Project Description

Photo courtesy of Joe Woodruff / Bonsucro.

Photo courtesy of Joe Woodruff / Bonsucro.

If the first couple months of 2018 are any indication, we are poised to see concrete advances this year in bringing together stakeholders from around the world in implementing measures to address chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDnT). La Isla Network (LIN) started off 2018 back in Nicaragua. First our research team was in the field observing labor practice reforms at Nicaragua’s largest sugarcane mill, Ingenio San Antonio (ISA). The following week in Managua we attended and presented at Bonsurco Week, the global sugarcane platform that brings together stakeholders from around the world to learn, share and connect on issues related to sustainable sugarcane production. Front and center at Bonsucro Week was the toll that CKDnT is taking on the lives of sugarcane workers and the efforts from communities, industries, and civil society sector in researching the main drivers of the disease and solutions to reduce workers’ risk in developing CKDnT. It’s fair to say that LIN and the sugarcane industry have not always seen eye to eye on issues related to CKDnT; however, LIN and ISA are focused on the future and moving forward collectively to improve working conditions of ISA’s workforce through the Adelante Initiative.

“I urge you to find ways to work together with our critics, in the end we all seek the same goal. Our new relationship with La Isla [Network] in the Adelante initiative…[is] an example of what we can achieve”.

~ Carlos Pellas, Chairman and former CEO of Grupo Pellas
Bonsucro 2018 Keynote Speech

Through the Adelante initiative, LIN and ISA will evaluate work practices and improve them with the best possible data while utilizing the learnings from the Worker Health and Efficiency Program. The Adelante initiative provides what is essentially a dynamic lab at one of the most logistically competent mills in the Americas, Ingenio San Antonio Nicaragua.

Photo courtesy of Joe Woodruff / Bonsucro.

LIN President, Jason Glaser, and ISA’s Occupational Health Manager, Dr. Denis Chavarria, co-presented on the Adelante Initiative in a breakout session at Bonsucro Week. A packed conference room was eager to learn how industry is collaborating with an international NGO to implement workplace interventions to eliminate the occurrence of this disease among their workforce. The public interest in the Adelante Initiative generated through presentations at Bonsucro Week, as well as prior events, is bringing together a truly global network of stakeholders who bring resources and occupational health expertise to implement and evaluate worksite interventions for cane cutters, seed cutters, irrigation workers and others. In addition to discussing the healthy work practices that are core to the Adelante Initiative, the presentation demonstrated LIN’s and ISA’s priority in moving forward together to address this disease in a coordinated fashion.

LIN has overcome significant barriers over the last 10 years to arrive at a place where true multi-sector collaboration is developing. These barriers, and the partnership between LIN and ISA, will be the focus of an upcoming meeting hosted by the U.S. National Institute of Health’s renal division (NIH-NIDDK). NIH-NIDDK invited LIN to chair a breakout session, aptly entitled Overcoming Barriers, at the NIH campus in Maryland in June. More information regarding this meeting will be announced in the coming months.

Finally, as LIN continues to play a central role in improving conditions for sugarcane workers and reduce the risks associated with CKDnT, it is critical that we keep in mind that CKDnT is a symptom of a larger issue. Workers who produce goods for the world’s supply chains are too often subjected to unsafe environments that place workers at risk for injuries and diseases. LIN has focused on sugar, as it is the world’s largest agricultural commodity in terms of annual production; however, as our organizational vision asserts, we strive for a world where workers do not compromise their health simply for showing up to work each day. All people deserve to be able go to work and be treated with dignity and respect.

We envision a world in which all workers at risk of CKDnT are protected and what we have learned through our efforts is adapted to protect other groups facing public and occupational health crises.

La Isla Network’s Vision Statement

Over the last 10 years, La Isla Network brought the world’s attention to the CKDnT crisis. The advances we have made in understanding the disease and how best to mitigate it is due to the incredible partners who have come together over the years with the same goal – to end CKDnT through a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach. We will soon be launching a fundraising campaign to allow us to accelerate ongoing efforts to improve occupational health and access to care for the agricultural workers at risk from CKDnT and other occupational diseases. Thank you to everyone who has collaborated and supported our work, we look forward to your support in 2018 and beyond.

About the author:

Scott Montegna
Scott MontegnaDirector of Operations La Isla Network