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‘There’s a path towards death that people travel’: how hunger destroys lives and communities | Global development

The human body is smart, says Dr Christopher Mambula, medical manager for east Africa at Médecins Sans Frontières. He’s talking about the physical effects of food deprivation, a subject that gets little attention even within the medical world, and yet, as aid agencies continue to report, affects hundreds of millions of people around the world. “If it doesn’t have enough food to convert into energy,” he continues, “it will burn through its own fat reserves, breaking down fat cells into fatty acids to be used for energy or converted into glucose by the liver.”

How long it takes for the body to use up all its fat deposits depends on multiple factors: the amount and nutritional value of food being eaten; the individual’s metabolism; their activity levels; their body mass index; and their age and overall health.

“It could take a month, six months, a year. People don’t go from some food to zero food. They start to reduce the number of meals. In places like the Horn of Africa people may go entire days without a meal,” Mambula says.

After a sustained period of severe lack of food, the only fat left in the body will be between muscles, in joints and organ cells. “In women, in the worst-case scenario, you will notice they have no more breast tissue because every single ounce of fat is converted in places that are usually spared,” Mambula says.

While this is happening, low glucose levels in the blood make the person feel weak and dizzy. It is at this point – feeling woozy, irritable and struggling to concentrate – that many people are forced to make difficult decisions. If they cannot find water for their cattle, do they sell it at a vastly lower price than its original worth? Do they take their daughters out of school? Do they split up the family?

Woman has arm measured during food WFP distribution in Adale, near Gode in Ethiopia on 6 April
A woman has her arm measured as the World Food Programme distributes food in Adlale, near Gode in Ethiopia, 6 April. Photograph: Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images

Using up the body’s fat reserves is not dangerous in itself, but if food deprivation continues once the fat is gone, the body will start to break down muscle cells to access the fatty acids and proteins contained within them. The result of this is muscle atrophy – the medical term for loss of muscle mass – as the muscle cells lose their structural integrity. Within a few weeks, there’s no longer enough muscle to support the body, even in a seated position. Lying down is the only option.

As muscle cells break down they release chemicals, including potassium, chloride and sodium, and cellular debris into the bloodstream. These chemicals, combined with a lack of vital minerals and vitamins from malnutrition, cause an imbalance that affects multiple parts of the body, from individual cells to organ function. Lack of zinc can cause diarrhoea and cracked skin, and reduces the ability to fight infections. Salt imbalance may be associated with oedema or swelling, which can also lead to kwashiorkor, or severe malnutrition in young children, causing swollen bellies and faces.

Dr Neal Russell, a paediatric adviser with MSF, says: “There is a path towards death that people travel. Until they are at a late stage, deficiencies can be corrected by giving food, but beyond a certain point the body cannot regulate itself, even with treatment.”

The last thing to stop is the heart – in some cases, because the weakened heart is simply not powerful enough to pump blood around the body; in others, chemical imbalance in the bloodstream stops the heart. A person may not be conscious at this point: unable to function without energy, the brain begins to shut down. In the last hours before falling into a coma, a person may lose their vision as the brain zones in and out.

Though malnutrition affects millions of people, especially children, there is still much that is unknown about it. “Much of what we thought we knew 20 years ago has since been questioned,” Russell says.

Abdi Ibrahim, who is malnourished, is helped by his wife, Duba Dagane, in Lagbogal, 56km from the town of Wajir in Kenya
Abdi Ibrahim, who is malnourished, is helped by his wife, Duba Dagane, in Lagbogal, Kenya. Photograph: Sayyid Azim/AP

Lack of money means there is still a dearth of research into both the short- and long-term impacts of malnutrition. “This is not a subject that people put a lot of medical research into,” he adds. “The money is in obesity and overnutrition, and research follows money. We got Covid vaccines in one year.”

What is known is that most people suffering from malnutrition die from disease or infection rather than starvation itself. Lack of food affects the immune system, shrinking the lymph nodes so they produce fewer white blood cells. The existing white blood cells don’t have sufficient energy to do their job in fighting off bacteria or healing a wound. A person is much more vulnerable to diseases such as malaria or conditions such as pneumonia and sepsis.

A dystopian crisis

“Zero hunger” by 2030 was one of 17 sustainable development goals set out by the UN in 2015. Today, the UN predicts that the number of people affected by hunger will surpass 840 million by 2030. Far from the situation improving, millions are trapped in the worst hunger crisis in living memory. The World Food Programme says 50 million people in 45 countries are teetering on the edge of famine.

“A few years ago, things were gradually getting better and now it is going in the other direction, rapidly. It’s extremely worrying when you think about the impact on real people. What shocks me is the lack of outrage – it’s horrifying,” Russell says.

