Women at work in agriculture and responsibilities related to the environment
The modernisation. agriculture in Brazil brought with it ecological and environmental problems. The increasing use of fertiliser and pesticides, intense and concentrated mechanisation and the large export-crop exploitation caused such an impact on soil, forests, inland water, and biological balance of pests and diseases that they cannot but trigger the country's awareness.
The sustainability of the present intensive agricultural model can be questioned since: a) the high rate of soil compaction with the loss of its infiltration capacity has given rise to unacceptable soil erosion rates as well as to an increase in the vulnerability of crops to the hydric "stress"; b) the intensive and incorrect use of chemical materials such as pesticides and fertilisers compromises the ecological balance, causing pollution of the waters and damaging its potentialities; c) the incorrect use of irrigation on the plateau and the drainage of the lowlands along with the destruction of riverside vegetation and the increase of the surface flow is damaging the hydric balance, the river perenniality and the water supply to cities and to hydroelectric power stations; d) the excessive deforestation, in clear infringement of forest preservation laws, combined with the abusive use of pesticides and the establishment of extensive monocultures eliminate the natural and pollinating agents of agricultural areas and increase the outbreak of diseases and pests; e) the increase of cave-ins caused by heavy rains has led to a desertification process; Al the intensification of forest burning, causes pollution and increases the possibilities of desertification (C I MA, 1 991).
The preservation of vegetation and forests and the recovery of devastated areas are a legal obligation, besides the protection of water sources and the reintroduction of species that can reduce the pollution of rivers and streams.
In the production areas, planning has to be capable of assuring the productivity at a commercial level, making proper use of the natural resources and considering the improvement of the quality of life of the local population as well as preservation of the environment.
Within this framework of planning, women must be acknowledged as political subjects, capable of contributing to the economy in such a way that sustainable development can be reached (Delgado e Lopes, 1992).
Women are bearers of a powerful impulse for change and, therefore, they are capable of contributing to the creation of a style of development which will favour social justice as well as respect for the environment. In this way, both a reduction of social disparities and the improvement of the quality of life will be attained and thus enhance human dignity.
The rural women and the environment