Mennonite farming, ethnicity, and sustainable development in eastern Paraguay

Authors: Mario Cardozo-Sanchez*, Kutztown University
Topics: Land Use, Sustainability Science, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Mennonite, Paraguay, soy, sustainability, ethnic conflict
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Astor Ballroom II, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Mennonite-Paraguayan communities are diverse, ranging from traditional villages with considerable self-imposed technological restrictions to some of the most industrialized agricultural communities in Paraguay. My paper focuses on a Mennonite community established nearly 40 years ago in eastern Paraguay. The community is located on fertile lands for soybean production, an activity that provides an important part of its income. In Paraguay, genetically modified (GM) soy cropping is perceived to be mostly done by Brazilian corporations and Brasiguayo (Brazilian-Paraguayan) communities using big machinery and little labor over large land expanses. Despite their technological limitations, the Mennonite community under study manages to sustain GM soy cropping at competitive levels—selling their production to Brazilian middlemen that export the crop to international markets. I compare the environmental dimensions of the sustainability of this smaller-scale model of GM soy production to those of the Brazilian/Brasiguayo mechanized model. Based on fieldwork conducted in 2015 and 2016, I hypothesize that attachment to their lands and strict adherence to technological restrictions, on the one hand, strengthen this Mennonite community’s environmental conscience and practices, which translate into attempts to comply with environmental law in a region where few soy croppers do. On the other hand, this more sustainable model is threatened by Brasiguayo encroachment into Mennonite’s lands and rising conflicts between similar Mennonite communities and paramilitary groups in the region. I conclude this paper with a discussion about the influences of a region’s ethnic composition and conflicts on shaping land-use changes and environmental feedbacks.

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