Publication Date

2004

Abstract

This paper seeks to examine popular resistance to the proliferation of intensive shrimp farms in the mangrove forests of Honduras. Specifically, the paper will explore the role of female activists involved in the struggle, and analyze their activities through the conceptual perspective of the eco-feminist development theory.

Interest in this project was borne out of a previous research assignment that analyzed labor policies of lesser-developed countries. Within that study, I discovered a large body of literature discussing the pros and cons of the use of shrimp farm development as a foreign export, income-producing endeavor for the emerging economies of Southeast Asia, Latin America and more recently, in Africa. The major actors in supporting this development scheme include the World Bank, USAID, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the WTO and IMF. The argument against the shrimp farms (raised by Greenpeace, World Wildlife Federation and the Environmental Justice Foundation, et al.) point to issues around exploitative labor practices, human rights violations, abuses of land rights, and severe environmental degradation.

The contentious nature of intensive aquaculture projects has resulted in numerous local uprisings, protests, and violence, including many deaths in Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Ecuador, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.

The issue brings to bear the questions of sustainability, in terms of environmental stability, respect for human rights, conflict resolution and economic development that is inclusive and fair. Tossed into the fray are the feminist issues that seem to arise out of many development programs that are designed to “help” local indigenous communities.

My focus on Latin America stemmed from the initial research, in which I found plentiful literature about women activists involved in the shrimp farm struggle in Asia—primarily India and Bangladesh. Although shrimp farm development and its popular resistance is very much alive in Latin America, there is virtually no literature available about feminist activists within the struggle. I was even told by the leader of an environmental group in Guatemala that women do not concern themselves with activism in Central America. This statement seemed, to me, to be nonsensical, given the well-documented historical accounts of Central American women involving themselves in revolutionary movements, rebellions and guerilla combat. My original question then, was “Where are the Latina activists?”

Upon further research in the field, I did find the Latina environmentalists and political activists. The women whom I spoke with belonged to mixed-gender groups, but were no less involved in delivering their message. Using the activist NGO Committee for the Defense and Rights of the Flora and Fauna of the Gulf of Fonseca (CODDEFFAGOLF) as a case study, the data collection included directed interviews with participants and observations of their involvement and relationships with male members of the group. This data was weighed against the eco-feminist approach to development, in order to draw conclusions about the motivations and objectives of the women activists. The paper will address two questions:

1. What role do the female leaders of CODDEFFAGOLF play?

2. How do their roles and activities support or refute the conceptual tenets of ecofeminism?

In order to understand the urgency in which the resistance approaches their problem, it is important to understand the gaps between the promises of the shrimp farm development and the realities local people face as a result of the subsequent mangrove deforestation. Thus, the paper will first provide an introduction into the rationale behind the resistance by describing the “Blue Revolution” and the ecological and socio-economic factors behind shrimp farm development. Once the basis for resistance has been established, we will then examine the role of the women activists through the ecofeminist lens.

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