Original article The Guardian, 28th April, 2017

Spanish photographer Jordi Ruiz Cirera documents the fallout from Paraguay’s booming agriculture sector, where families are forced from their homes and rivers are filled with pesticides

Spanish documentary photographer Jordi Ruiz Cirera travelled to Paraguay to follow the fate of farmers amid a boom in soy production. Jordi Ruiz Cirera: The United Soya Republic is at Francesca Maffeo Gallery, Leigh-on-Sea, until 3 June. All photographs: Jordi Ruiz Cirera

A silo full of corn in Puerto Gical, near Asunción. Paraguay’s economy is booming in part due to its fast-growing soya production and other agriculture – but thousands of rural families are being evicted and there are concerns over pesticide use. ‘This work documents the complex realities of the global food chain and its socioeconomic implications, at a time when we are seeing a shift from the traditional view of agriculture (as a means to produce food), to a system designed to produce livestock food and oil for cars,’ Cirera says

‘A peasant shoots a firecracker to alert the community that a fumigation is happening nearby,’ Cirera says. ‘In that situation peasants occupy the soy field in order to stop the fumigation, because they believe it endangers the community’s environment and health. In a similar situation two weeks before, the police protected the fumigation and heavily repressed the peasants, leaving several injured’

‘María Lina Estorales cries, explaining how she and the 21 other families of the small community of Guayaqui Cuá were evicted and had their properties burned. She said that cattle-ranch security men and local police officers evicted them without notice on behalf of the large-estate owner who directs the ranch. The lands are owned by the government but the large-estate owner has claims over the area. Multiple ownership of lands is a major issue in Paraguay’

‘Cows at estancia Santa Amalia, a large-estate soya plantation and cattle-ranch farm. Since 2008, an indigenous group has occupied part of the plantation and in 2010 the landowner was allegedly attacked by the indigenous people, who were expelled by the police. In 2014, however, they returned and began claiming ownership of the historical lands from which they were expelled when the estancia was created’

‘Burned traces of the Guayaqui Cuá community after the 22 peasant families were evicted’

‘Juan Ramón, 16, takes a bath in a barrel in the streets of Asunción, where he has lived with his family for eight months. They were living in the bañado, the area surrounding the river, until recent floods resulting from El Niño as well as deforestation due to agribusiness forced them to evacuate’

‘A group of teenagers swim in a river near the Tava Jopoy community. Neighbours claim it’s severely polluted due to pesticides used in the nearby large estate plantations, with whom they are in an ongoing conflict. There are regular protests against the fumigations’

‘Inside the test room at agricultural and agroindustrial biotechnology company Bioceres, where crops with different genetically modified makeups are tested. Bioceres is a market leader in Argentina and holds a strong position in South America. The first genetically modified wheat was developed here’

‘A group of young men kill time in Aviá Teraí, Chaco province. Large-estate soya plantations surround the town, which has a population of around 6,000 and no running water. Unemployment rates here are very high and a large number of the inhabitants depend on government handouts’