Aridity and death vs diversity and fertility: a
women’s view of plantations
Women’s day is around the corner and we would like to pay homage
to the countless women struggling for their rights by sharing
parts of a recent research (1) carried out by two women in Brazil
which, on the one hand, provides a broad account of women’s struggles
against plantations in that country and on the other hand provides
testimonies from local women on how those plantations have impacted
on their lives and livelihoods.
authors’ opening paragraph explains that “On 8 March 2006, International
Women’s Day, before the break of dawn, 2,000 women from Via Campesina
occupied the Aracruz Celulose corporation’s tree nursery in the
state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Their faces hidden by purple
scarves, the women waged a lightning attack, destroying thousands
of eucalyptus seedlings. Their goal was to draw the Brazilian
public’s attention to the impacts of monoculture eucalyptus and
pine plantations on local populations and ecosystems ... In their
statements, the rural women protestors equated the green deserts
of eucalyptus plantations with aridity and death, and highlighted
the relationship between diversity and fertility, factors that
make life possible, and monocultures and desertification, which
research contains numerous testimonies about how Aracruz Celulose’s
eucalyptus plantations and pulp mill affected local communities
in general and women in particular. For instance Maridéia, an
indigenous Tupinikim woman remembers the days before the arrival
of Aracruz: “It was so wonderful to have the river open to us.
We washed clothes, we collected water for drinking, for cooking…
You could catch fish, you could scoop them up with a sieve. All
those women… there would be so many there together! It was the
place to wash clothes. You would finish washing clothes, then
take a swim and leave, you know?”
were the good old days. Then Aracruz arrived and “destroyed everything
we had, it destroyed our forest, it destroyed our river, the fish,
the hunting” (ROSA, Tupinikim village of Pau-Brasil).
on the testimonies of women, the report concludes that “In this
new context, some of the impacts experienced by men and women
are similar, but others are gender-specific. With the loss of
territory, women have lost their farms, places to plant their
gardens, to raise small animals and to grow medicinal plants.
replacement of the forests by eucalyptus plantations led to the
loss of food formerly supplied through gathering, hunting and
fishing. The destruction of the tropical rainforest also led to
the disappearance of rivers and streams, which were once the meeting
places for women and a privileged space for sharing female knowledge.
Indigenous and quilombola women have been forced to live with
the pollution of their surroundings by the agrochemicals used
in monoculture industries. The disappearance of the forest has
also meant the loss of the raw materials used in the production
of utensils and crafts, an activity that was primarily the domain
of women in indigenous communities.
loss of biodiversity has also signified the loss of a large number
of natural medicines derived from the plants, roots and animals
of the forest. It has deprived Guaraní indigenous women, who formerly
used plants to stimulate and reduce fertility, of the right to
family planning, leaving them hostage to contraceptive pills and
tubal ligation. In addition, indigenous and quilombola women can
no longer find the vines, trees and animal fats they once used
for medicinal purposes.
indigenous women, bearers of a wealth of knowledge about native
flora and fauna, have become domestic workers, day labourers,
babysitters and cooks for Aracruz Celulose officials. The obligation
to take on these new tasks has impacted on their role as mothers,
forcing them to give up breastfeeding their children at a very
young age or to leave them with others while they are still infants,
in order to look after the children of urban women.
with these drastic transformations, these populations have built
alliances with social movements and NGOs that support their struggle.
Today they are joined together through a network aimed at further
strengthening their capacity to resist. Women, who also play a
leading role in these battles, have also embarked on a process
of organising in specific spaces to discuss the impacts of eucalyptus
monoculture on their lives and ways to contribute to resurrecting
the way of life of their peoples.”
and quilombola women, who for so many decades have shared the
impacts of eucalyptus monocultures, are now seeking to share their
organisational experience, discovering the paths to freedom together.
These women are increasingly joining together, giving each other
strength in their shared struggle against the oppression of agribusiness
and the patriarchy.”
the above illustrates a specific situation in a certain region
of Brazil, we know that countless women living near plantation
areas in a wide range of countries in Latin America, Africa and
Asia will see their problems reflected in this research. On this
new International Women’s Day we hope that this documented evidence
will serve their struggles to stop this tree plantation model
which symbolises “aridity and death” and to move towards a type
of development that represents “diversity and fertility, factors
that make life possible.”
Barcellos, Gilsa Helena and Ferreira,
Simone Batista (2008).- Women and Eucalyptus:
Stories of Life and Resistance. Impacts of Monocultures on Indigenous
and Quilombola Women in the State of Espirito Santo. WRM, January.
COMMUNITIES AND FORESTS
Amazonia: The right of indigenous peoples
to live in voluntary isolation
her article “Peoples hidden in the forest: the right to live in
their own Amazon? (*), the Argentine writer, Elina Malamud explores
with great sensitivity the conditions that have led numerous forest
peoples to voluntarily choose isolation. The author quotes the
words of Sydney Possuelo, a Brazilian champion of the struggle
in defence of the rights of indigenous groups to continue living
their way of life: “If we were more decent, there would be no
peoples in isolation, but our behaviour has led them to seek protection
from us. Their isolation is not voluntary, it is forced by us.”
Amazon – coveted since the Spanish conquest for gold, then rubber,
oil, precious woods – was greedily appropriated by adventurers
and merchants who left among the inhabitants a trail of disease,
death and disintegration. Today, major works linked to development
projects (such as the trans-Amazon highway and hydroelectric dams)
together with agro-industrial expansion, continue to have the
same devastating effects on the physical and cultural integrity
of the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon.
who is a first hand witness of how “integration” operates, tells
us “Contact brings with it group de-structuring, artificial needs
– if you give them clothes, then you must give them soap to wash
with” – personal lack of control, drunkenness, prostitution, destruction,
because the worst of all were the epidemics that we cure every
day with a pill, but for the Indians from the heart of the forest
lacking any immunological defence they mean death without any
remedy, alone, abandoned in the forest by their brothers.” “Since
1987, I changed from contact to protection, that is to say, to
no contact, to the right to isolation as the best way to preserve
indigenous groups, because of their lifestyle are self-sufficient
in their own environment and – insofar as this is not altered
– live in the abundance of what the forest gives them: “hunting,
fishing, fruit and timber combined with slash and burn farming,
resources from the flora and fauna that their cultural practices
and low demography allow to be renewable.”
groups that have chosen isolation have the right to do so, recognized
by the United Nations. And the author argues that, in addition
to this, they “have the right to political and legal recognition
by the National States, to the collective ownership of their lands,
their resources, their genes, their cultural knowledge.”
all have the responsibility of recognizing and defending their
rights and of preventing the continuation of stories of genocide
and death of the peoples and the forests.
