World Rainforest Movement

Brazil: The struggle of the Green Desert Network

The recent international meeting of the World Rainforest Movement to take stock of its activities and to reelaborate its strategies in the struggle against large-scale industrial tree monocultures, chose a symbolic place to be held – the State of Espírito Santo in Brazil.

It was in this State where in 1999 a network of resistance against eucalyptus plantations was born – Rede Alerta contra o Deserto Verde (Alert against the Green Desert Network). It was formed as from the actual struggle of communities impacted by the eucalyptus monoculture, together with a broad group of citizens, entities, social movements, pastoral groups and churches, willing to support this struggle and convinced about the fact that it is necessary to face the current model of development based on huge projects which concentrate income and lands, such as the one of eucalyptus based on the production of cellulose for export. This model that separates the human being from nature creates the so-called ‘green deserts’, huge plantations of fast-growing trees, but without fauna, flora or people.

The year of 2005 was productive for the Green Desert Network, with important mobilizations against the industrial tree plantations, mainly in the State of Espírito Santo, with the struggle for land of the Tupinikim and Guarani indigenous people and of the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – MST).

In the field visits that were part of the meeting’s agenda, the participants visited the Córrego do Ouro village, in the municipality of Aracruz, reconstructed within 11,009 hectares of indigenous Tupinikim and Guarani lands, autodemarcated by the indigenous people themselves in May of this year. Four Tupinikim families already live in the new village, without water or electricity and with scarce food, but with much hope, showing in practice the feasibility of the alternative for which they fight – to replace eucalyptus plantations by food crops and plantations of native trees and to develop conditions to live in freedom.

The indigenous leaders told how the eucalyptus monocultures in indigenous lands altered their culture, their traditions and livelihoods and destroyed the nature on which they depended to survive. These impacts forced them into an “Outgrower Scheme” agreement with Aracruz Celulose. The “Outgrower Scheme” is at global level the more recent strategy of companies of the sector to ‘integrate’ farmers to the agribusiness of eucalyptus and cellulose.

The Tupinikim and Guarani indigenous people continue to struggle for the official demarcation of their lands, not carried out by the Federal Government yet. They need the support of all of us in this arm wrestling with the largest world producer of eucalyptus cellulose.

In the second field visit, participants shared another experience of actual struggle, now in the camp of landless rural workers linked to the MST at Vila do Riacho, Aracruz. More than 100 families occupy since September an area of Aracruz Celulose of 8,500 hectares in the municipality of Aracruz. They are workers evicted from their lands by the agribusiness, who dream of returning to the rural area to produce their own food.

Only in this area, at least 400 families could be settled. It must be highlighted that at this moment, the federal and state governments are carrying out studies, as they have promised, to identify if this area is productive and how much of the so-called “Terras devolutas” (undocumented lands that by law belong to the State) are within the 8,500 hectares. “Terras devolutas” cannot be delivered to private companies, but they have to be used for social purposes, that is to say, for the agrarian reform.

The resistance of the MST provides hope to these families. They tell about the persecutions suffered for collecting remainders of eucalyptus in the plantations of the company. With these remainders the families produce charcoal to help support their children. With dignity and firmness, they talk about the importance of the organization to face the struggle against the model of development of the Brazilian rural areas – the one of agribusiness and large estates.

Organization is the way for communities impacted by the green desert to fight for their rights and to show to the society that on one side large industrial projects such as the one of Aracruz Celulose are perverse and without a future, but on the other side there are fair and feasible alternatives that may arise from the articulation and exchange of those people deprived from their lands – indigenous people, landless workers, peasants and quilombolas (slave descendants). The Alert against the Green Desert Network intends to be a space that makes it possible to exchange experiences and to strengthen the struggle of those who resist.

By Winfried Overbeek, FASE-ES, e-mail: winnie.fase@terra.com.br

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