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Transcription of a video interview with Riccy Elizondo Calderón:

 
 
 
 

Ricci's family's health has been affected by constant aerial spraying from neighbouring banana planation, Palo Verde which is owned by AKON Group and who sell bananas to US multinational Dole (Limón Province, Costa Rica) This interview was filmed in Nov 2004. Since then it appears that the family have been forced to move so I hope to hear an update soon. Video testimony with English subtitles available

Carlos Arguedas (local trade unionist):

Well for some two months this family have been denouncing the problem they have been suffering because obviously the spraying is affecting the family.

Ricci Elizondo Carderón

We are neighbours of this plantation – Finca Palo Verde 3.

Jan Nimmo

Have there always been banana plantations around here?

Ricci Elizondo Carderón

Not until 20 years ago – well at least not right up to here – all around here and including this property used to be covered in bamboo.

Jan Nimmo

Can you explain to me what it’s like to live beside a banana plantation like this?

Ricci Elizondo Carderón

You could say that’s is pretty un-comfortable because of the chemicals

that they apply onto the bananas – they are very strong with really unpleasant smells, smells that can cause headaches and vomiting, depending on the chemicals - they are really strong and repugnant.

Jan Nimmo

How often do they spray here?

Ricci Elizondo Calderón

As I understand it it’s every 11 days. Jan Nimmo All year?

Ricci Elizondo Calderón

All year – there’s no let up. We’ve got two sons, one’s 8 years old, and the other one is going to be 12. Both of them suffer for allergies, their eyes get inflamed, there’s inflammation, irritation and reddening – just the same as with me. We suffer the same. The younger one, I suppose because he’s been here since he was a baby, has developed, according to the doctor, acute bronchial problems, asthma and an allergy to the chemicals. Now he’s allergic to almost everything. The aerial spraying has being going on over the house for years ... and the plane sprayed over us and one day my husband and I were having coffee just there and they sprayed on us and the coffee went yellow. It falls on your skin and it burns and itches – your eyes feel like they have chilli in them.

When they spray the applications I have to send my children far away. I have to shut the doors and windows because the wind carries the poison inside the house. We like to think of ourselves as people of dialogue we don’t like fights or arguments or anything of the likes but but tired of this happening so many times, tired that they never resolved anything.

Jan Nimmo

You went to the plantation? Ricci Elizondo Carderón Yes, to the plantation to the administration. They said that yes, they would sort the problem but they never did anything. I took my son to the social security clinic. He was affected by allergy reaction and I said that it was as a result of the chemicals and she (the doctor) responded very aggressively that if I was going to fight for this that I was going to waste our time, that we were poor against rich and that they wouldn’t just have one or two lawyers but many and that we didn’t have the means to fight this case.

She also said that if I was looking for money that they weren’t going to get anywhere. I said thanks to her, for her professional opinion that I the only thing I knew was to be a mother and housewife. The very fact of being a mother motivates me to look after the health of my children because I believe that children have the right to health, to be healthy. Just because a person has money, doesn't have the right to come here and ruin the health of a child. I don’t believe any mother would accept it – that they come to your very home to poison you almost all every day – day after day, little by little.

We had a water tank and the chemicals landed inside there because we have well water here, the chemical falls and that’s what we drink the animals had to eat the grass and when we drink the milk from the cows, we're consuming that too. I believe that human beings have the right to health, especially children. It's like not taking responsibility, putting their signature to something that says this child suffers of such and such a thing and that’s what they are trying to evade.

I called lots of places and in one of them made contact and got lots of information and I called the catholic Church who gave me SITRAP's number and they Carlos Arguedas’s name and I contacted him that’s who’s helping us today.

Carlos Arguedas

We’ve taken the corresponding action and contacted CORBANA (Costa Rican Corporation of Banana Plantation Owners), The Environmental Banana Commission, The Agricultural Commission, which includes government institutions such as the Ministry for Health, Agriculture and the Environment. We’ve raised our concerns about the health problem, emphasising that there is a child in this house, who has allergies and who becomes more ill every time aerial spraying takes place which is backed up by medical evidence from the local social security clinic. We are worried because it if it continues like this the family faces a bleak future starting with the health of the children and of the family as a whole and we believe a the it is something which has to be solved by state institutions. The solution from the Banana Commission has been to down some of the bananas but the aerial spraying continues to poison the family and there is no solution .

Ricci Elizondo Calderón

The most obvious result till now is that they have cut down some of the banana plants. They promised me some bands here in the house and the shed so see what pollution there when the aerial spraying takes place was but they’ve never done that A lot of people turned up, I think they looked looking concerned – but I believe it was more out of self interest– Maybe it’s not useful for them that in other countries they realise the terrible things they do with these strong chemicals that they spray . They want to make you believe that they do any harm – that it’s just a daft notion. But it’s not just that – But it’s not just that – it’s something that really does affect us.

I understand that he’s a man named Acon (the plantation owner). I don’t know him because I’ve never met him. Like I was saying, every time we go to the administration to complain he never bothers to take a moment to see how his company is being affected our property which as you can see is small and it’s the only capital that we can give to our children.

My husband is taking a course in organic agriculture. We have somewhere we can raise chickens, calves and fish. But it’s no use because of the contact with chemicals. We can't say it's organic. We had to dry the soil because the spray passed over and left We had to dry the soil because the spray passed over and left We couldn’t consume that. The fish were feeding there. It’s like I say, you have try – well no, not try – to cut short our dreams of giving our children healthier food because of the aerial spraying and the pollution it brings.

I can’t give scientific proof to say that they are poisonous – the only thing I have as proof is my body and that of my children. If it wasn’t toxic then it wouldn’t give cause a reaction.

Carlos Arguedas

We, as a trade union will continue fighting this till we get a result although we understand that there may be no solution because the company aren’t willing to cut down more bananas and the aerial spraying will continue. moving from the place – which means uprooting themselves from where where they’ve lived for a long time.

It’s the family's only wealth so it isn’t easy for them – so they are considering whether to leave the house or continuing to live in this house with the grave danger and that their children grow up with health problems – a direct result of contact with with agrochemicals. If the company doesn’t resolve this problem in the short term then it will be necessary for us to make an international denouncement so that the consumers know that here on this plantation they are producing bananas at the cost of the health of a community.

The Acon Group is a group of national banana producers who sell but who sell to different transnational companies and in the case of this farm they are selling to Dole. Dole should take responsibility for this damage because, according to the contracts that Dole has with its providers and according to the ISO1400 the companies should oblige their providers have environmental standards that don’t endanger human beings. Unfortunately in this case and in many other cases they don’t comply.

Ricci Elizondo Calderón

It’s very sad because we are a family of scarce resources. We built this house when the materials were affordable. If were to build this house now – it would cost us all we have because the cost of the materials have risen up to three times. If were to build this house now – if in the past is was difficult it would be even more difficult it would be even more difficult needs of our children – so yes, it would be quite difficult…

 
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© Jan Nimmo 2004