World Rainforest Movement

Aracruz: Indigenous peoples refuse to plant eucalyptus

The Tupinikim and Guaraní of Espirito Santo, Brazil, have been struggling for years against powerful Aracruz Celulose in order to defend their traditional lands, that the company started to occupy in 1967. After having suffered intimidation and violence to the hands of the company and the military, and having taken direct actions of occupation of the lands that historically belong to them, in April 1998 the Tupinikim and Guaraní were forced into signing an agreement with the company, which was valid for a period of 20 years. According to it, the indigenous peoples “accepted” to exchange the limits of their traditional lands -occupied by Aracruz Celulose’s huge eucalyptus plantations- for financial assistance to be provided by the corporation.

The fact that the agreement was imposed -with the collaboration of the security forces- led to growing disatisfaction within the indigenous communities (see WRM Bulletins 11 and 13). Some weeks ago, Aracruz officials were much “surprised” when they were informed by the Tupinikim and Guaraní that they had decided not to plant eucalyptus on their lands. The company had suggested such plantations, allegedly as a means of increasing their incomes -and the company’s cheap raw material supply. The main reason for this decision was that the communities realized that their main struggle was and is against eucalyptus monocultures, which are the symbol of the invasion of their land by Aracruz and which have resulted in major social and environmental impacts affecting their lives and livelihoods. As a Tupinikim leader said in a recently held workshop in Espirito Santo: “Eucalyptus forests are dead forests which kill everything.” They are therefore set to assist the regeneration of the local native forests and not to plant “dead forests.”

Source: CIMI-ES, 14/2/2000;