Wednesday January 22, 2020
Home Lead Story Coca Pesticid...

Coca Pesticide A Direct Threat To Bolivian Bees

On the lush steep slopes around Coroico, beekeeper Villca has no doubt about the immediate threat to his bees.

0
//
bolivian bees
Nancy Carlo Estrada works with her bees outside of Coroico, Bolivia, Dec. 20, 2018. VOA

High up in the Bolivian cloud forest, a woman tends to her bees, smoker in hand, working from hive to hive under a canopy of leaves to delicately gather panels of honeycomb. It’s a bucolic scene that experts say won’t last, for the bees are dying.

The culprit — as in so many other cases across the world — is pesticide. The difference in Bolivia is that pesticide use, along with the coca plantations it is being used to protect, is on the rise.

Environmentalists and beekeepers like Rene Villca say the bee population is being decimated by massive and intensive use of chemical pesticides to protect the region’s biggest cash crop.

Here in the idyllic Nor Yungas region north of the cloud-high capital La Paz, the pesticides are taking a toll on Villca’s hives.

“Of the 20 hives I have, 10 are producing normally and 10 are not.”

Bolivian Bees
Nancy Carlo Estrada works with her bees outside of Coroico, Bolivia, Dec. 20, 2018. VOA

On another part of the mountain where Nancy Carlo Estrada tends to her bees, a canopy of protective netting around her head, Exalto Mamami wades through a waist-high coca plantation, pumping out liquid pesticide from a canister on his back, face covered with a long cloth against harmful blowback from the spray.

He is all too aware of the pesticide’s toxicity, but has other priorities.

“We use pesticides because the pests eat through the coca leaves and this affects our income. The plants can dry out and that way we as coca farmers lose out economically,” said Mamani.

The sale of coca leaves — the base component of cocaine — is legal in this part of Bolivia. They are sold openly for traditional use in the local towns. It is chewed, used for making teas, and in religious and cultural ceremonies.

According to the latest survey by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Bolivia has 24,500 hectares under coca cultivation, an increase of 7.0 percent in a year. The government is collaborating with the UNODC in alternate development programs but despite this, between 35 and 48 percent is destined for cocaine production.

Bolivian Bees
Nancy Carlo Estrada works with her bees outside of Coroico, Bolivia, Dec. 20, 2018. VOA

Coca cultivation expanding

On the steep slopes of the region’s valleys, the lush forest is pockmarked with small plots of coca arranged in terraces.

“The area of coca cultivation has expanded and the native forest has been reduced to alarming levels,” said Miguel Limachi, an entomologist at La Paz’s San Andres University.

Limachi says the expansion of coca cultivation has helped to destroy other plants that provide a natural defense against the coca-leaf pests, particularly the Tussock Moth.

In other parts of the Andes, the pale moth has been used as a biological weapon against coca cultivation.

“A monoculture is more at risk from pests or fungi because there is no longer native vegetation — there are no natural controllers,” Limachi explained. “And then more pesticides are used in higher concentrations.”

Bolivian Bees
It’s a bucolic scene that experts say won’t last, for the bees are dying.

Harmful organophosphates in the pesticides mean the bees — “a social insect and extremely organized,” according to Limachi — become disorganized, and less able to feed and care for larvae.

In recent years across the globe, bees have been mysteriously dying off from “colony collapse disorder” blamed party on pesticides, but also on mites, viruses and fungi.

The danger of increased pesticide use in the Bolivian highlands is that they “remain in the soil, on the surface of the plants and obviously contaminate all the organisms present — both the growers themselves, their children and their families, and the wildlife,” Limachi told AFP.

Pesticides are also used to protect other crops in the country such as coffee plantations and some tropical fruits.

‘Growers have no choice’

For Exalto Mamani, there is no other option but to use pesticides.

“Many of the coca growers are aware that we are affecting the environment with these chemicals, but we have no other alternative because the coca supports us and gives us the economy to support our family,” he said.

He says climate change has meant coca leaf pests are on the increase.

Limachi agrees that climate change has played a role in reducing bee populations.

“Very dry years and other years that have too much rain change the availability of flowers from which the bees use to feed the hives,” he said.

Other human factors also play a role, he said.

Also Read: Rescue Efforts For Wild Puerto Rican Parrot In Motion

“Electromagnetic pollution, the emission of cellular waves, microwaves, radios, television…all that can affect their communication and the operation of the hive because they interrupt processes such as food collection, care of the larvae or cleanliness of the colony,” said Limachi.

On the lush steep slopes around Coroico, beekeeper Villca has no doubt about the immediate threat to his bees.

“We hope that the coca producers realize the value of this golden insect,” he said. (VOA)

Next Story

Know About some Significant Protests Around the World in 2019

2019 was a year full of protests globally

0
Chile Protests
Demonstrators clash with a police water cannon during anti-government protests in Santiago. VOA

By Jamie Dettmer

It has been a year of protest — from Hong Kong to Bolivia, and from France to Lebanon. Few parts of the world were spared significant protests in 2019.

