Iberá in conflict: national route 118 blocked in demand of land and against forestry plantations

Press Release: Corrientes Capital City, September 17, 2014

– Farmer organizations, unions, social and environmental organizations request the ownership of the lands of the San Nicolás Foundation, taken for the provincial government, and demand that Harvard’s, as well as other companies’ forestry plantations stop their advancement.-

Ctes. Capital. 09/17: Through a press release various organizations reported that Friday, the 19th of the current month, national route 118 was blocked between the localities of Loreto and San Miguel.

The day of struggle was part of the conflict for lands that erupted at the end of last year due to the decision of the provincial government to transfer San Nicolás Foundation’s lands and properties to the Ministry of Production, through the Rural Development Institute. Continue reading

The Biggest Land Grabbing in Africa – PROSAVANNA

(cross.posted via https://www.facebook.com/inusso.jamal#)

One of the biggest land grabbing in Africa its about to happen: “press release: National Campaign to PROSAVANA in may 2013, more than 20 civil society organizations and social movements, farmers, environmental, religious, families and communities of the Nacala Development Corridor, signed and submitted with the Presidents of Mozambique, Brazil and the Prime Minister of Japan an open letter to stop and Reflect so Urgent the program ProSavana.

The ProSavana is a program of triangular cooperation among the three Governments that allows Brazil and Japan to the acquisition of more than 14.5 million hectares of land by Mozambican authorities to be yielded to large agribusiness companies and Japanese (monocultures of soy, corn, sunflower, cotton) in the North of the country, along the Nacala Development Corridorwith strong incidence in 19 districts of the provinces of Nampula, Niassa and Zambézia.

The open letter addressed to leaders of the three countries responsible for this mega partnership had as main goal the arrest and shutdown ProSavana urgent to provide deep, broad public dedebate spaces, transparent and democratic in the exercise of the right to information, consultation and public participation in this process of great social, economic and environmental relevance, with high potential for adverse impacts and effects the lives of millions of citizens and future generations.

The document also denounces the existence of numerous discrepancies and contradictions in the insufficient information and documents available, indications and evidence that confirms the existence of unhealthy addictions program design; serious irregularities in the process of consultation and public participation; serious threats of usurpation of land and forced removal of villagers and communities of the areas they occupy today.

One year after the submission and publication of the open letter to stop and Reflect so Urgent the ProSavana Program, this remains unanswered. Against all criticisms and demands of various segments of Mozambican society, the ProSavana continues to be implemented in the enterprise templates and perverse in that it was designed. The Mozambican Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, continues to ignore the demands and just demands of Mozambicans and Mozambique raised around this program.

With much apprehension we assisted the permanence of secrecy, omission, manipulation and deliberate misrepresentation and contradictory documents, the multiplication of intimidation and manipulation of leaders of peasant organizations, representatives of social movements and civil society organizations and activists, led by proponents and executors of Prosavana.

To prevent situations of neocolonialism expressed through the advancement of ProSavana and of multinationals on the territories peasants announce publicly today, June 2, 2014, the NATIONAL CAMPAIGN to PROSAVANA as part of a wider process of hardening of our struggle in a joint mobilization of civil society organisations and movements of peasants in protection of natural resources and against aggression, usurpation, commodification and possible privatisation of land.

With the launch of the NATIONAL CAMPAIGN to PROSAVANA we intend to build a public agenda of fighting with the main objective of stopping and paralyze all actions and projects (Plan Director, Extension and ProSavana models) underway in the framework of the ProSavana under the terms and assumptions on which has been designed and is being implemented, reaffirming the actuality of open letter and all the demands and concerns of peasants contained therein that were never answered. This campaign still intends to denounce and repudiate all forms of manipulation, co-optation, intimidation and attempted criminalization of civil society organizations, leaders and activists who challenge the Prosavana.

