World Rainforest Movement

Uruguay: National Initiative for the Suspension of monoculture tree plantations

The promotion of large-scale fast-growing monoculture tree plantations started in Uruguay in 1987, with forestry law Nº 15939 of December 1987. Today these plantations occupy over one million hectares of land and not only lands in the “forestry priority” category.

Throughout these years, tree plantations has encroached grasslands and aquifer replenishment areas, surrounded grazing lands, left populations in isolation and made their effects felt. From the closing down of rural schools and drying up of neighbourhood wells, making any agricultural production impossible, to the concentration of land in the hands of foreign corporations attacking national sovereignty: four hundred thousand hectares of Uruguayan territory are in the hands of four transnational corporations: ENCE (Spanish), Botnia (Finnish), Stora Enso (Swedish-Finnish) and Weyerhaeuser (US).

Opposition to this forestry model has also grown. Delegates from organizations of small farmers and other social organizations from various Departments in the country met on 14 and 15 April this year to discuss the problems generated by the advance of monoculture tree plantations.

The meeting was very fruitful as it enabled the various movements and opinions being expressed in isolation to link together and address problems jointly, identifying the negative impacts of the plantations, and coming together to request the suspension of tree plantations.

The result was the “NATIONAL INITIATIVE FOR THE SUSPENSION OF MONOCULTURE TREE PLANTATIONS,” reproduced here below:

“On 14 and 15 April 2007 in the locality of Paso Severino, Department of Florida, delegates of small farmer organizations and other social organizations from the four corners of the country, gathered together to discuss the problems arising from the development of tree plantations, have agreed that:

Considering:

– The absence of environmental and social impact assessments prior to the application of the forestry law;
– The already verified negative impacts of the plantations that have implied:
* the eviction of our rural population
* scant employment opportunities and inadequate working conditions;
* land concentration in the hands of large national and foreign companies;
* the transfer of substantial economic resources from the whole population towards the forestry sector through direct and indirect subsidies;
* depletion and pollution of water resources;
* soil degradation;
* contamination of water and soil due to the extensive use of agrochemicals;
* serious impacts on the flora, particularly on the grassland ecosystem;
* serious impacts on the fauna and appearance of pests affecting other agricultural production;
* negative impacts on the typical Uruguayan landscape.

Taking into account the above, we here present decide to constitute a national movement, open to all entities and citizens sharing the following objectives:

TO DEMAND the immediate suspension of all monoculture pine and eucalyptus plantations, with the exception of small-scale plantations for shelter, shade, firewood or inputs for the self-sufficiency of rural dwellers.

AND, simultaneously to demand:
– A serious and thorough assessment of the social, economic and environmental impacts of tree plantations with the widest participation of Civil Society, in particular of those most adversely affected;
– The exclusion of monoculture tree plantations in the country’s land management plans because of their negative economic, social and environmental consequences for the country;
– The revision of the present forestry legislation with the widest participation of Civil Society, in particular of those most adversely affected;
– The application of article 47 of the Constitution – which re-established the country’s sovereignty over water resource management – in particular to the forestry sector;
– The adoption of legislation preventing the concentration of land in the hands of large national and foreign companies;
– The discussion of local development strategies with the widest participation of Civil Society sectors, in particular of the most underprivileged sectors;
– The adoption of legal instruments to guarantee the improvement of rural families’ quality of life and their permanence in rural areas;

Summing up, we say:
– Yes to productive diversity and no to monoculture tree plantations;
– Yes to equitable land distribution – land for those wanting to work it – and no to its concentration in the hands of large national and foreign companies;
– Yes to the defence and preservation of natural resources and no to the destructive exploitation of the country’s rich heritage and its surrender to corporate interests;
– Yes to the welfare of all Uruguayans in harmony with nature and preservation of the planet.”

The Initiative calls on all entities and citizens sharing this platform to join it and actively participate”.