If you’re not an avocado addict, you’re either lying or at least know someone who is. Whether it’s avocado toast, avocado smoothies or even avocado Margaritas, the superfood is more popular than ever, with demand for avocados in the UK rising by 27 percent just last year, according to The Guardian. For true connoisseurs — or millennials looking for an Instagram picture — there’s even an entire museum dedicated to avocados in California. But while we may not think twice about our obsession with this healthy fruit, it’s actually harming the region from which many avocados are grown.
The Petorca province in Chile is one of the world’s most prolific producers of avocados. Three hours north of Santiago, the province is completely covered in avocado plantations. Due to high demand, however, especially among UK supermarket chains like Tesco and Lidl, many of these plantations are installing illegal pipes and wells to divert water from rivers, to better-irrigate their crops. Villagers claim that this has caused the rivers to dry up, resulting in a drought, and that residents must now resort to truck-delivered, often contaminated water.
Local Chilean activists are also blaming the avocado plantation owners for destroying the area’s cultural identity. The dominant avocado industry has made it difficult for smaller farmers to cultivate land or raise animals, so local farmers are going elsewhere. Rodrigo Mundaca, an activist with the environmental organization Modatima, says “our province is aging, the young are moving to the cities and many of the men are going to look for work in the mines of the North…life is becoming unbearable.”
Avocado plantation owners have tried to curry favor with the public by building churches, community centers, and football fields. However, they’re threatening to cease funding these developments if the anti-avocado activism continues. Mundaca claims that his activism has even earned him a few death threats.
Avocado enthusiasm doesn’t look like it’s dying down anytime soon, but supermarkets are being held increasingly accountable to ensure safe production practices.
H/T: The Guardian