In September, the UN warned that famine was likely to be declared in Somalia later this year.

A letter to UN member states as they gather for the 2022 UN general assembly this week was the latest call for immediate funding to prevent suffering now and in the future. “In a world of plenty, leaving people to starve is a policy choice,” reads the letter, which is signed by 238 NGOs. “The lack of political will and institutional failure to act quickly before the worst case hits means people are being left to lurch from crisis to crisis. People are not starving; they are being starved.”

Kallayn Keneng, right in the foreground, sits with other women in Lekuangole, South Sudan. All the women have lost children after they were displaced by fighting.
Kallayn Keneng (right, in the foreground) with three other women who lost children to starvation after they fled fighting in their village, Lekuangole, South Sudan. Keneng, 40, says she watched two of her young children die. Photograph: Sam Mednick/AP

These are needless deaths that will be largely ignored by a world distracted by extreme weather, the cost of living crisis and political upheavals. Aid agencies have the knowledge and ability to address food insecurity, but not the funding, says Alexandra Rutishauser-Perera, head of nutrition at Action Against Hunger UK. “We know how to [address food insecurity] better and better, but we are not given the means to implement all we know. Aid is not arriving fast enough and is not large enough to improve the situation. For the moment, it’s about trying to reduce the number of lives being lost.”

In addition to lack of funding, costs are rising. Over the past year, the cost of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) that Action Against Hunger gives to malnourished children has increased by 23%, including a 9% increase since the war in Ukraine began. According to Unicef, global prices for RUTF are expected to increase by an additional 16% over the next six months, as the price of transportation and ingredients continues to rise.

The war in Ukraine has pushed up the cost of food, energy and fertiliser around the world, and caused supply chains to stall, adding to the existing strain from conflict, extreme weather and economic shocks.

Russell describes watching this crisis unfold before his eyes as “dystopian”. He feels a responsibility to communicate what hunger does to people, but struggles to find the right words. “I can go into my safe zone [using medical terminology], but I have never found the language to describe the horror and injustice of seeing a child dying from malnutrition.”

Children aged around eight stand beneath a chalk line that shows how tall their age group should be, at Betesda primary school in Bemanonga, near Morondava in Madagascar
Children of about eight years old stand beneath a chalk line that shows how tall their age group should be, at Betesda primary school in Bemanonga, near Morondava in Madagascar. A teacher at the school said 70-80% of children are malnourished and often miss class as a result of diarrhoea. Photograph: Kate Holt/WaterAid

In 2021, MSF admitted 82,000 children to intensive therapeutic feeding centres, a 27% rise on 2020. A further 200,000 children were treated for malnutrition outside hospital. It expects numbers to grow again in 2022.

“One of the most haunting things about a children’s malnutrition centre is the deadly quiet of some children,” Russell says. “Their childhood has evaporated away. Young children regress, and stop walking or become incontinent – and they stop doing normal things like playing.”

Globally, malnutrition underlies almost half of child deaths in under-fives. The majority will die of infection because their immune systems are battered by lack of nutrients. “Your general defences against infection are reduced, your skin becomes thinner, your gut wall is thinner, the defences in your respiratory tract are weaker [and] less likely to cough things up,” Russell says.

Measles, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea are all common killers among children suffering from malnourishment; in many cases these children are moderately, as opposed to severely, malnourished. “The malnutrition can be just enough to tip the balance in children, causing them to contract an infection that will kill them.”

For every 10 children admitted to an intensive therapeutic feeding centre, one will probably die. Research published in the Lancet in May 2022 suggests that for every one that dies in hospital another will die after they are discharged.

A woman holds her malnourished daughter at a clinic in Tigray, northern Ethiopia.
A woman holds her malnourished daughter at a clinic in Tigray, northern Ethiopia. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

The first 1,000 days of life are crucial for nutrition. Children who survive can suffer long-lasting effects. Impaired cognitive and physical and behavioural development can affect their education. The condition is also intergenerational – an adolescent girl or young woman who is undernourished may give birth to an undernourished baby.

The hidden mental health cost

For every child too weak to laugh or play, there is a shellshocked mother and father watching on helplessly. A study published in the National Library of Medicine found the prevalence of moderate to severe depression among mothers of malnourished children was significantly higher (64.1%) compared with mothers of normal weight children (5.1%).

But there is little funding to address mental health in areas where hunger kills and tears families apart. “I’ve seen what it does to a family but we are not given enough money for it. The impact of providing water, food, medicine can be measured but it’s really difficult to account for mental health provision to a donor, so it is always the first thing to be cut [if there is not enough funding],” says Rutishauser-Perera.