Only available in Spanish: “Pueblos ocultos en la selva ¿Derecho
a vivir la propia Amazonía?”, Elina Malamud, 5 February 2008.
Colombia: Constitutional decision over
Forestry Law awards victory to social organizations
28 March 2006, in the midst of strong pressure from the Government
and the timber industry, Law 1021 was adopted in Colombia, better
known as the “Forestry Law” (see WRM Bulletin No. 105), enabling
major timber investors to have easy and privileged access to the
country’s forests, thus compromising the future of these forests,
both public and those belonging to Indigenous and Afro-Colombian
2007, the “Public Interest Rights Group of the University of the
Andes,” with support from a wide range of social sectors in Colombia
and internationally, filed a lawsuit against the Forestry Law
as being unconstitutional.
23 January of the present year, the Constitutional Tribunal declared
the Forestry Law to be null and void, thus giving reason to the
Indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombian communities which had repeatedly
denounced the unconstitutional nature of this law as it did not
comply with the requirement of consulting them and allowing them
to participate in the process of formulation and adoption of the
In a communiqué to
public opinion signed by numerous Colombian social organizations
(1) it is pointed out that: “This sentence again sets up a basic
safeguard for the integrity of ethnic minorities, contesting and
curbing the Government’s attempts at foregoing prior consultation
and the concept that attempts to convince us that the liquidation
of collective rights and of the cultural, social and economic
integrity of ethnic peoples and communities is irreversible.”
to the Colombian group “Semillas”: “This decision of the Constitutional
Tribunal has awarded victory to all us Colombians who believe
that a more just and sustainable world is possible. This triumph
opens a window of hope and recharges the forces of society’s resistance
processes and struggles in general in order to face this model
of privatization of all public assets and ransacking of collective
is a victory of the struggle of numerous Colombian social organizations,
that have succeeded in obtaining this decision from the Constitutional
Tribunal, which sets down jurisprudence. It is time for celebration.
based on: (1) “Comunicado a la Opinión
Pública. La liberación del derecho a la consulta previa. La Corte
Constitucional, declara inexequible la Ley General Forestal, enero
23 de 2008”, (Communiqué to Public Opinion. Liberation
of the right to prior consultation. The Constitutional Tribunal
declares the General Forestry Law to be inconstitutional, 23 January
2008, sent by Diego Alejandro Cardona, Censat Agua Viva, e-mail:
La Corte Constitucional declara inexequible la Ley
Forestal”(The Constitutional Tribunal declares the Forestry Law
to be inconstitutional), Grupo Semillas,
Congo, D.R: The oil palm invasion has started
Born to independence
in 1960, the Democratic Republic of Congo has lived since then
amid fighting. Its former colonial ruler Belgium, as well as the
US, the EU and international financial institutions such as the
World Bank have been key hidden actors and interested parties
in a scenario where ethnic rivalry has caught the world attention,
while hiding economic struggles over the riches of a country which
was the world’s largest cobalt exporter, the fourth biggest diamond
exporter and ranked among the top ten world producers of uranium,
copper, manganese and tin.
civil war that ravaged the country from 1998 to 2002 and was followed
until now by renewed fighting was to a large extent aimed at securing
the interests on diamonds, gold, coltan, cobalt, ivory and timber.
Not only nine of Congo’s neighbouring states were involved in
the war but also a number of western countries, either supporting
the rebels or the government.
complex web of western companies with direct and indirect vested
interests in the region have tried to hold control of the country’s
natural resources: Anglo American, American Mineral Fields, Barclays
Bank and De Beers from Britain; Texaf, George Forrest International,
Petrofina and Union Minière from Belgium; Tenke Mining Company
from Canada; Bayer A.G. from Germany; America Mineral Fields,
Cabot Corporation and Brown & Root (a branch of Halliburton)
from the US, to name just a few.
war, waged and armed by foreign commercial interests, was at the
cost of the local impoverished population. It left the country
with a death toll of up to 3.8 million.
peoples such as the Mbuti, Sua, Aka, Efe, Ituri, Batwa, Luba,
Mongo, Azande, Bangi, Ngale, Rundi, Teke, Boa, Chokwe, Lugbara,
and Banda have lived in those lands from ancient times. They were
not consulted when the colonial powers grabbed their territories
or during neocolonialism, when similar actors kept on holding
power. Industrial logging, agroindustry, and conservation projects
have not only rendered no benefit for them but also implied the
eviction of forest and forest dependent people. It is estimated
that 6 million people have already been displaced in the country,
where about 40 million people in a population of 62.6 million
depend on the forest to survive. Millions have kept dying, mostly
through starvation and disease. Living amid the most commercially
valued goods on the world, they have become mere victims and subjects
of humanitarian aid.
fighting has continued in certain parts of the country Congo has
now an elected President --Joseph Kabila-- confirmed by a general
election held in 2006. According to a recent report by BBC News
“Mr Kabila has enjoyed the clear support of western governments
such as the US and France, regional allies such as South Africa
and Angola and businessmen and mining magnates who have signed
multi-million dollar deals under his rule.”
recent emergence of China as a serious rival in the contest to
reap the rewards of high commodity prices has radically changed
the picture. According to a report by John Farmer and Ann Talbot,
“China has established itself in Congo by providing US$8 billion
for infrastructure projects and mining operations. This deal will
give Chinese companies control of several important copper and
cobalt mines. Since the Chinese investment was announced, President
Kabila has been courted by every government that fears its interests
in the Congo may suffer.”
table is served. There are still millions of hectares of valuable
tropical forests --ironically spared from devastation by years
of war-- ready to be plundered. Linked to industrial logging,
forest areas are also planned to be used for the plantation of
oil palm monocultures to feed the booming agrofuel market for
European and US cars, as well as for China’s insatiable demand
of palm oil.
the countless testimonies that can be found in Colombia, Cameroon,
Indonesia, Ecuador and many other countries about the impacts
of large scale monoculture oil palm plantations and on how they
deprive communities of their livelihoods, the mainstream rhetoric
keeps on advising that it is good to plant such monocultures.
