Chile is the only country in the world in which water resources and water management are privatized. Our documentary “Secos” shows the results and its disastrous consequences.
Avocados are rich in vitamins and minerals, contain a lot of fiber and, not surprisingly, enjoy increasing popularity among European consumers. What is still less known are the catastrophic environmental impact and the violations of the human right to water caused by the expansion of avocado production in fragile eco-systems. In order to produce 2, 5 avocados an average of 1000 liter of water is needed. Production is mainly concentrated in the hands of a couple of big enterprises while small farmers are pushed out of the markets and lose their livelihoods. The situation is especially grave in countries where the right to water is not sufficiently protected by constitution or law. One of those countries is Chile, the second most important global producer of avocados after Mexico, which has almost completely privatized water. The current Chilean constitution and the water law (Código de Agua) have been dictated under military dictatorship. Although water supposedly is a public good under state administration, the state has voluntarily given away its rights. The public institutions in charge of water governance are both weak and highly fragmented. This has led to the development of a water market where individuals can trade water according to the laws of supply and demand. Water in Chile is no longer a basic right but a commodity. The sanitation sector is in the hands of foreign enterprises, and water rights increasingly concentrated in a few powerful enterprises in the mining, timber and agricultural business. Agrobusiness, including the booming avocado sector concentrates about 80% of the drinking water. Plantations are mainly situated in regions with fragile ecosystems.
The short film SECOS is the result of a trilateral cooperation between the Regional Office Cono Sur of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a German political foundation associated with, but independent from, the Green Party, the grass roots organization MODATIMA (Movimiento de Defensa del Agua, la Tierra y la Protección del Medio Ambiente: Movement for the Defense of Water, Land and the Protection of the Environment) and the production firm POETASTROS. A docen of Chile´s most important film and television actors supported the project forgoing payments of their fees. SECOS shows the devasting impact of the privatization of water in Chile within the context of the avocado industry in the province of Petorca. The traditional heart land of Chilean avocado production has been completely transformed by the avocado boom. The two rivers are completely drained by the massive plantations and more than 7000 small farmers lost their income. During the summer a great part of the population of the province has to be supplied with drinking water by tanker trucks. Quantity as well as quality of the supplied water does not meet the minimum standards established by the World Health Organization. After a report of the Danish team of investigative journalism Danwatch members of MODATIMA received death threats and need special protection ever since. SECOS attempts to open a dialogue on the human right to water and responsible consumption including affected communities, European consumers, politicians, human rights organizations and supermarket chains commercializing avocados.