Swedish buyers met with communities in Peru

ARTICLE | 2 May 2019

More than 120 people attended the launch of the report “To the last drop” in Peru, highlighting water and human rights risks associated with large-scale vegetable production. Swedish companies buying from Peru also participated and met with workers and affected communities.

The room was filled to the last seat when Swedwatch and Swedwatch’s member organisation Diakonia presented the Spanish version of the report To the last drop/Hasta la ultima gota in Peru’s Ica Valley. Community members, civil society organisations, local authorities, exporters and buyers were all in attendance to discuss solutions to issues raised in the report – particularly the decreasing access to water for Ica’s local communities due to a rapidly expanding agro-export industry.

Ahead of the launch event, representatives from Swedish companies Axfood, Coop and Greenfood met with affected rights holders. The companies are three out of seven buyers reviewed in the report (all of which were invited to join Swedwatch’s and Diakonia’s visit to Peru), as they buy asparagus and other commodities from the region. The opportunity to raise concerns directly with foreign buyers was appreciated both by small-scale farmers and workers, as dialogues on the impacts of the agro-export industry were stated to be rare.

“Civil society is often bypassed when solutions are discussed here. Having Peruvian and Swedish companies as well as local authorities present when we discuss the human rights impacts that we see every day means a lot. There is a need for a permanent forum for dialogues like these”, said Gustavo Echegaray, director of local CSO Human Rights Commission of Ica (Codehica).

The 2018 Swedwatch and Diakonia report To the last drop, conducted in association with Codehica, reviews the due diligence processes of seven Swedish companies buying fruits and vegetables from the Ica valley. The report shows how large-scale production of crops such as asparagus has caused an acute water scarcity in the desert area, with severe impacts on local communities. The report also exposes negative impacts on labour rights at export farms and harassment against trade union members.

During their visit, company representatives also met with the local water authority, exporters, trade unions and farming cooperatives.

“It has been very valuable for us to come here to the Ica valley and get to meet several stakeholders and hear how they look at the situation. We have learned a lot during these days and I hope that our presence can lead to an increased dialogue between different parties”, said Christina Snöbohm, Manager of global sustainability at Coop.

At the launch event, the three Swedish companies emphasised that the water scarcity and associated human rights risks need to be urgently addressed. These statements were in line with key recommendations in the report, calling on buyers to use their leverage towards suppliers and other key stakeholders. Peruvian producer Agricola Chapi, also participating in the event, agreed that water usage was an urgent issue that the company will be focusing more on. The Stockholm International Water Institute, SIWI, also participated in the field visits and report launch.

Swedwatch will continue its work to highlight the situation in the Ica Valley, including through following up with companies on the address of water and human rights risks identified in the report. Furthermore, the report will be used by Diakonia and Codehica in discussions concerning the development of a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights currently taking place in Peru.