Promote a broad mobilisation, organisation and popular resistance of the peasants and affected communities against the aggression and usurpation of land and environmental contamination to be caused by ProSavana;

Empowering the States and international agencies involved in ProSavana through national and international legal mechanisms; lawsuits about the denial of information of a program of public interest and move complaints and denunciations extrajudicial institutions such as: the national human rights Commission and Ombudsman;

Require the Government of Mozambique, the establishment of an inclusive, broad and democratic mechanism construction of an official dialogue with all sectors of the Mozambican society (peasants and farmers, rural communities, religious organizations and civil society) about the real needs, aspirations and priorities of array and sovereign development agenda of the country;

Finally, we reiterate our invitation and appeal to all movements of peasants, environmental and social, civil society organizations, rural communities and all citizens in General for a broad mobilisation, organisation and building a national grassroots movement in defence of our rights and interests relating to access to and control of land, water, goods and common cultural and historical heritage. We urge for a vigorous and firm resistance from all affected by ProSavana and victims of commodification and usurpation of land, social and environmental injustices.

Maputo, June 2, 2014

21st March, the International Day of Mourning for Millions of Hectares of Destroyed and Stolen Forests

On 21st March, the International Day of Mourning for Millions of Hectares of Destroyed and Stolen Forests, we should weep in solidarity with the millions of displaced, dispossessed and now poverty stricken, formerly forest dependent local communities and indigenous peoples around the world.
In a message,  the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlights the value of the world’s remaining forests to nearly 1.6 billion people worldwide who “depend on forests for their livelihood, food, fuel, shelter and medicine”.

The value of forests for their climate change mitigation and adaptation services is acknowledged too, but nothing is said about the ongoing corporate driven land grabbing; and the complete destruction of forests through logging and land use change, that has occurred over the past 60 years at least.Praise is poured onto the timber and paper industries: “Round wood production, wood processing and the pulp and paper industries account for nearly 1 per cent of global gross domestic product”. But at what cost to forests, rivers and forest dependent people comes this mere “1 per cent”?

The UN Secretary-General emphasises “the importance of all types of forests and trees to our economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being” but fails to divulge that socially and environmentally destructive large-scale tree monocultures such as rubber plantations, pulpwood plantations and even genetically engineered poplar ‘fake forests’ are included in this glib generalisation.
The fact that the pulp and paper industry is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, and therefore also a major contributor to global warming and climate change, does not get a mention.
Nor do the many devastating health impacts that negatively affect local communities and and pulp mill workers as a result of the polluted air and toxic effluent pumped out into the environment by pulp mills.
Also, the fact that forest and especially timber plantation work is rated as one of the most dangerous forms of employment by the ILO seems to have slipped Ban Ki-moon’s mind!
So when the message refers to “concrete action”, what does it really mean by “to protect and sustainably manage these vital ecosystems”?
Although there is not a single reference to REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation), we can be sure that this must surely be the UN’s main plan of “concrete” action, as it pushes to commoditise forests everywhere into the ‘stock in trade’ of global offset and ecosystem services markets including for carbon, water, air, biodiversity and elite tourism!
And where this may not be possible, the FAO, the IMF and the World Bank will encourage governments to convert ‘degraded’ forests and grassland into fast-wood plantations that can supply biomass derived fuels to energy-addicted consumers and industries in the global North.
No doubt much of this energy will be used to produce concrete, but not as a form of action to save forests!
Wally Menne
Tel: +27 (0) 82 4442083
Skype: wally.menne

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests. Click here for the full text of the UN Resolution .