For instance, UN Economist Dr Schmidhuber has said that DR Congo
could devote millions of acres for agrofuel feedstock including
oil palm. Keeping a blind eye on how the process works everywhere
else, he also says that environmental concerns would be less of
an issue in DRC, since large areas of arable land lie outside
rainforest zones. Not only does such argument ignore the presence
of people living in or depending on those areas, but it also proves
consistently to be wrong. The reason is simple: what makes oil
palm plantations really profitable is to gain access to forest
areas, log the forest, sell the timber, and then plant the oil
palm with the resulting revenues.
destructive process has already begun. In October 2007, a Chinese
company signed a billion-dollar contract to establish more than
3 million hectares of oil palm plantations in the country. The
oil palm invasion has started and the forests --spared from destruction
by war-- will now be destroyed in peace.
based on information from: “Further war threatens in Congo as
rivalry for resources intensifies”, John Farmer and Ann Talbot,
22 January 2008, (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/jan2008/cong-j22.shtml);
“DR Congo has great potential for biofuels says U.N. official,”
mongabay.com, January 9, 2008,
http://news.mongabay.com/2008/0109-congo.html; “Country profile:
Democratic Republic of Congo”, BBC, (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/country_profiles/1076399.stm);
The World Guide, New Internationalist/Instituto del Tercer Mundo,
- Mexico: The ongoing fight of indigenous
communities against illegal logging
struggle for environmental defenders in Mexico continues. Activists
who seek to protect their local ecosystems continue to be under
threat from illegal loggers and the inaction of local government
part of this struggle comes the case of environmentalist Ildefonso
Zamora, his family and his community of San Juan Atzingo, Ocuilán
municipality in the State of Mexico. Since
1998, Ildefonso Zamora has worked to bring public attention to
the problem of illegal logging in his community, which borders
the Zempoala Lagoons National Park, a zone identified as one of
the 15 “critical regions” affected by illegal logging in the country.
The park is located within what Greenpeace
calls ‘the great water forest’ which houses two percent of the
world’s biodiversity and supplies three quarters of the water
consumed in Mexico City, besides helping to mitigate climate change
and its impacts in the region.
the last number of years, Ildefonso, his family members and fellow
commissioners of their indigenous communal landholding have been
subject to a series of threats by illegal loggers. Various incidents
have included gunshots outside family residences, death threats,
confrontations in vehicles on the highway and even threats directed
at the local mayor.
most shocking incident against these defenders of the forest was
the murder of Ildefonso’s 21-year-old son Aldo in a highway shooting
at the hands of a group of illegal loggers in May 2007.
The arrest of two men involved in the murder was delayed by a
staggering 79 days after the shooting. At 9 months since
the death of Aldo, two of the four murderers still remain at large,
despite being clearly identified and having outstanding arrest
warrants. Mexican President Felipe Calderón made public
statements in July 2007 that he would commit to carrying out justice
in the case, yet such an outcome has yet to be delivered.
These incidents occur
within an environment of harassment and systematic discrediting
of defenders of environmental rights in Mexico. The murder of
Aldo Zamora can be placed among the similar cases of Rodolfo Montiel,
Teodoro Cabrera, Felipe Arreaga and Albertano Peñaloza in the
mountains of the state of Guerrero and the cases of the indigenous
Tarahumaras environmentalists Isidro Baldenegro and Hermenegildo
Rivas in the state of Chihuahua.
The Miguel Agustín
Pro Juárez Human Rights Center in Mexico City (Center Prodh) has
been working with Ildefonso and the community of San Juan Atzingo
with legal defence, awareness raising and educational workshops.
In June of 2007 Center Prodh and Greenpeace Mexico made a joint
request to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights for precautionary
measures which would protect the life and physical integrity of
victims that are under threat within the community. In January
2008 Center Prodh also highlighted the plight of the community
of San Juan Atzingo in a report to the Special Representative
of the United Nations Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders.
campaigning for environmental protection in Mexico should mean
putting one’s life in danger illustrates the need for stronger
accountability of local authorities and their involvement in these
violations. Ildefonso Zamora and his
community continue to live in mourning for the death of Aldo Zamora
and are still waiting for justice and personal safety.
more details of the case and addresses of authorities to whom
letters can be directed, visit:
http://centroprodh.org.mx/english/ and also at Greenpeace
COMMUNITIES AND TREE
Increased poverty, land conflicts and deforestation: The Asian
Development Bank's plantations record
ADB has handed out more than US$1 billion for forestry projects
since its first forestry project in 1977. Most of the Bank's recent
forestry projects were rated "partially successful or unsuccessful".
The Bank acknowledges "problems with project design and implementation"
and that "its [forestry] sector investments have had a minimal
positive impact on forest loss and degradation". Even this
"minimal positive impact" is a result of defining a
plantation as a forest. According to the Bank, clearing villagers'
forests and farmlands and replacing them with monoculture tree
plantations is "positive".
than 80 per cent of the Bank's loans for forestry projects went
on establishing plantations. ADB-funded plantations have repeatedly
failed due to poor selection of species, fire, disease or because
the land on which they are planted was already in use by local
people. Many of the Bank's plantation projects were poorly designed
and weakly monitored.
