Forests, lo­cals harmed in Mex­ico’s av­o­cado boom

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH -

JUJUCATO, MEX­ICO:

Lil­iana Carmona misses the lush pine for­est on the hills over­look­ing her vil­lage in west­ern Mex­ico. She now stares at vast av­o­cado orchards that feed a mas­sive for­eign ap­petite for the green fruit.

Grow­ers have been cut­ting down swaths of for­est to make room for more fruit trees in the state of Mi­choa­can, the world’s av­o­cado cap­i­tal. Ex­perts are now concerned that chem­i­cals used in the orchards could be be­hind ill­nesses af­flict­ing the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion. “The sneez­ing doesn’t stop when they are fu­mi­gat­ing,” said Carmona, a stocky 36-year-old mother of two who works at a small gro­cery store in Jujucato, a vil­lage in the heart of av­o­cado land.

In the 15 years that Sal­vador Sales has been teach­ing in Jujucato, he has seen his stu­dents come down with more and more breath­ing and stom­ach problems. “We be­lieve this is caused by the prod­ucts used to spray the av­o­cado orchards,” said Sales, who be­lieves that the wind blows the chem­i­cal fumes into the homes of his stu­dents.

About 40 per­cent of the world’s av­o­ca­dos are grown in Mex­ico, and most of those come from the area around Jujucato and Lake Zi­rahuen. Av­o­ca­dos oc­cupy some 137,000 hectares (340,000 acres) of land in Mi­choa­can, ac­cord­ing to state gov­ern­ment fig­ures. Half of those orchards were planted in forests af­ter the land was bought through du­bi­ous le­gal means, ac­cord­ing to Jaime Navia, head of a ru­ral tech­nol­ogy NGO called GIRA. De­for­esta­tion is growing at a pace of 2.5 per­cent per year, ac­cord­ing to GIRA.

Kid­ney and liver problems

Tem­per­ate weather in the region al­lows for year-round cul­ti­va­tion of av­o­cado, a fruit that orig­i­nated in Mex­ico and is loaded with vi­ta­mins, pro­teins and healthy fats. While there is a strong lo­cal de­mand, pro­duc­tion has soared along with the av­o­cado’s ever-growing in­ter­na­tional ap­peal, and forests have paid the price. Ex­perts warn that the chem­i­cals used in moun­tain orchards may be spilling down into ground wa­ter, streams, rivers and lakes, and sub­se­quently caus­ing ill­nesses among the pop­u­la­tion. Al­berto Gomez Ta­gle, an ex­pert on the en­vi­ron­ment in the Lake Zi­rahuen region, which in­cludes Jujucato, said many com­mu­ni­ties that rely on the lake wa­ter may al­ready be suf­fer­ing from the ef­fects of chem­i­cal runoff. — AFP

URUAPAN, MI­CHOA­CAN, MEX­ICO: Pic­ture of av­o­ca­dos taken at an or­chard in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Uruapan, Mi­choa­can State, Mex­ico, on Oc­to­ber 18, 2016.—AFP

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