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Hunger in a land of plenty as global elites harvest a banana and biofuel bounty

September 7, 2011 • Farming Practices, Daily Email Recap

Hunger in a land of plenty as global elites harvest a banana and biofuel bounty

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Date: Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Source: The Guardian (UK)
Author: Felicity Lawrence

Domingo Tamupsis works as a harvester on a Guatemalan sugar plantation for a firm that exports bioethanol to fill the fuel tanks of cars in the US. He works 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week, in a country that is a leading producer of food for global markets.

His settlement in the fertile Pacific coastal area is surrounded by industrial farms, but he earns so little his family cannot afford to eat every day. Some days he survives his shift of hard physical labour on nothing but the mangoes that drop from trees by the roadside.

His wife, Marina, is 23 but so slight she might be mistaken for a girl. She has two daughters, Yeimi aged six and Jessica, two. Jessica is the size of the average European one-year-old, her distended stomach a sign of chronic malnutrition. When she smiles, hollow creases form in her cheeks, betraying her semi-permanent state of hunger.

Last year Marina gave birth in the eighth month of pregnancy to a stillborn child. She had been ill and hungry throughout, then felt severe pains one day at breakfast time. When she finally reached the nearest medical help, a hospital 45 minutes away by bus, staff told her the baby was dead. They returned the body to her, but she and Domingo had no cash for the return fare. A doctor gave them the fare, and a friend in town lent money for a coffin. So it was that their third child, Marvin Orlando, a brother for their two little girls, came home to be buried.

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