Nicaragua: Save sugar cane farmers with clean water and shade?

Nicaragua's sugar cane growers are increasingly suffering from severe kidney disease of as yet unclear origin. Is it possible to intervene to save them?

He is about to end up run over, his mother saves him

Growers of sugar caneof Nicaraguathey are increasingly suffering from severe kidney disorders of not yet clear origin. Is it possible to intervene to save them?

About half of the male population of Chichigalpa has an often fatal kidney disease that appears to be linked to their work as sugar cane farmers. The disease is known as chronic real insufficiency and it is literally bringing the inhabitants of Chichigalpa, where it is based there, to their knees San Antonio Sugar Mill.

Le causes of the disease they are still mysterious, but it seems that dehydration, stress, antibiotics, use of agrochemicals and genetic reasons are among the possible factors contributing to its occurrence. Chronic kidney failure is affecting agricultural workers, especially men, in other parts of the world as well.

in Sri Lanka, for example, 15% of the population was hit from kidney disease. There were 2014 patients and 400 deaths in 20. In the dock as regards the causes of the disease we find the herbicide Roundup a basis of glyphosate produced by Monsanto. Sri Lanka has therefore called for a ban on Roundup and any glyphosate-based products.

It seems that the use of some powerful agrochemicals can lead to the accumulation of nephrotoxic heavy metals, therefore dangerous for the kidneys, in drinking water. The water available to the agricultural populations of Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, and beyond, risks being dangerous for the health of the population.

The director and photographer Ed Kashi has decided to document the outbreak kidney failure which in Central America is estimated to have killed 20 people in the past two decades. Kashi plans to use the short film about sugar cane growers to start a fundraiser in aid of the population.

The director told al National Geographic that it is enough to spend a day in Chichigalpa to meet countless sick men aged between 21 and 65 years. It seems that gathering the documentation to shoot the feature film was not easy. Almost impossible to resume the funeral of people who have died due to kidney failure.

In fact, the relatives of the missing persons, having to continue working for the cane sugar company, prefer that there is no evidence of the death of their loved ones, probably linked to their work on the plantations.

Many workers from an early age are forced to go on dialysis. They continue to work even though they are already ill, to the point of having to leave their jobs in the hope of being able to afford treatment. Anyone who gets to the point of having to undergo dialysis without being able to leave the house knows that unfortunately they will die within 6 months or a year at the latest.

Maybe a solution exists. The director explains that in El Salvador a cane sugar company called El Angel has just started a pilot project lasting three years to emphasize the possibility for growers to have at their disposal safe drinking water, shade and moments of rest.

The project got underway thanks to the La Isla Foundation and Solidarity. With his documentary, the director hopes to raise attention to the problem and encourage citizens to put pressure on local governments and companies to improve working conditions on plantations of sugar cane. Unfortunately, the consequences of sugar production in Nicaragua are still too bitter. Shade and drinking water will suffice, or it should be to investigate further on agrochemicals used in sugar cane cultivation?

Marta Albè

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