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NICARAGUA: Women Export Butterflies

MANAGUA - Women from the ecological reserve of the San Juan River, in southeast Nicaragua, have turned into butterfly cocoon exporters to gardens in the United States and Canada.

The project began five years ago in El Castillo, with 11 peasant women who created a partnership with the support of the Friends of the San Juan River Foundation (FUNDAR).

Fabio Buitrago, FUNDAR representative, told Tierramérica that the initiative has expanded to include more women and also has a laboratory where the larvae of 15 native butterfly species are raised.

The "butterfly farm" could generate monthly income of 3,200 dollars, with the average cocoon price at one dollar on the international market.

The San Juan reserve, covering 20,000 square km, is part of the global network of biosphere reserves of UNESCO.


HONDURAS: Environmentalists Oppose Aquaculture Law

TEGUCIGALPA - Environmental groups in Honduras are protesting a project being debated in Congress to regulate the fishing industry. The activists say it would give transnational companies greater freedom to exploit the country's waters.

In the project "we have found violations of constitutional article 107, which prohibits transnational firms from having access to exploiting our seas, rivers, lagoons and lakes," Jorge Varela, of the Gulf of Fonseca Defense Committee, told Tierramérica.

"If the law is passed as it is, the transnationals would be able to carry out aquaculture in concessions and treat those sites as if they were private property," Varela said.

Agriculture minister Mariano Jiménez says the law is to regulate the commercial and small-scale fishing industries in Honduras.

Because of the over-exploitation of resources, it is necessary to seek alternatives that encourage sustainable use, he adds.

Honduran fishing industries generate revenues averaging 180 million dollars a year.


GUATEMALA: Training Farmers

GUATEMALA CITY - Some 18,500 Guatemalan farmers received training this year in 716 workshops conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, ministry spokesman Nery Calvillo told Tierramérica.

"The training is provided with a trusteeship of the ministry and is aimed at improving production and storage of basic grains, like maize, beans, rice and sorghum," said the official.

But the workshops cover a range of areas, including livestock, poultry, fish farming and animal health. The latter is part of an agreement with Mexico, which suffered a foot-and-mouth epidemic in the 1940s, said Calvillo.

"Ours is a very poor country so we must work in prevention, because if we are hit with a livestock disease like foot-and-mouth it could destroy our economy," the spokesman said.

The courses included an environmental component, focusing on protection and risk management, "to ensure agricultural production that does not destroy our natural resources," he said.


ARGENTINA: Legislation Against Over-Fishing

BUENOS AIRES - Argentine ecologists applauded the passage this month of a sustainable fisheries law for the northeastern province of Santa Fe, which holds the country's greatest freshwater fish stocks.

"More than 100,000 residents could benefit directly from this law if we are able to monitor compliance," said Jorge Capatto, coordinator of Fundación Proteger, which since 1999 has been sounding the alert about the disappearance of the 'sábalo' (Brycon melanopterum) and other species of the Paraná River, threatened by over-fishing.

The eggs and larvae of the sábalo contribute to the basis of the food chain for 220 species.

The new law regulates the capture, processing and marketing of the resources and allows commercial fishing only by small vessels and only by persons who have lived in the area at least two years.

Before the bill was passed, Proteger and Friends of the Earth organized workshops and seminars to establish an inventory of the aquatic resources and to promote the participation of the local residents.


PERU: Protecting Medicinal Herbs

LIMA - The Peruvian government will defend biological diversity, genetic resources and indigenous knowledge of natural medicines through a Register of Native Crops and Plants -- and diplomatic and legal actions abroad.

The initiative, approved Nov. 19 by the congressional Agrarian Commission, is a response to numerous denunciations of biopiracy committed by transnational corporations.

These firms attempt to patent as their own products that have been used for generations by indigenous communities of the Peruvian jungle and sierra who hold the knowledge about their medicinal and food uses.

The export of medicinal products has grown recently at a pace of 20 percent annually, and this year is expected to generate revenues of around 10 million dollars.

José Luis Silva, president of the Peruvian Institute of Natural Products, warned about the interest of some foreign importers -- such as from China and Japan -- in acclimatizing native herbs like 'maca', 'yacón' and 'sangre de dragón' to be grown in their own countries.

Silva also demanded measures to promote the export of these products, but with added value.


COLOMBIA: New Line of 'Green' Credits

BOGOTA - Colombia's National Center for Cleaner Production is offering as of this month a line of credits financed by the Swiss government, available to companies that carry out environmentally sustainable projects.

The minimum loan is 10,000 dollars, payable over five years, and aimed at companies with assets of less than five million dollars and fewer than 500 employees.

The financial assistance will help firms conduct projects in prevention or control of contamination, and if it is successful in improving environmental indicators the Swiss government will take responsibility for paying back a part of the loan.

One of the limiting factors for clean production in Colombia is the lack of financing, according to studies by the National Center.


GLOBAL: New Deadline for Environmental Prize

MEXICO CITY - The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has extended until mid-December the nomination period for the new award, Champions of the Earth, aimed at recognizing environmental leaders and activists.

The deadline, which was Dec. 1, has been pushed back 15 days, says the UNEP Latin America office.

An award will be granted in each region: Africa, Asia Pacific, East Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America.

UNEP's objective is that once the prizes are given, the work of the winners will be promoted, in an attempt at replication of successful efforts in other parts of the world.

* Source: Inter Press Service.

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