Valle Nuevo farmers say they are told to plant avocados in protected area

Photo: Joachim Huber, Flickr

The Ministry of Environment now under Minister Angel Estevez would seem to have a love affair with avocados. As reported in Diario Libre, the lucrative business of exporting avocados has the Ministry of Environment looking the other way and not exercising its mandate to preserve Dominican forests and protected areas.

Investigative reporter Tania Molina of Diario Libre reported on 19 December 2018, that despite the order for farming to desist in the Valle Nuevo protected area area that is a vital to the continuing of important rivers, reality is that small farmers say they are encouraged to plant ever since the change of helm at the Ministry of Environment. Estevez was appointed in May 2018. The Ministry’s Plan de Acción para el Rescate del Parque Nacional Valle Nuevo, enacted under his predecessor, Francisco Domínguez Brito, seems to have been filed away.

Molina says farmers have told her that Ministry of Environment rangers that protected the area have been gone for a year. The absence of surveillance has served as a “green light” for farmers to resume the planting of avocados, potatoes, carrots and onions that had been strictly prohibited under Domínguez. Molina says that some farmers admitted to her that they have even received instructions from the minister of environment himself to plant avocados.

In an interview with Diario Libre, Minister Estevez and his deputy minister for protected areas and biodiversity, Daneris Santana, ensured that the plantations are three years old and no more are being planted. But a Diario Libre drone surveyed the area and confirmed the new planting. Evidence of this was presented to the Ministry in November 2018, but there was no response from the Ministry as to the claims.

In addition to his political appointment to the Medina administration cabinet, Estevez is an important agriculture businessman. He has stated: “I will not topple a tree of an edible product, food is not to be destroyed.” Estevez argues that nature is perfect and avocados are mountain fruit. He said Peru, Mexico, Chile and Colombia have avocado and coffee plantations in the mountains.

Government statistics show that the avocado exports increased from US$22.8 million in 2013 to US$48.86 million in 2017. The Ministry of Agriculture says that 7,867 tareas (1 tarea = 629 square meters) planted of avocados was 7,867 in 2012 and this increased to 31,889 in 2017.

Read more in Spanish:
Diario Libre

20 December 2018