Yemeni Nasser Ahmad al-Qallam and his granddaughter gather to eat boiled leaves near their house at the mountain village of Bani al-Qallam, about 100km south-west of Sana’a, Yemen
Nasser Ahmad al-Qallam and his granddaughter gather to eat boiled leaves near their house in the mountain village of Bani al-Qallam in Yemen, in February 2021. Six years of civil war have pushed many to the brink of starvation, destroying cattle and crops. Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA

“When you don’t have the money to have psychologists onboard, agencies don’t have the means to identify and measure the extent of the problem, and offer appropriate support,” she adds.

In addition to the stress of not being able to provide, the breakdown of relationships between families also depletes a person’s mental reserves. As part of its work, Action Against Hunger helps mothers to bond with their children who survive illness, teaching them to play with children who did not have the energy to interact while they were ill.

“Hunger takes something away from you,” Russell says. “You can see how that breaks down a society and leads to more insecurity, conflict and anger.”

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The multinational companies that industrialised the Amazon rainforest | Global development

A handful of global giants dominate the industrialisation of the Amazon rainforest, extracting tens of billions of dollars of raw materials every year, according to an analysis that highlights how much value is being sucked out of the region with relatively little going back in.

But even as the pace of deforestation hits record highs while standards of living in the Amazon are among the lowest in Brazil, the true scale of extraction remains unknown, with basic details about cattle ranching, logging and mining hard to establish despite efforts to ban commodities linked to its destruction.

From the world’s largest iron ore mine to a ranching industry that slaughters more than 6 million animals a year, the Guardian analysis – carried out as part of a joint project with Forbidden Stories to mark the anniversary of the killings of Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips – shows how the world’s most biodiverse land is now also a home to industrial powerhouses. The firms are sources of economic growth and employment for the communities and for the country. But they are operating in an environment – the world’s largest rainforest and a critical carbon sink – that presents unusual challenges.

Aerial view of a deforested and burnt area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaitá in September 2022
A deforested and burnt area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaitá in September 2022. Photograph: Michael Dantas/AFP/Getty Images

These companies’ commitments to Amazon restoration vary enormously. If their operations can be consolidated and made more transparent and accountable, they have the financial power to be part of the solution for the rainforest, rather than the problem – as some have been until now. This is essential because the degradation of the Amazon is approaching a tipping point, after which the forest will start to dry up and lose its globally important function as a climate regulator.

Quick Guide

How we calculated the value of Amazon extraction


How we calculated the value of Amazon extraction

There is no comprehensive data on the economic value of extraction in the Amazon. The Guardian has sought the best-quality data to make estimates for all major sectors. All figures have been adjusted for inflation and presented in 2022 US dollars. The reported value of extraction was not necessarily realised by the company that extracted it.

For the mining sector, we used company reports and market data provided by Refinitiv to estimate the value of production from major projects in the Amazon. For beef, we combined data on slaughterhouse capacity from Imazon research with information on the average idleness rate and its market value, according to Scot Consultoria, to estimate the value of production in Brazil. 

For soya beans, we combined historical market data with research by Trase on soya exports to estimate its value. For pulp, we estimated the value of production using port export disclosures and average annual price data. Palm oil figures were based on the material published by the relevant companies.

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Using company records, financial data and scientific studies, the Guardian has tried to establish the value of goods that are commonly extracted from the Brazilian Amazon, including through gold, iron ore and bauxite mining, cattle ranching, soy farming, pulp production and the logging industry.

Mining and meat

In terms of revenue, one company stands head and shoulders above the others: since 2010, the Brazilian mining company Vale has extracted more than 4bn tonnes of iron ore from Carajás mine, in the state of Pará, worth $220bn (£176bn), according to the analysis.

Satellite images showing the increasing size of the Carajás iron ore mine in Pará, Brazil. Source: Planet Labs PBC.
Satellite images showing the increasing size of the Carajás iron ore mine in Pará, Brazil. Source: Planet Labs PBC.

Pará is also home to Alunorte, the biggest aluminium refinery outside China, generating about $15.3bn in revenue since 2014 for the Norwegian mining firm Norsk Hydro, which is part-owned by the Norwegian government.

Aerial view of the Norsk Hydro Alunorte refinery in Barcarena, Pará state
The Norsk Hydro Alunorte refinery in Barcarena, Pará state. Photograph: Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Alcoa and MRN lag behind these vast numbers, but they too are realising large revenues. Alcoa, a Pittsburgh company that has only recently moved into the Amazon, does not release figures that are easily interpretable. MRN, a subsidiary of Vale, has produced bauxite ore worth $8.3bn since 2013 from its operation in Pará.

