we’ll have to get a lawyer.”
For now, work continues on the leafy tract. While the men are out in the field harvesting their crops, a toddler, seated on the lap of a parent, is being taught how to work the land, beginning with sharpening his own machete. Guillermo is his medium, a second generation farmer in the agrarian community.
“Every day I have to come, I have to check the soil if it’s dry. I have to just spray or put in water, water the plants, spray if [there are] any bugs or anything and then I have to keep it clean, a lot of work. I have to work whole day.”
“And you feel as if though your livelihood is now being threatened by the fact that this company is asking you to get off the land, land that you have been working for over twenty years, as you said.”
“Well it’s not fair. It’s not fair because I have a whole life of work in this way from almost six o’clock in the morning to six o’clock in the evening just for one day the company just comes and says, “You know what, this is for me.”
The Ministry of Agriculture, for its part, is trying its best to arbitrate the matter. The outcome however, is uncertain.
“We will try to contact the parties to see whether there is room for further discussion and the ministry really stands ready to try and see if we could reach an amicable settlement. The last that we had heard was that there were offers on the table and those offers were being seriously considered. So, as I said, it came as a bit of a surprise last night that negotiations had, well had abruptly ended and reached to this level.”