ADB's own documents reveal the problems clearly, as the following
extracts illustrate. A project in Western Samoa was delayed "due
to prolonged, and sometimes breakdown in the negotiation to secure
lease of land owned collectively". In the Philippines, an
ADB plantation project "suffered from deficiencies in Project
design and implementation." The plantations established were
poorly maintained and "were characterized by highly uneven
and low tree growth rate." An ADB-funded project established
20,000 hectares of plantations in Bangladesh, but villagers who
took part in the project "received only minimal benefits".
The result was "impatience and a feeling of resignation among
participants" and "a potentially hostile social environment."
At a project site in Nepal, only about one-third of the Bank's
target area of 5,000 hectares could be planted, "primarily
because of encroachment by squatters".
Timber Plantation Project in Indonesia aimed to plant on 51,000
hectares of "unproductive shrubs and grasslands". At
project completion, just over half the target area had been planted.
The ADB's Project Completion Report describes the damage to the
plantations by fires and failing species as "staggering".
The tree species selected for the project "were not based
on proven field trials, and were not sufficiently reassessed during
site planning and preparation of plantation site designs."
of the companies carrying out the planting, Inhutani III, clashed
with Indigenous People in West Kalimantan. An Indonesian NGO,
the Institute of Dayakology Research and Development, accused
Inhutani III of using force in taking over lands from indigenous
communities. The Bank hired a consultant for a few weeks and rejected
the allegations, although the project area was reduced to exclude
"areas where potential land tenure claims could rise".
the Bank's Industrial Tree Plantations Project in Laos, loans
were given to farmers to plant eucalyptus trees. Many of the trees
failed to grow, leaving farmers with no means of repaying the
debt. "Thousands of inexperienced farmers and individuals
were misled by prospects of unattainable gains, leaving the majority
of farmers with onerous debts, with no prospect of repaying their
loans, and with failing plantations," notes a report by the
Bank's Operations Evaluation Department.
project also supported commercial tree plantations. One of the
companies involved, BGA Lao Plantation Forestry (now taken over
by Japan's Oji Paper) used ADB funding to bulldoze commons, forest
and villager's farmlands to make way for its monoculture eucalyptus
by ADB staff of plantation projects is weak. In Laos, Bank missions
included few trips outside Vientiane. Between 1996 and 2003 there
was no forestry specialist on any of the Bank's project review
missions to Laos. Between July 2000 and February 2002 there were
no ADB review missions to the country at all.
an earlier project in the Philippines, only one socio-economic
survey was carried out and only one Bank mission included a visit
by a forestry specialist to the project sites. The Project Performance
Audit Report notes that "There was little or no assessment
of plantation growth performance, review of the appropriateness
of Project design, and determination of the adequacy of Project
staffing input and technical competency. No technical advice on
forestry establishment or assistance in the Project performance
management system was provided."
2000, the ADB has been carrying out a review of its Forest Policy.
An open discussion on the problems created by the Bank's lending
to the forestry sector (as well as the impact on people and forests
of the Bank's lending to roads, dams and mining) is long overdue.
But the most recent publicly available draft of the proposed policy
is dated June 2003. Since then, ADB staff have promised on several
occasions that a new draft would be made available to the public.
In January 2008, the ADB's Senior Public Information and Disclosure
Coordination Assistant, Robert Paul S. Mamonong, promised that
a "draft synthesis report is being revised and is expected
to be ready by April 2008."
few years ago, Javed H. Mir, the ADB's forestry specialist, gave
a presentation about a "Regional Study on Forest Policy and
Institutional Reforms" carried out by the Bank. He answered
his own question, "What not to do?" with "Not to
repeat mistakes". Following his advice would mark a dramatic
break with history for the ADB. Repeating mistakes seems to be
precisely what the Bank is determined to do. The Bank's June 2003
draft forest policy, for example, aims to "increase the extent
and productivity of plantations".
of continuing to promote problems, the Bank should stop financing
industrial tree plantations.
Chris Lang, http://chrislang.org
Indonesia: Call for Action against certification
of Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper’s timber plantations
giant pulp company PT. Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (PT. RAPP),
operating in Riau Province, is applying for a Plantation Forest
Management Certificate from the Indonesia Ecolabeling Institute
(LEI) Certification System.
NGOs and several regional and national NGOs are strongly challenging
the application on several grounds including:
* Based on Landsat images, “there occurred
land conversion long before the definitive permit was issued on
1 October 2004.” According to Civil Society’s “Critical Response”
(1) long before the Minister of Forestry
endorsed 75,640 hectare to the company, PT. RAPP had logged the
natural forest where its Pelalawan Sector lies.
46.43% of the entire PT. RAPP’S industrial timber plantation
in the Pelalawan sector lie inside the Protected Forest designated
under the 1994 Riau Province’s Spatial Plan in direct violation
of several government criteria and standards that allow industrial
timber plantations only in what is classified as “Production Forests”
(for timber extraction).
The entire PT RAPP’s HTI – Pelalawan Sector, before it was exploited
by the company, had been a pristine natural forest, as is shown
in an image captured by Landsat in 1996.
In their Call for
Campaign Action (2) launched
in January 2008, several NGOs:
“appeal to LEI to cancel the
application, which is currently under assessment by certifier
Mutu Agung Lestari (MAL).
appeal to buyers and consumers
not to purchase pulp and paper produced by the company as they
are produced at the cost of forest destruction and in direct violation
of the Indonesia’s existing laws.
support the government of Indonesia
(i.e. the law enforcers) to continue the legal proceedings against
PT RAPP’s violation of the permit.”
based on the following documents:
by several NGOs and sent by Rivani Noor, CAPPA, e-mail:
Indonesia: New report on the human rights
impacts of oil palm plantation expansion
The major issue of
land tenure underlies the problem of oil palm schemes in Indonesia
and elsewhere. Occupying large tracts of community land where
food and cash crops used to be grown and medicines and building
materials were harvested, monoculture oil palm plantations erode
the rights and livelihoods of local communities.
bribes, and cheating combined with the unawareness of local communities
of their rights, companies move in leading to the large-scale
privatisation of land and natural resources.