The mining sector, by far the most financially lucrative Amazon activity, includes many small firms, with more than $4.2bn of gold extracted between 2018 and 2022 by artisan producers, according to analysis of figures provided by Refinitiv, part of the London Stock Exchange Group. But the lion’s share goes to the big companies at the top.

Maurício Angelo, the founder of the Mining Observatory, notes that the area occupied by legal industrial mining in Brazil has grown sevenfold since 1985. He says this expansion brings huge environmental liabilities, including infrastructure (roads, hydroelectric plants, ports, railroads.) as well as the removal of traditional peoples, and the threat of disaster.

Overall, he says, the industry has never lived up to its claims of sustainability. “Mining did not deliver the development it promised and confined cities and entire regions to underdevelopment, with very low quality of life, few and precarious jobs, with huge environmental liabilities and almost no practical return for society.”

Vale says it is aware that as a company it has a responsibility to “contribute to socioeconomic development and establish relationships of respect and trust in the territories where it is present”. It says it has invested more than 1bn Brazilian reais (about $200m) over the last decade in protection, research, territorial development and cultural incentive actions in the Amazon.

Cattle in a holding pen on a farm in São Félix do Xingu, Pará state
Cattle in a holding pen on a farm in São Félix do Xingu, Pará state. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

The beef industry is far smaller than the mining sector in terms of economic value, though not in impact and footprint. Data is hard to find, but according to the Guardian’s analysis, cattle slaughtered in the Amazon by JBS were worth about $5bn in 2016 while they were still in Brazil, while JBS’s closest competitors, Minerva and Marfrig, processed about $600m and $1bn’s worth respectively. The value fell dramatically in 2022, largely because of exchange rate fluctuations, to $3.9bn for JBS, $547m for Minerva and $709m for Marfrig. But this is just the value of the beef coming out of the slaughterhouse; far more value will be added further along the complex supply chain, and by an overwhelming margin the economic value of this industry is being realised outside Brazil, on dinner plates at restaurants in Beijing and New York.

Paulo Barreto, senior researcher with the Brazilian research institute Imazon told the Guardian: “Although major beef supply companies, including meatpackers, supermarkets and financial institutions, have pledged to decouple from deforestation, the sector has not done all that it should.” He argued that the combination of irresponsible behaviour by some private companies with “the dismantling of public conservation and indigenous policies in the past four years led to a twofold increase in deforestation rates in the region compared to the previous ten years average.”

Ranching is the biggest driver of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions after land grabbing, with which it is often closely associated. By 2018, the Brazilian Amazon had lost 741,759 sq km (about 286,000 sq miles) of its original forest cover, mainly due to agricultural expansion. This accelerated during the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, when forest clearance increased by 59.5%, the fastest rate since at least 1988. More than 2bn trees were cut or burned.

Quick Guide

What is the Bruno and Dom project?


What is the Bruno and Dom project?

Bruno Pereira, a Brazilian Indigenous expert and Dom Phillips, a British journalist and longtime Guardian contributor, were killed on the Amazon’s Itaquaí River last June while returning from a reporting trip to the remote Javari Valley region.

The attack prompted international outcry, and cast a spotlight on the growing threat to the Amazon posed by extractive industries, both legal and illegal, such as logging, poaching, mining and cattle ranching.

A year after their deaths, the Guardian has joined 15 other international news organisations in a collaborative investigation into organised crime and resource extraction in the Brazilian Amazon. The initiative has been coordinated by Forbidden Stories, the Paris-based non-profit whose mission is to continue the work of reporters who are threatened, censored or killed.

The goal of the project is to honour and pursue the work of Bruno and Dom, to foreground the importance of the Amazon and its people, and  to suggest possible ways to save the Amazon.

Who was Bruno Pereira?

Pereira, 41, was a former employee of the Indigenous agency Funai where he led efforts to protect the isolated and uncontacted tribes who live in the Brazilian Amazon. After being sidelined from his post soon after the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro came to power, Pereira went to work with the Javari Valley Indigenous association Univaja, helping create Indigenous patrol teams to stop illegal poachers, miners and loggers invading their protected lands.

Who was Dom Phillips?

Phillips, 57, was a longtime contributor to the Guardian who had
lived in Brazil for 15 years. A former editor of the dance magazine Mixmag, he developed a deep interest in environmental issues, covering the link between logging, mining, the beef industry and the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. His reporting brought him into contact with Pereira, and in 2018 the pair took part in a 17-day expedition deep into the Javari Valley. In 2021 he took a year off to start writing a book, titled How to Save the Amazon. His return to the Javari was to have been the last reporting trip for the project.

What is the Javari Valley?

