There is some significant progress with the claim being made by 40 Indian communities for legal title over lands along the River Pilcomayo (Province of Salta). A long-term dispute over the territory with criollos (Spanish speaking settlers) is now being addressed by the government. It is hoped that the 600,000 hectares in question will be distributed between both groups, with the Indians getting 400,000 and the criollos the remainder.
Communities southeast of Tartagal have successfully brought a halt to deforestation on their ancestral territories. This was achieved through a court injunction, which has sent shock waves through the farming community.The above measure came with a price. The ban on deforestation included logging operations. As many Indians are involved in the wood-cutting trade, a number of them have suddenly found they are without work while the ban is in place.
All of the above is taking place in a context in which Salta has finally set out a land use policy for the province. This is something we have been arguing for, along with other NGOs, and it is gratifying to see that the first steps are being taken in that direction. As things stand, the government has proposed that landowners in areas inhabited and used by Indians will not be able to deforest their properties. They can use them for forestry and other activities, but not extensive agriculture.
We trust and pray that these positive moves continue and develop. There are still many Indian communities (more than half of the 23,000 we work with) who do not have land rights secured. Most of those that do have some land secured do not have enough, so there is still much to be accomplished in this regard.