Richland is my long-term documentary project (currently in progress) about the over-exploitation of the natural resources in Latin America and the resulting long-term negative effects, both human and environmental. The push for accelerated world economic growth has led to increasing demand for natural resources. As a result, companies have increasingly exerted pressure on States – where institutional and legislative frameworks are weak – to open up territory to feed the expansion of the world economy. Latin America has seen significant growth in foreign investment in extractive industries since the early 1990s. Rather than benefit from natural resources’ abundance and wealth, local people living in areas of exploitation have experienced loss of livelihoods, health problems, human rights violations and environmental degradation.
In late 2008 I traveled to Santarem in the Brazilian Amazon where I covered the struggle of the people who have been displaced by the arrival of soya agribusiness to the region. A rising demand for soybean on the global market has led the Brazilian government, together with multinational agribusiness companies, to expand the agricultural activity into the Amazonia. Santarem, in the heart of the jungle, has become the new agricultural frontier. By 2000, soy producers began buying large quantities of land from rural families who had been living there for decades. With the hope of starting a new life in a city, many of them have migrated to the Santarem’s growing slums where living conditions are unhealthy. Most of them, with no marketable job skills, don’t find employment and get forced to live in misery.
(Gustavo Jononovich | Richland, PRIVATE 55, pages 18-21)