Sitting on Brazil’s border with Peru and Colombia, the Javari Valley
Indigenous Reservation is a Portugal-sized swathe of rainforest and
rivers which is home to about 6,000 Indigenous people from the Kanamari, Kulina, Korubo, Marubo, Matis, Mayoruna and Tsohom-dyapa groups, as well as 16 isolated groups.

It is also a hotspot for poachers, fishers and illegal loggers,
prompting violent conflicts between the Indigenous inhabitants and the
riverside communities which fiercely opposed the reservation’s
creation in 2001. Its strategic location makes it a key route for smuggling cocaine between Peru, Colombia and Brazil.

What happened to Pereira and Philips?

On 2 June 2022, Pereira and Phillips travelled up the Itaquaí River from the town of Atalaia do Norte to report on efforts to stop illegal fishing. Two days later, members of the Indigenous patrol team with whom Pereira and Phillips were travelling were threatened by an illegal fisher. Early on 5 June, the pair set out on the return leg before dawn, hoping to safely pass a river community that was home to several known poachers. 

They never arrived, and after a search by teams of local Indigenous activists, their remains were discovered on 15 June.

Three fishers are being held in high-security prisons awaiting trial for the killings: brothers Amarildo and Oseney da Costa de Oliveira and a third man, Jefferson da Silva Lima. 

Federal police have alleged that a fourth man, nicknamed Colombia, was the mastermind of the killings.

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JBS, the world’s biggest meat company, has been urged to use its commercial strength to improve environmental and social governance in the Amazon. The last story by Phillips published in the Guardian was a report about a 65% increase in JBS profits in the last quarter of 2020. The story quoted Mauro Armelin, of Friends of the Earth, observing that the results meant the firm had “plenty of money to spend in removing illegal deforestation from its Amazon supply chain”. JBS has promised to do this by 2025, but it has made no commitment to restitution for the damage its operations have already caused. JBS disagreed with the Guardian’s analysis but declined to comment.

Soya and pulp

The soya sector is another powerhouse in the region. Between 2014 and 2020, five multinational food companies – Bunge, Cargill, ADM, Amaggi and Louis Dreyfus – extracted soya worth $18bn on global markets, according to the analysis. The major players have all signed a moratorium to halt deforestation.

Palm oil and pulp production are also growing industries in the Brazilian Amazon. The Brazilian paper maker Suzano produced about $5bn of eucalyptus pulp between 2018 and 2022, according to the analysis. Brasil Biofuels is established entirely in the Amazon, and had revenues in 2022 of about $305m. Agropalma, another biofuel giant, operates mainly in the Amazonian state of Pará and had revenues of about $284m in 2021 and $468m in 2022, with plans to increase production by 50% by 2025.

A eucalyptus plantation and rainforest about 50 miles north of Porto de Moz, Pará state
A eucalyptus plantation and rainforest about 50 miles north of Porto de Moz, Pará state. Photograph: Daniel Beltrá/Greenpeace

The companies involved in these activities all claim they are part of the Amazon solution because they only plant on land that was degraded more than 10 years ago. “We have a regenerative business model,” says Suzano, adding that it plants more than 1.2m trees a day and only harvests what it plants.

There is plenty that it is not possible to quantify or measure. The analysis does not include the corporations providing services – the giant seed tech companies, or the construction companies building roads and houses, the hydropower companies and heavy machinery producers. Without measurable assets, it is impossible to estimate the value being produced for those companies within the legal Amazon territory. The timber and fishing industries have remained far more diversified, as have most of the crops (bananas, acai, cacao) besides the ones mentioned above.

And the analysis does not include the most valuable asset of all: land, and the role that the cattle industry has played in converting forest into pasture. The Science Panel for the Amazon concluded that 15.1m hectares (37.3m acres) of public land was taken into private hands between 1995 and 2017, and noted a trend in which “cattle enterprises bought or appropriated forested land at a relatively low market price and, after ‘producing’ land without forest, transferred it at the much higher price of land covered by pasture”.

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Graph showing growth in pasture land in the Amazon

These operations may have yielded $400m a year in profit for that period alone, states the report, arguing that cattle is the perfect way to transform forest into private property.

One of the problems, observers say, is that an extractivist development model has prevailed in the Brazilian Amazon ever since it was opened up by the country’s military dictatorship in the 1970s. The World Bank has belatedly recognised the folly of this approach, with a recent report finding that the losses caused by clearing the Amazon, at $317bn a year, were seven times higher than the gains from commodity extraction.

A satellite view of wildfires in the Amazon in August 2019
A satellite view of wildfires in the Amazon in August 2019. Photograph: Nasa

But the trend has been towards ever greater depletion of the forest to satisfy global markets and shareholders, encouraged by the Brazilian government which has helped things along with easily available finance, tax exemptions and hefty subsidies.