Palm oil, a vegetable
oil already used extensively for food production, cosmetics and
animal feed, is increasingly in demand as an agrofuel. In response
to this growing market, large-scale oil palm plantations are being
developed in Latin America, West Africa and South East Asia. Indonesia,
the world’s largest producer of crude palm oil, has already increased
its palm estates to 7.3 million hectares, and is planning to expand
the area under plantation by a further 20 million hectares – an
area the size of England, the Netherlands and Switzerland combined.
The recent report
“Losing Ground. The human rights impacts of oil palm plantation
expansion in Indonesia”
by Friends of the Earth, LifeMosaic and Sawit Watch, reveals how
Indonesian government policies and palm oil industry practices
are harming the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples
and argues that in the face of such evidence targets to increase
agrofuel use in the United Kingdom and the rest of the European
Union are misguided, risking environmental damage and human rights
abuses on an even bigger scale.
Spain: The NORFOR/ENCE certification, yet
another FSC fraud
The pulp and paper
company ENCE owns monoculture eucalyptus plantations in Spain
and Uruguay, certified by FSC. Part of these plantations, some
12,000 hectares spread out among over 200 plots, are located in
the Northeast of Spain (Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria) and are
managed by one of its forestry subsidiary companies, NORFOR.
cultivation has been practiced in Galicia on a large scale from
the fifties onwards and has increased since ENCE started producing
pulp exclusively from eucalyptus wood. Today, the destructive
potential associated with this crop can be noted, having been
one of the main agents in the proliferation of forest fires, erosion
and soil degradation, impoverishment of rural communities, low
wages in forestry, loss of diversity and in wide areas the virtual
disappearance of the ecological and cultural landscape.
The state of degradation reached in the plantations is leading
the administrations to design policies aimed at controlling this
species and substituting it with other more profitable and better
forestry activities have been characterized by the use of very
intensive and aggressive plantation practices as regards to their
consequences on biological systems supporting production. Additionally,
in the economic context, the company’s activities have had negative
consequences as it is the main buyer of eucalyptus timber in Galicia,
thus acting as a monopoly and causing prices to collapse. Socially
the company’s activities have also had negative impacts, such
as the impossibility of obtaining other forest produce due to
the aggressive cultivation techniques which imply uncontrolled
use of agrochemicals such as weed-killers, fungicides and insecticides,
that lead to the elimination of a large number of organisms that
would make bee-keeping, hunting, mushroom gathering or cattle-raising
September 2004, following an audit carried out by SGS -which was
documented in an amazing public summary- NORFOR was granted FSC
certification. This certification was questioned by Greenpeace,
WWF and the Pontevedran Pola Defensa da Ría Association, supported
by the ecological movement as a whole. This questioning highlights,
with evidence, the company’s lack of compliance with the majority
of FSC’s principles and criteria. However, the lack of sensitivity
on the part of SGS, NORFOR and FSC itself was total and in spite
of the fact that SGS had no option but to admit to the content
of some of the complaints, the certificate was upheld.
after three years of complaints, FSC’s Accreditation Services
International (ASI) decided to carry out a follow-up audit on
SGS, the company having granted certification. In principle the
auditing had been programmed to study the controversial aspects
of certification and thus respond to the complaints that had been
submitted and maintained. The field audit took place at
the end of May 2007 and included a brief meeting with the ecologist
groups at the beginning of June. During this meeting, the ASI
members declared that they had prepared and carried out the field
audit without having read the contents of the complaints sent
by APDR (Asociación pola defensa da Ría). Thus it became clear
that the auditors were unaware of the facts and evidence contained
in the complaints and that there had been no intention of finding
out if these were true
regarding NORFOR’s forestry management.
expected, the auditors’ report was of very poor quality and doubtful
honesty and only included a few of the
cases of lack of compliance with standards,
that had been highlighted in the claims against this certification.
The report does not analyse indicators regarding compliance with
Spanish standards, resolves Major Non-compliance with Principles
with Requests for Minor Corrective Action, minimizes the effects
of NORFOR’s poor practices and indicates that SGS has carried
out a “professional” auditing process. Even so, ASI decided to
maintain recognition of SGS as a certifying body and to uphold
the company’s certification.
conclusion to be reached is that FSC, having had the opportunity
to check the negative aspects of NORFOR’s forestry management,
has decided -by maintaining its certification- to take a further
step along the road to fraud. FSC’s ASI has not been willing
to analyse the points contained in the complaints in order to
avoid having to cancel the certification of this company and to
withdraw its recognition of SGS as a certifying body.
lack of interest shown by FSC in checking compliance with its
own standards, as well as the large number of certified companies
denounced by ecologist and human rights movements all over the
world, is indicative that those presently responsible for FSC
have taken up the position of emptying certification of content
and certifying without considering compliance with standards.
The company does not even show any interest in improving its management
system. Presently NORFOR’s plots show the same signs of
degradation, they occupy protected ecosystems to plant eucalyptus
monocultures, make massive use of agrochemicals, conceal the situation
of certified plots and do not comply with most of the certification
view of this situation it is necessary to bring to the attention
of citizens and administrations the fraud concealed behind many
of FSC’s products, warning that behind the seal there may be poor
forestry management, much more likely if the timber comes from
monoculture plantations and that it is possible that the “green
seal” conceals an activity that is seriously damaging at the environmental,
economic and social levels, as is the case with products made
from NORFOR’s eucalyptus timber. Consumers must know that FSC
certification is being granted without this implying the promotion
of environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically
viable forest management.