Wilmar’s No Deforestation policy tested by latest abuses by PT Asiatic Persada

Jakarta, December 17, 2013 The indigenous Suku Anak Dalam (SAD) community of Bungo, in Jambi, Indonesia has struggled for 27 years to regain control of their territory from the palm oil company PT. Asiatic Persada (PT AP). They achieved success in October when the Jambi Regional Office of the National Land Agency (BPN) and the governor of Jambi recommended that the BPN Indonesia in Jakarta review the company’s concession permit.[1]
But SAD’s dream of having their 3,550 hectares returned was shattered on the morning of December 7, 2013, when thousands of military and police officers helped thugs from PT AP raid their villages, destroying settlements, killing livestock, and persecuting and arresting citizens of Tanah Menang, Pinang Tinggi, and Padang Salak villages. The attack came just two days after Wilmar published its “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” Policy.
PT Asiatic Persada is a palm oil plantation in operation since 1986 that holds a business permit (HGU) for 20,000 hectares of land in Batanghari and Muaro Jambi districts, Jambi Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. Between 9 and 11 August 2011, acts of violence took place in the territory of Sungai Beruang, in which some 80 homes were destroyed by the Mobile Brigade Police (BRIMOB), and one local person was injured by a rubber bullet.
The escalation of conflict in 2011 led to negotiations between the Suku Anak Dalam and PT Asiatic Persada, facilitated by a Joint Mediation Team (JOMET) composed of the Jambi Province government and the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO) of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the private-sector lending arm of the World Bank. The IFC finances Wilmar International, the owner of PT Asiatic Persada.
However, negotiations stalled when Wilmar sold PT Asiatic Persada to PT Agro Mandiri Semesta (PT AMS) of the Ganda Group. Wilmar’s sale took place while negotiations were underway, and with no prior consultation with the affected communities. The new management of PT Asiatic Persada has now chosen to continue mediations through a team composed of government representatives from Batanghari district.
This is not the first time PT Asiatic Persada has reneged on its obligations. It is also not the first time Suku Anak Dalam has been invaded by the police. In 2009 when PT Asiatic Persada belonged to Wilmar Group, violence and forced evictions also occurred. These incidents show Wilmar’s poor track record in managing estates, and gives reason to doubt the company’s commitment to respect human rights.
The expulsion of the Suku Anak Dalam community does not only destroy SAD’s livelihoods – it also undermines the cultural identity of the archipelago by destroying the lives of a tribe whose farming systems are well integrated into the forest and are an example of ecological balance that is a wise and important tradition in Sumatra.
The impacts of Wilmar’s crude palm oil supply chain is felt not only by the Suku Anak Dalam community, but also in many other provinces in Indonesia, in the destruction of orangutan habitat in West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan by Wilmar-affiliate BGA and in the deprivation of community farmland and food production in Bengkulu, North Sulawesi and East Kalimantan by PT. SIL, which supplies crude palm oil to Wilmar.[2]
The production of palm oil for cosmetics, junk food, and fuel in the North is causing hunger and loss of cultural identity here on the other side of the world. When consumers pay for Wilmar’s products, they are turning on a killing machine.
There is no law and justice in Indonesia; operations by BRIMOB and the military only serve to reinforce the public’s skepticism that Indonesian authorities are either poorly educated and trained, or are manipulated by the Generals.
In regards to the abuses of PT AP, we have several demands:
–       The National Land Agency of the Republic of Indonesia should immediately acknowledge the SAD management area and revise PT AP’s concessions.
–       Wilmar should not turn away from its responsibilities at the PT AP plantation and should make sure its “No Deforestation No Peat No Exploitation” policy also applies to PT AP, which was sold in the midst of the conflict resolution process.
–       WILMAR should take public responsibility for environmental degradation and conflict caused by its prior commitments, such as the conflicts that are now managed by PT AP and which follow the precedent set by Wilmar’s poor practices.
–       International financial institutions should be aware that, due to the lack of enforcement and the abusive practices of plantation operators in Indonesia, money invested in palm oil is systematically tied to environmental crimes and human rights violations. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) must stop financing the plantation sector in Indonesia until Indonesia reforms its forest governance policy.
–       Investors in Wilmar, as well as Prima Fortune International Limited , the current owners of PT AP , should use their influence to the make sure this conflict is resolved immediately.
–       The European Parliament should ensure that European industry does not depend on the blood and tears of Indonesia’s rural poor.
–       Consumers and consumer companies that use products derived from CPO should remember that food made with palm oil equals food taken from starving children in Indonesia; that you are beautifying yourself with cosmetics that displace Indonesian from their homes and force them to live in the forest. Stop consuming materials produced from environmental destruction and deprivation of the poor!
Jeff Conant
International Forests Campaigner, Friends of the Earth, U.S.
2150 Allston Way
Suite 240
Berkeley, CA 94704
Skype: jeffconant
Protect forests: Reject landgrabs! http://www.foe.org/forest-action

African peasants reject corporate seed laws and assault on peasant seeds and food sovereignty