Meanwhile, it is still often impossible to establish the provenance of beef, gold or other commodities from the rainforest, and global market regulators and trade institutions have been criticised for continuing to permit opaque supply chains.

This logic, which has prevailed since the first European colonisers invaded South America more than 500 years ago, is now under intense scrutiny because the Amazon is so degraded that scientists warn this pillar of the global climate is close to collapse. At the very least, companies operating in this region need to be more accountable, more transparent, more efficient and more willing to pass on environmental costs to their customers and shareholders rather than nature.

Members of the Kayapo Indigenous group walk along a highway on the outskirts of Novo Progresso
Members of the Kayapo Indigenous group walk along a highway on the outskirts of Novo Progresso in August 2020 during a protest against a lack of government support during the Covid pandemic and illegal deforestation in and around their territories. Photograph: Lucas Landau/Reuters

‘Giving something back’

In response to the Guardian’s analysis, several of the companies said they contributed to the local economy, followed national laws and tried to minimise their environmental impact. Their responses give an idea of the varying levels of commitment to “giving something back”.

Brazil Biofuels argued it should not be considered an extractive company because it only planted palm oil plantations on land degraded before 2007. “The business model recovers the Amazon biome, contributes to the balance of the forest, stocks carbon, [and] works to recompose the soil cover and the biogeochemical and hydrological cycles. In addition, by generating employment and income for needy communities, it encourages forest preservation and reduces the impact of deforestation,” it said.

Similarly, the eucalyptus firm Suzano said it was a “vocal critic of the lack of action to combat deforestation in Brazil” and had a regenerative business model. “Over 40% of our land is set aside for permanent conservation (nearly 1m hectares), including significant areas in the Amazon, Cerrado and Atlantic Forest biomes,” the company said in an email. It claimed its social programmes had helped 30,000 people out of poverty and generated R$79m of income for local people.

The mining firm Vale stressed the role it plays in the local and Brazilian economy, saying the Carajas complex and other operations in the Amazon accounted for almost half of all Brazil’s mineral exports, and it protected more than 800,000 hectares (2m acres) of rainforest in the state of Pará in partnership with Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade. Vale said it “reaffirms its commitment to transparency and sustainable mining, promoting socioeconomic development and conservation in the areas where it operates”.

Norsk Hydro said it had been established since 1905, with social responsibility as part of its culture. However, the move from joint venture ownerships to becoming an operator of large plants in remote areas of Brazil had been a steep learning curve. “We work closely with the communities where we operate. After the Brazil rainfall in 2018, we realised our relationship and trust from our neighbours wasn’t as good as it should have been, so we have made efforts to improve our dialogue with local communities. We focus in particular on enabling young people to get an education, and on improving and implementing new technologies in our operations to reduce our impact,” it said.

Amaggi, the largest private producer of soya beans in the world, said it did not recognise the Guardian’s estimates of financial data because they were not based on a precise tool. The Brazil-based firm said it did not sell from areas deforested after 2008 in the Amazon biome, and that it ran social investment projects through foundations, including efforts to improve food security. During the pandemic, it donated more than 150,000 staple food kits.

The grain trader Cargill, the biggest privately owned company in the US, said it had accelerated its commitment to eliminate deforestation in its soya supply chain in the Amazon and two other biomes by 2025. The multinational said it was investing significantly in ending deforestation in South America by running programmes and training to help farmers, increasing technology to improve traceability, and investing in teams in Brazil and throughout South America to accelerate deforestation efforts.

A soya-bean field south of the city of Santarém.
A soya-bean field south of the city of Santarém. Photograph: Daniel Beltrá/Greenpeace

Minerva Foods, which operates numerous slaughterhouses in the Amazon, said it monitored the land use of its direct cattle suppliers and worked to get them into a programme to measure and reduce carbon emissions. The company said it used the best available technology to ensures compliance with environmental and land tenure regulations.

Marfrig told the Guardian that under a programme launched in 2020, it now monitored 100% of its direct suppliers, while for indirect suppliers the traceability rates reached 80% in the Amazon biome and 74% in the Cerrado biome. “Marfrig has been recognised as the leading animal protein company in various rankings, indices, lists and reports that serve as benchmarks for evaluating ESG [environmental, social and governance] policies and practices in recent years,” it said.

Agropalma said it had a long history of preserving nature and respecting the communities close to its operations. “We are committed to zero deforestation: through a strict no-deforestation policy, since 2002, Agropalma no longer converts forests into palm plantations,” it said. It noted it also had a longstanding partnership with Conservation International to monitor the biodiversity in its forest reserves.

JBS disputed the Guardian’s analysis but declined to comment further.

  • Research by Gisele Lobato, Pablo Pires Fernandes, Andrew Downie, The Mining Observatory, Refinitiv, Imazon and Trase.