Benito Andrade, Asociación Pola Defensa Da Ría (APDR), e-mail:
Thailand: Rubber plantations against forests,
people and health
recent study “Rights of rubber farmers in Thailand under free
trade”, by Ms Sayamol Kaiyoorawong and Ms Bandita Yangdee,
makes a thorough review of the whole rubber business and its actors
in that country.
report highlights that the first rubber trees brought from Malaya
and planted in Thailand in 1899 developed into a national scheme
of integrated plantation, where rubber trees were grown in combination
with indigenous plants and other fruit trees, food plants and
other species. Such pattern allowed farmers not only to harvest
the rubber but also to collect vegetables, wild animals, herbs,
fuel wood and wood for construction.
promotion policy which started in 1911 and was further strengthened
in 1978 made rubber plantations spread in the southern, eastern
and northeastern regions of the country, totaling some 2 million
hectares according to 2003 data. And the trend has been to keep
on spreading. Expectations to increase rubber production by 250,000
tons per year in Thailand aim at meeting the increasing global
demand of rubber to feed –among other- the automobile industry.
upsurge has led to a change in the production pattern of rubber,
giving rise to large scale monoculture plantations which have
played havoc in the environment and on people.
plantations have changed the landscape. Quoting the report, they
“can be seen all over the south of Thailand, from the highland
areas down to the low lying plains and since the latest government
promotion project in 2004-2006 cloned seedlings have begun sprouting
in almost every province of the country, replacing short-term
have also eroded the ecosystems, including forests: “Being monoculture
plantation, the use of chemical pesticides and the lack of other
plants destroyed the bio-diversity of the eco-systems and coexistence
of flora and fauna.” “With decreasing trees covering the soil,
the evaporation of water was affected” and even the level of the
underground water was reduced.” Moreover, some rubber plantations
in the South were located on 40-60 degree slopes, which resulted
in soil erosion.
of the social impacts of monoculture rubber tree plantations relate
to the consumer culture that the production for sale of rubber
has brought about. Rubber farmers now have to pay cash to get
the things that they could previously harvest in the integrated
system. Now it is money which plays an active role in dominating
the community’s way of life, separating them from nature as well
as from the community way of living and working. Now “each household
will concentrate on tapping their rubber to get as much money
as they can. As each plantation is located far from each other,
their cooperation is, in effect, on the decrease.”
authors explain the consequences that such change had on the life
of the communities: “By collecting natural produce along with
the products gained from partially transforming nature into rubber
forest, the communities could live happily. In the past, any decision-making
was made by community members. But when the rubber plantation
system was introduced, the plantation owners would be led and
forced to strictly comply with the requirements of the ORRIF [government
office]. Under the monoculture plantation approach, the rubber
farmers must obey and follow the instructions given to them. They
have no control over the production system, development of rubber
varieties, rubber pricing and its selling. The monoculture of
rubber is therefore destroying the local wisdom of developing
rubber varieties and the farmers’ agricultural methods.”
the work at the plantations, a study cited in the report found
that “these rubber farmers did not rest adequately. Thus, they
were physically weak and had aches and pains because of the movements
they had to make according to the different levels of the rubber
tree they had to tap and the overload of latex buckets they had
to carry. Eating irregularly brought on peptic ulcer disease.”
Another study “found that the rubber farmers’ toes and nails were
ruined and their eyes infected because of the use of chemical
sprays without proper protection.”
large scale rubber plantations have been a cause of uncontrollable
disease outbreaks, soil degradation and topsoil erosion on the
slopes. Also rubber prices are beyond the farmers’ control and
vulnerable to being lowered. For local communities what may be
in store is the potential collapse of the eco-systems as well
as their lives.
based on “Rights of rubber farmers in Thailand under free trade”,
by Ms Sayamol Kaiyoorawong and Ms Bandita Yangdee, Project for
Ecological Awareness Building, sent by Sayamol Kaiyoorawong, e-mail:
Uganda: Why Is FSC Certifying Land Disputes
and Human Rights Abuses at Mount Elgon?
Elgon has seen major land disputes since it was declared a National
Park in 1993. Villagers were evicted from the park in 1993 and
again in 2002. The area surrounding the park has a high population
density and farmers have little choice other than to keep going
back into to the park to plant their crops. Violence has flared
between the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA), the agency responsible
for managing the park, and villagers trying to make a living.
Villagers say that UWA officials have threatened them, shot at
them and sexually abused them. Several people have been killed.
situation is further complicated by a carbon offset tree planting
scheme run by the Dutch FACE Foundation together with UWA. The
FACE Foundation has been planting trees around the boundary of
Mount Elgon since 1994. The trees are supposed to store carbon
and the Carbon Neutral Company has been selling carbon credits
from Mount Elgon since 2002 (the FACE Foundation and the Carbon
Neutral Company share the same director, Denis Slieker). Currently
the Carbon Neutral Company is not selling credits from Mount Elgon
and UWA-FACE is not increasing the area of trees planted (currently
around 8,000 hectares) because of the disputes.
25,000 hectare UWA-FACE project area has been certified by the
Forest Stewardship Council since 2002. In April 2007, SGS Qualifor,
the FSC certifying body, visited Mount Elgon to carry out a reassessment
of the tree planting project. After SGS's assessors had arrived
in Uganda, UWA requested SGS to certify the entire Mount Elgon
national park. At a stroke, the area to be assessed increased
from 25,000 hectares to 112,100 hectares. Undaunted, SGS's team
of four people assessed the entire National Park in three days.
raised three major corrective action requests during their April
2007 reassessment. To comply with FSC rules, the certificate could
only be issued once these corrective action requests had been
met. SGS, however, issued a six month extension of the certificate.
After a "close-out visit" by one SGS auditor in August
2007, SGS issued the certificate. This "close-out visit"
did not involve visiting the area certified, or talking to any
Services International (ASI), a subsidiary of FSC, is responsible
for checking that certifying bodies comply with FSC's rules. ASI
was also in Uganda in April 2007, carrying out an annual audit
of SGS. ASI reported that SGS's certification of Mount Elgon was
based on hoped for future improvements, rather than what was actually
happening in the National Park. ASI comments that "Major
CARs [corrective action requests] have been closed based on documents
and procedures to be implemented rather than field performance,"
and adds "Compliance with FSC certification requirements
is not clear."
