World Rainforest Movement

International Meeting against Monoculture Eucalyptus Plantations

At the end of April this year, the Brazilian Rural Landless Workers Movement (MST) was host at its Florestan Fernandes National School (Guararema, Sao Paulo) to almost 80 members of social movements and organizations from South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe attending the International Meeting on Monoculture Eucalyptus Plantations. The aim of this meeting was to define an agenda for joint action against the advance of monoculture tree plantations and pulp mills at global Southern level.

The meeting was the result of a strategic decision by the network of Via Campesina International movements to identify the monoculture model as one of the main threats to food sovereignty on a local, regional, and world level.

One of the first conclusions arising from the debates and testimonials presented was the need to understand this phenomenon as a combination of financial and corporate policies, policies of United Nations technical bodies such as FAO, and government policies with the common denominator in their concrete application of territorial control for business purposes and the destruction of natural resources.

The enemy is not the eucalyptus tree per se, but the general model imposed. This is not only a technical model but also an economic one and one of territorial occupation having a direct impact on indigenous and peasant communities’ living conditions and production and on family farming. The allocation of vast stretches of land and amounts of water, public credit resources and company guarantees mainly results in the destruction of local food production systems.

According to the Basque peasant leader Paul Nicholson, member of the Via Campesina International Secretariat, “When the women of Via Campesina carried out their Aracruz action (8 March 2006), we did not realize that we were touching the heart of the model and that this was a very important action, even from a historical standpoint. The women drew our attention in a very graphic and clear way on a situation that was there before our eyes. It was a fact: the women had touched the heart of the neo-liberal model. We are presently facing an enormous attack from the neo-liberal model, with its many variations. For example, the energy model, agro-fuels, monoculture soybean plantations, the encroachment of the green desert, climate change. The greatest responsibility for climate and environmental change falls on the shoulders of industrial agriculture and stockbreeding, by uncontrolled commercialization of land, natural resources and food. This is a farming model without farmers to obtain absolute control over food. We must address this issue of monoculture tree plantations within the problem’s global scope.”

According to Ricardo Carrere, international secretary of the World Rainforest Movement (WRM), “the struggles against eucalyptus trees are a symbol, from the first struggles in India, Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia, to those today in Chile against pine trees that have also dried up groundwater and caused major social disasters. In Colombia, the situation is similar, as the first monoculture plantations were pine followed by eucalyptus. What I mean is that the problem is not the species, but the model. We are against this forestry model characterized by its large-scale plantations occupying millions of hectares with fast-growing trees. We are talking about this when we say that the monoculture model is nefarious.”

The Brazilian peasant movements view the advance of monoculture eucalyptus plantations as one of the main obstacles curbing the general process of agrarian reform. As one of the leaders of the Peasant Women’s Movement said “The women’s movements comprised in Via Campesina Brazil consider that there is a before and an after the action that took place on 8 March 2006 when the property of Aracruz Celulose was invaded.” This action, which was referred to many times during the Meeting, marked a turning point in the struggle against monoculture tree plantations in this country. It gave out a message to public opinion clearly highlighting that the forestation company’s model evicts and directly affects landless peasants and family farming. These mass movements are fighting for agrarian reform and have identified the monoculture tree plantation model as an obstacle. The strategy against it has mobilization as one of its main components.

Another strategic criterion is action through networks of movements, organizations and activists in order to counteract the promotion that the major corporate mass media is making of the forestry and pulp mill model; these movements and networks need to disseminate information through the communication channels they have available. In the words of an indigenous person in the State of Espirito Santo in Brazil, where the Aracruz company stole land from the Tupinikim indigenous communities and still continues to violate their ancestral and cultural rights “landscapes are changed at such a speed that they cannot be controlled, they change from one day to the next. The best lands in my state are occupied by eucalyptus trees, lands with good water. The way in which the companies control the mass media is directly by means of advertising. Medias are opened up in cities near places with many plantations, some advertising is offered to the companies and thus a new media is established, co-opted by the companies. This generates great confusion among the grass-roots organizations that are unable to distinguish who the enemy is, and with whom this enemy relates.”

A first assessment of this activity indicates that the meeting of various movements and organizations to define a regional strategy against the advance of monoculture tree plantations is a strategy in itself. A regional strategy needs to be built up from the social movements because the model is regional, the capital and the companies operate regionally. It remains with us to make possible this necessary strategy.

By Sebastián Valdomir, REDES – Friends of the Earth Uruguay, e-mail: svaldomir@gmail.com, http://www.redes.org.uy/