In Russia’s capital, Moscow, protesters were outraged by rigged elections. In Britain, people rallied against Brexit, Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Serbia, Ukraine, Albania and the central European states all experienced major demonstrations. Separatists battled police in the restive region of Catalonia. Dissent in the Middle East prompted talk of a new Arab Spring.

In the Americas, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela all experienced popular unrest. And the list goes on.

France Protests
Yellow Vests protesters march on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris. France’s yellow vest protesters remain a force to be reckoned with five months after their protests started. VOA

“The data shows that the amount of protests is increasing and is as high as the roaring 1960s,” according to Jacquelien van Stekelenburg, an academic who studies social change at Vrije University in Amsterdam.

Protest like it’s 1848

The year 2019 has drawn comparisons to 1848, when the ruling elites and monarchies in Europe were at a loss as to how to deal with the turbulence and anger tearing through the continent.

Then, as now, the immediate grievances propelling protesters onto the streets differed from country to country: 170 years ago, some were protesting at the dysfunction and corruption of their states and anger at hidebound elites for resisting modernization and liberal change. Have-nots marched out of economic despair. Nationalists wanted to break away from empires. Anarchists wanted to blow everything up.

In the so-called Spring of Nations — revolutions of 1848 — seemingly small incidents or government decisions could spark the trouble. So, too, in 2019.

France’s Yellow Vests, drawn largely from low-income earners in small-town and rural France, took to the streets and blockaded roads to protest higher “green” taxes on fuel. The same in Chile and Ecuador — planned sharp rises in fuel prices and metro fares triggered the fury this year of low-income and rural communities.

But behind the immediate causes, far more substantive and structural grievances have fueled the worldwide protests. In Lebanon, demonstrators initially took to the streets because of frustration over a tax on WhatsApp, but that was just the spark for an ongoing conflagration of rage over corruption and Iranian influence on the country. The Yellow Vest agitation morphed into a general exasperation about being left-behind economically.

Hong Kong protesters
A photo of protests in Hong Kong against the Extradition Bill. VOA

In Hong Kong, an extradition bill was the prompt, but also a symbolic one for protesters furious about a creeping Beijing-dictated authoritarianism.

The 2019 protests have had some common themes, say analysts, including anger about stifled democracy and the demand for greater political freedom. Anger about corruption and the perception that political systems are rigged have been common grievances.

Some commentators have tried to tie all the protests together, arguing rallies and demonstrations and blockades more often than not are a reaction to anti-democratic and right-wing forces taking hold in many places around the world.

Maybe so for some but not all, and there are plenty of contradictions. And then and now, protesters on the left or right of the political spectrum share on thing in common — a firm conviction that things should and can change.

One big difference with the past, though, has come with social media and the internet. Modern communication has helped to fuel anger and assist greatly in the organization and recruitment of protesters to take on authorities.

“The traditional system of enforcing power from top to bottom is increasingly being challenged,” says Thierry de Montbrial, of the French Institute of International Relations.

Populist nationalists rallying in the past year in Italy and Germany have nothing in common with huge pro-EU protests in Britain, where those taking to the streets wanted to force a second referendum on leaving the European bloc. Climate-change protesters sowing havoc in Britain and Australia are demanding the kind of green tax increases that are enraging the Yellow Vests.

“Some protests may look like a sign of democratic decay amid a rise of populism and alienation with the political status quo — for example, in Brazil, the United States or France,” according to Richard Youngs, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment, a Washington-based research institution.

ALGERIA protests
People gather for mass anti-government protests in the centre of the Algerian capital Algiers. VOA

“Others may look like a futile rattling of the political cage under growing illiberalism and authoritarianism, such as in Hungary, Morocco or Thailand. More optimistically, protests in places like Algeria, Venezuela and Sudan may signal a heartening indicator of the persistent aspiration for democracy and peoples’ willingness to fight for it in very different parts of the world,” he added in a commentary.

Maybe the attempt to impose a catch-all order to the unrest of 2019 misses the point and the historical comparison should be with the immediate years of upheaval after World War I. In a new book, “Crucible: The Long End of the Great War and the Birth of a New World, 1917-24,” historian Charles Emmerson suggests that countries lose all their moorings during periods of unrest and the result is just chaos.

Also Read- UN to Allocate More Funds for War Crimes Inquiries in Syria and Myanmar

“The established order is swept away,” writes Emmerson. “People who were nothing are catapulted into prominence … the real becomes surreal.”

In the immediate postwar years that Emmerson chronicles, many people felt powerless, lost faith in the ability of traditional political authorities to protect them and to restore predictability, and resented unequal distributions of wealth and power. So, too, now. (VOA)