audit at Mount Elgon is actually the fourth time that ASI has
noticed that SGS is not complying with FSC rules: "This issue
is a recurring nonconformity which has already been pointed out
following ASI field surveillance audits in Russia, Poland and
is responsible for a series of controversial certifications. As
documented by WRM in 2006, these include Mondi in South Africa
and Swaziland, Norfor in Spain (now the subject of a formal complaint
by Spanish NGO Asociacion Pola Defensa da Ria), V&M Florestal
in Brazil (certificate since withdrawn, after a V&M guard
shot and killed a villager), Smurfit Carton in Colombia, EUFORES
and COFOSA in Uruguay and another project involving the FACE Foundation,
FACE PROFAFOR in Ecuador. SGS also certified Barama, the Guyanese
subsidiary of Malaysian-based logging company Samling. The certificate
was withdrawn when an audit by ASI in November 2006 revealed that
SGS had issued the certificate without an "appropriate evaluation
against FSC certification requirements".
discovered that one of FSC's Certifying Bodies is systematically
not certifying in accordance with FSC rules, surely the only sensible
course of action for ASI to take is to suspend SGS from issuing
FSC certificates. Instead, ASI requested that SGS "implement
appropriate measures to correct the nonconformity detected".
ASI made the same request a year earlier after auditing SGS's
certification of the Regional Directorate of State Forest in Bialystok
in Poland. At Mount Elgon, ASI found that SGS had not taken any
measures whatsoever, appropriate or otherwise.
SGS's assessors visit villages around Mount Elgon, they do so
in the company of UWA staff. Not surprisingly, SGS found that
villagers were reluctant to talk about sexual abuse or human rights
abuses at the hands of UWA rangers. In its public summary of the
reassessment at Mount Elgon, SGS acknowledges that there are disputes
over land at Mount Elgon. It also acknowledges that people have
been killed. FSC criterion 2.3, which states that "Disputes
of substantial magnitude involving a significant number of interests
will normally disqualify an operation from being certified."
How many more people must die at Mount Elgon before SGS accepts
that this is a dispute of "substantial magnitude"?
July 2007, Stephan Faris, a journalist from Fortune magazine,
visited Mount Elgon. He reported serious land rights conflicts
around the National Park and found that half-a-million of the
FACE Foundation's trees had been cut down in 2006. Villagers planted
the cleared land with maize, green beans, passion fruit, avocado
SGS prefers the ostrich position when it comes to news which might
affect its decision to certify Mount Elgon. In September 2007,
I wrote to SGS's Gerrit Marais to ask him how SGS could issue
the certificate given the land disputes at Mount Elgon. I sent
Marais a link to the article in Fortune magazine and asked for
his comments. "I am not aware of the article in Fortune,"
Chris Lang, http://chrislang.org
Belgium: Field trials planned of GM poplar
trees for ethanol
last year, the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), a life
sciences research institution applied for permission to establish
a field trial of genetically modified poplar trees in Belgium.
The GM trees would have modified lignin content, aimed at making
production of ethanol easier.
was established in 1996. Funded largely by the Flemish government,
it employs more than one thousand scientists. VIB aims to produce
scientific discoveries with "industrial application potential",
which it patents and either signs agreements with existing companies
or establishes start-up companies to develop the discoveries into
"market-ready products". By 2006, VIB had patents on
100 of its discoveries.
has a communications team responsible for producing information
targeted at educators, journalists and politicians. It sets up
competitions for schools, provides teaching materials, books,
presentations and exhibitions. Materials include titles like "What
is bioengineering?", "The Safety of Genetically Engineered
Crops", and "Xenotransplantation: the animal in the
man...". In these glossy brochures VIB promotes biotechnology,
plays down the risks and portrays scientists as neutral experts
interested only in the good of society. Meanwhile, VIB lobbies
politicians to relax regulations covering the use of human cells
and GM crops.
to the application submitted to the Belgian authorities, VIB plans
to plant GM trees on a 0.24 hectare experimental plot in University
of Ghent Science and Industry park in Zwijnaarde. The trees are
planned to be planted in May 2008 and the experiment is to last
until the end of 2014.
genus Populus includes about 30 species of trees, which are native
to most of the Northern Hemisphere, with common names including
poplar, aspen and cottonwood. It is the scientists' favourite
tree for genetic experimentation. The world's first release of
genetically modified trees was a field trial of herbicide resistant
GM poplars in 1988 in Belgium. Since then, well over half of the
200-plus GM tree trials worldwide involved poplar trees. In 2006,
Populus trichocarpa became the first tree to have its full DNA
only GM trees to be commercially released are poplars - GM poplars
have been planted in China since 2002. No records are kept of
where the trees are planted or how many have been planted. In
2004, Xue Dayuan of the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Science
told the China Daily that genes from the GM poplars had already
appeared in natural varieties growing nearby.
risks of genetic contamination are huge, given the large and widespread
population of wild relatives. Poplar trees can spread through
suckers growing from roots. Pollen and seed are spread on the
wind "possibly on rather long distance", notes VIB.
However, VIB states that, "seed regeneration is not often
observed as ecological conditions necessary to seed germination
and plantlet development are seldom met." The words "not
often" and "seldom" are hardly reassuring, given
that the impact of genetic contamination in non-GM poplar trees
is unknown, but potentially devastating.
VIB states that "The environmental impact from the release
is expected to be zero, since the GM poplars are not going to
flower and any suckers from superficial roots will be destroyed."
True, the trees to be planted will be female clones and will produce
no pollen. It is probably also true that if the trees flower,
VIB's researchers will remove the flowers. But the environmental
impact of this trial will not be zero.
ignores the fact that the purpose of the trial plantation is to
develop GM trees to produce ethanol. To be commercially viable,
plantations of GM poplars would need to cover vast areas of land.
If large scale GM tree plantations were to be established, genetic
contamination of natural varieties of poplars, aspen and cottonwoods
would be inevitable.
makes no mention of the impacts that industrial tree plantations
have on local communities and their environments. Nor does VIB
consider the fact that growing trees (or any other type of agrofuel
crop) to produce ethanol on an industrial scale will increase
conflicts over land. If forests and grasslands are not to be destroyed
(which would release huge amounts of carbon) the tree plantations
will have to be planted on agricultural land. This will increase
the price of food encouraging corporations and farmers to clear
land elsewhere (including forests and grasslands). Two recent
papers in Science magazine demonstrate that all the major agrofuels
cause more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels, once
the emissions caused by land clearance and producing the fuels
are taken into account.
people promoting agrofuels and GM trees as a solution to climate
change tend to be scientists whose research benefits from promoting
agrofuels or GM trees. "Biomass represents an abundant carbon-neutral
renewable resource for the production of bioenergy and biomaterials,
and its enhanced use would address several societal needs,"
claims an article published in Science magazine in January 2006.