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Tragic Train Derailments in India: Over 240 Lives Lost and Hundreds Trapped in Wreckage

By Satish Sharma | Contributor ‘Voice of EU’

Two passenger trains in India met with a devastating accident, resulting in a death toll of at least 240 individuals and leaving hundreds more trapped inside severely damaged coaches.

The incident occurred approximately 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) northwest of New Delhi, the capital city. Rescue efforts are underway, with around 700 injured individuals already taken to nearby hospitals for urgent medical attention. The cause of the derailment is currently under investigation, as authorities work tirelessly to determine the factors that led to this catastrophic event.

Dattatraya Bhausaheb Shinde, the leading administrator in the Balasore district, confirmed the death toll and expressed deep sorrow over the tragedy. The extent of the devastation prompted an immediate response, with nearly 500 police officers, rescue workers, and medical personnel deployed to the scene. These brave individuals, equipped with 75 ambulances and buses, are diligently working to extricate approximately 200 individuals who remain trapped inside the wreckage.

According to Amitabh Sharma, a spokesperson for the railroad ministry, the derailment involved 10 to 12 coaches from one train, causing debris from the mangled coaches to spill onto an adjacent track. Tragically, another passenger train traveling in the opposite direction collided with the fallen wreckage. As a result, up to three coaches from the second train also derailed, exacerbating the scope of the disaster.

Initial reports indicate that the derailed train, known as the Coromandel Express, was en route from Howrah in West Bengal state to Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu in southern India. The news of this horrific incident reached Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who expressed his distress and offered his condolences to the affected families. In a tweet, he assured that all possible assistance is being extended, having already discussed the matter with the railway minister.

While the Indian government has taken measures to enhance rail safety, accidents continue to occur frequently on the vast railway network, which is the largest under a single management worldwide. India’s railways carry millions of passengers daily, covering an extensive network of 64,000 kilometers (40,000 miles). Despite ongoing efforts to modernize infrastructure and equipment, many accidents are attributed to human error or outdated signaling systems.

This tragic incident serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced in ensuring the safety of India’s railway system. As rescue operations persist, the nation mourns the loss of lives and hopes for the swift recovery of those injured. The investigation into the causes of the derailment will play a crucial role in preventing similar incidents in the future.

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Making Technology Consulting More Accessible To SMEs

By Clint Bailey – Editor ‘Voice of EU’

Vibertron Founder & CEO Raza H. Qadri. Credits: Vibertron Consulting

Vibertron Consulting, based in California, emerged on the scene just a year ago, as a subsidiary of Vibertron, and is rapidly gaining momentum as the preferred integrated technology and strategic consultancy platform in the United States and beyond.

At the helm of Vibertron Consulting is Raza H. Qadri (Ali), a highly accomplished individual with a diverse range of qualifications. With an MBA, a B.Sc. degree in Electrical Engineering, and a third degree in Computer Science, Qadri firmly believes in the importance of formal education as a cornerstone for building a robust and sustainable business.

Having amassed valuable experience across various industries including engineering, media, finance, and technology, as well as successfully founding three startups, Qadri is now putting his theories into practice. He has established a global business-to-business (B2B) remote work platform that offers integrated technology, marketing, and sales consultancy solutions specifically designed for small and medium-sized businesses.

Credits: Vibertron Technologies

With his expertise and a strong background in multiple fields, Qadri aims to empower businesses by providing comprehensive solutions tailored to their specific needs. The integrated approach of Vibertron Consulting allows clients to leverage technology, strategic marketing, and sales expertise to expand their operations and drive growth.

“An integrated platform is more of a complex business and go-to-market challenge rather than a technical one” Qadri explained, a Pakistani Canadian who moved to Canada 22 years ago.

“There are complexities associated with technical scale and optimization, but with today’s technology we can build a diverse platform using pre-existing components such as integrated services, even though the new technology trend is shifting back to data centre-based digital architecture.”

A Blend Between Marketplace & Integrated Managed Solutions

Founded in 2019, Vibertron presents itself as a hybrid technology company, providing clients with the opportunity to acquire comprehensive remote work, and consulting solutions. Facilitated by an internal database comprising approximately 1,500 thoroughly vetted specialists from the marketing, sales, and technology consulting industries, Vibertron ensures a high level of expertise and professionalism among its professionals. Notably, the specialists within the database possess a minimum requirement of a Master’s degree or 5-7 years of work experience in their respective fields. This stringent selection process ensures that clients can confidently engage with skilled professionals who possess the necessary qualifications and industry knowledge to deliver exceptional results.

“At Vibertron, we pride ourselves on working with top-tier professionals who exemplify integrity and professionalism. We prioritize building a team that upholds these values and ensures a positive client experience. Trust and excellence are at the core of our interactions, guaranteeing that our clients receive exceptional service every step of the way.” Qadri explained.

“To achieve this, we have created a B2B platform that is a blend between a marketplace and a managed professional solutions with two distinct models – one for one-time service buyers and one for clients looking for managed 360° marketing, sales, and technology solutions.”

Keeping It Simple

As stated on Vibertron’s official website, clients seeking integrated technology, marketing, and sales consultancy services can choose from three distinct plans: MCiHT™ (Technology), MCiM™ (Marketing), and MCiS (Sales). Each plan offers tailored solutions to cater to the specific needs and requirements of businesses in these domains.


“In addition to essential features like a social feed, messaging capabilities, and secure payment infrastructure (currently leveraging Stripe and Bank of America), Vibertron recognizes the importance of embracing emerging technologies such as AI and blockchain. By integrating these cutting-edge technologies, we aim to enhance our platform and deliver innovative solutions that meet the evolving needs of our clients.” Qadri said.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Hybrid Consulting Model

In line with its core objective, Vibertron is strategically preparing to implement an AI-based hybrid co-pilot. This advanced technology will assist clients in acquiring integrated solutions and conducting thorough due diligence. By leveraging blockchain technology, Vibertron aims to validate project credentials, enabling clients to confidently engage with top-tier professionals who possess a proven track record of successfully delivering similar work. Throughout the entire process, Vibertron remains fully committed to supporting clients every step of the way, ensuring a seamless and reliable experience.

“Our ultimate objective is to enhance trust within the consulting industry, recognizing the significant value consultants bring in accelerating progress. However, we have observed numerous distortions arising from market inefficiencies, resulting in a widespread lack of confidence in the role of consultants. By addressing these challenges and fostering transparency and reliability, we aim to rebuild trust and establish consultants as valuable assets for achieving business goals.” Qadri explained.

“We firmly believe that an improved consulting industry, potentially operating on a smaller scale, has the potential to serve as an economic engine, fostering accelerated growth within the global economy. By addressing the challenges and enhancing the efficiency of the consulting sector, we can create a conducive environment for rapid economic advancement on a global scale.”

A Unique Niche Between Consulting & Remote Working

Vibertron Consulting adopts a distinctive business model in which internal Project Managers, acting as Client liaisons, oversee and manage the complete technology, marketing, and sales operations of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). These dedicated Project Managers provide real-time monitoring of teams and deliver the utmost level of consulting service in their respective domains, ensuring that businesses receive exceptional support and guidance.

“We have developed our business suites with SMBs in mind. Consider the expenses and commitment involved in hiring full-time staff for technology or marketing roles. We have revolutionized this dynamic by offering business solutions that cost less than employing even a single full-time professional in these fields. This is a key factor that attracts SMB owners to choose our services for managing their entire technology, marketing, or sales operations. Furthermore, our team comprises highly skilled professionals, and the scope of our services is unmatched by any standard, adding to our appeal in the market.” Qadri added.

Sustainable Growth

Presently, Vibertron operates in Europe, the UK, and the US and is actively engaged in securing seed funding for the consulting segment. Furthermore, the company intends to expand its products and workforce in the US, aiming to hire ten new employees by the end of this year, effectively doubling its team size.

Since its inception, the startup has experienced significant growth, progressing from a team of two to fourteen individuals, successfully completing over 650 projects. Additionally, Vibertron has served 75 LCE clients seeking consulting services in the domains of technology, marketing, and sales. Embracing the age-old adage that “cash is king,” Qadri, a staunch proponent, emphasizes the importance of generating revenue at the earliest stages of the business, fostering sustainability and facilitating further development.

“By prioritizing revenue generation, we aim to deliver enhanced value to customers, provide a better quality of life to our employees, and enable investors to recognize the long-term viability and sustainability of our business model.” he said.

“In the current business landscape, startups driven by growth objectives must adhere to fundamental principles such as maintaining healthy cash flow, establishing stable operational and burn rates, and relying on revenue-backed valuations. These foundational principles serve as crucial guidelines for us towards ensuring the long-term viability and success.”

Funding & Growth

Qadri added, “While securing funding remains an ongoing process for us, as it does for many startups, our position as a profitable business enables us to effectively navigate the transitional period between being considered “too early” and reaching the ideal stage of development. This financial stability provides us with the necessary resilience and flexibility to sustain growth and seize opportunities as they arise.”.

Photo credits: Vibertron.
Clint Bailey a Senior News Editor at ‘Voice of EU’ as well as co-editor of EU-20 magazine. Have a tip? Send him a DM at

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