What's missing from such statements is a comparison of agrofuels
with, say, large scale solar and wind power combined with high
voltage direct current cables and hydrogen fuel cells. These technologies
can be used immediately and would massively reduce greenhouse
gas emissions. Unlike GM trees.
Chris Lang, http://chrislang.org
Growing networking against GE trees
the Amazon to Finland, New Zealand and Chile, from Indigenous
Peoples to European NGOs, from women to youth groups, in just
a week nearly 140 people got connected and became involved in
the gathering of signatures for an Open Letter demanding a ban
on the release of genetically engineered (GE) trees.
letter (1), denouncing the impacts of GE trees on the environment
and on people, was handed over to the 13th meeting of the Convention
on Biological Diversity's (CBD) Subsidiary Body on Scientific,
Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) that took place in
Rome, Italy. The signatures came from members of organizations
from countries where research on the genetic modification of trees
is being carried out: Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia, Belgium,
Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Finland, France, Germany, Italy,
Japan, Poland, Portugal , Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, United
Kingdom and US.
web of connections quickly developed, and a simple letter evolved
into a tool for action, where people got involved and in some
cases were informed about something they were unaware of. Such
was the case of a person from Spain who wrote: “I’ve just read
about GE trees and feel it is a very threatening issue. I didn’t
know about this.
each and everyone of the signatories became a participant of the
initiative, the prevailing feeling was that of being thankful,
reflected by expressions like “I would be happy to sign”, “thanks
for the initiative”, “keep up the great work”, “keep up the struggle.”
expressed their concern as well as their sorrow. “As a member
of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) nation, I am very concerned about the
genetic engineering of the poplar trees since our people had a
very special relationship with the tree for thousands of years.
… I am also expressing our deep concern over the long term ecological
implications of genetic engineering of plants, as well as the
implications of corporate control of plant life that goes along
with genetic technology.”
the issue is the awareness that most voices are not being heard,
and that most people have never been consulted about this. A friend
from Brazil put it this way: “I join the signature campaign convinced
that we must protect our native flora and we commit our efforts
to make the voices of those who cannot say what they think and
feel to be heard.”
were expressed about specific issues such as the potential cross-pollination
of GE trees with natural trees, thus permanently damaging genetic
biodiversity, as well as the potential impacts on human health,
as in the following message: “GM pollen will be widely inhaled
by people and this may have health effects, especially if the
trees have been engineered to produce a pesticide.”
were eager to exchange updates and news related to GE trees. From
Belgium we got to know that: “it might be interesting for you
to know that currently an application for a field trial with GM
poplar trees is [being] considered. The minister will take the
final decision on the authorisation the coming month.” A person
from Canada informed that: “The Canadian Government (the Canadian
Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada) is field testing GE
trees in Quebec: our last information is that field tests include
poplar and insect resistant spruce.” Friends from South Africa
expressed that: “The industry players deny that they have any
field trials, but it seems that there could be some happening
even if not approved by government. We will need to investigate
further to see if there is any proof.” The news from Finland was
that: “unfortunately Finland in general has been among the few
countries who have always voted in favour of GMOs. I think there
is a strong scientific lobby on their behalf.”
a result of the dissemination of the sign-on letter, a number
of Brazilian social organizations (2) sent a letter to the Brazilian
delegate at SBSTTA urging him “to advocate that CBD SBSTTA reaffirm
the resolution of COP8 recommending the adoption of a precautionary
approach based on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Furthermore,
in the light of the lack and uncertainty of scientific reports
related to the use of GE trees, it should be recommended not to
perform field studies. ... A case-by-case evaluation would be
contrary to the principles of the CBD and would respond to the
corporate interests of the forestry and biotechnology industries.”
action was carried out by a group of Latin American and Argentine
organizations (3) who addressed an Open Letter to the Argentine
Delegation at the Rome meeting, demanding that liberation of genetically
manipulated trees be prohibited.
is clear that tackling the issue of GE trees requires a strong
opposition movement and in that respect we quote a Brazilian friend
that warned: “This is one of the BIG issues and only being very
united will we be able to force a change in course.”
is of course right and that’s precisely why networking and campaigning
at the local and global level are so necessary. We therefore invite
everyone to sign on a similar letter to be sent to the upcoming
CBD COP 9 (4), and –more importantly- to become involved to stop
[see letter at http://www.wrm.org.uy/actors/BDC/SBSTTA13/GE_Trees_Campaign.html]
(including Marcha Mundial de Mulheres (a global women’s group),
Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores
small farmers’ group), Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem
Terra (a landless rural workers’ group), Movimento de Mulheres
Camponesas (a peasant women’s group), Terra de Directos (a human
(Movimiento Campesino de Santiago del Estero-Vía Campesina (Santiago
del Estero Peasant Movement – Via Campesina) Centro de Políticas
Públicas para el Socialismo (Centre for Public Policies for Socialism),
GRAIN, Grupo de Reflexión Rural (Rural Reflection Group), Movimiento
Semillero de Misiones (Misiones Seed Movement), Centro de Acción
Popular Olga Márquez de Arédez (Olga Marquez de Aredez Centre
for Grass-roots Action), Juventud Indígena Argentina,(Argentine
Indigenous Youth Movement), El Aguamanda-Gualeguaychú, (Water
Commands in Gualeguaychu), Grupo de Ecología Politica, Comunidades
y Derechos (Group for Ecological Policy, Communities and Rights),
Red por una América Latina Libre de Transgénicos (Network for
a Latin America Free from Transgenic trees).
contact Ana Filippini, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
based on messages received from people who signed on to the letter