That La Via Campesina (LVC) is now established and active in Zimbabwe is extremely good news. This has positive implications for supporting African peoples’ struggles to preserve and to protect local community autonomy in the future, but it also has relevance for strengthening communities’ capacity to conserve their land, water and biodiversity.
The biggest threat in Africa today appears to be coming from foreign corporations involved in grabbing community land to establish large-scale industrial plantations of animal feed, timber and biofuel crops; in order to export to, and to satisfy demand from, greedy and wasteful individuals and industries in so-called ‘developed countries’.
However an even greater potential danger lies in the ‘commoditisation’ of food production resources through corporate capture and control of the seed supply; and by encouraging the use of expensive chemical fertilisers and pesticides and genetically engineered food crops; as well as the establishment of financial markets to trade in carbon offsets, biodiversity ‘rights’, and other ‘ecosystem services’ linked to agriculture.
The third and probably most pernicious onslaught on people’s right to sustainable livelihoods is the deliberate and systematic entrapment of families and individuals through debt: Whether in the form of small high-interest personal loans from corporate money-lenders, ever-revolving and expanding credit from seed and fertiliser companies, or large loans for ostentatious western-style funerals and weddings, all of these external debts incur exorbitant interest costs and fees/penalties that gradually impoverish communities, increasing indebtedness, depleting their resources, and undermining their capacity to achieve self-sufficiency and economic independence.
These insidious methods and more are being used to transfer control and ownership of African natural resources, including forests, soil and water, into foreign hands. Some might call this ‘progress’ and ‘development’, but in my view it is more like a form of economic enslavement.  
Wally Menne – Timberwatch, GFC NGO African Focal Point
Tel: +27 (0) 82 4442083
(cross-posted from La Via Campesina)

LVC Africa News from the continental meeting on seeds

(Harare, November 14, 2013) At the African seeds meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 12-14, peasant farmers held rich discussions about the growing threat of external investment in African agriculture, including multinational seed companies and ongoing efforts to exploit African land and resources for the production of food for other parts of the world.

Participants at the meeting expressed alarm about the push for industrial agriculture throughout Africa by corporations and their partners, including initiatives such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the G8 New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition. Some African states are supporting similar initiatives through the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP). Africa was bypassed by the first Green Revolution – the introduction of hybrid seed, synthetic agri-chemicals, irrigation and credit – that resulted in massive loss of farmers’ seed diversity in other parts of the global South.

African peasant farmers reject this model of industrial Agriculture. To win the battle government policies must support farmers. Although an increasing number of African governments are on the side of the multinational corporations, the government of Zimbabwe appears to be opening doors for collaboration with smallholder farmers. In his opening speech at the African Seeds meeting, in Harare, a government official, representing the Ministry of Agriculture, stated: “We are attracted to the concepts and practices of agroecology and food sovereignty and would like to work in partnership with ZIMSOFF and La Via Campesina to take these forward”, he said.

The Government of Zimbabwe understands that “agroecology as an approach to farming is very modern while at the same time recognizing the wisdom of traditional practices”.

To invest in Africa, agro’industrial corporations demand a fundamental restructuring of seed laws on the continent to allow for certification systems that not only protect certified varieties, but also criminalize all non-certified seed. In other words, these corporations want to outlaw farmers’ traditional varieties and the age’old practice of farmers who save and exchange seeds. Farmers see clearly that these efforts are oriented towards large’scale corporate seeds, with the goal of a tightly concentrated system where a few large companies control with intellectual property monopolies and seed laws that harmonize seed regulations across the continent. These are the institutional systems and structures that will allow private seed companies to control the seeds.

The seed law harmonization process in sub-Saharan Africa is pushing African governments to join UPOV 1991. The harmonization of seed laws restricts farmers from saving or exchanging protected seeds or using it to improve their local varieties.

The African meeting on traditional seeds noted that the multinational seed lobby has rapidly created a vast network of well-funded initiatives, institutions and agreements that are pressuring African governments to adopt PVP laws based on UPOV 1991. The players include: African regional trade blocs such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA); intellectual property agencies such as the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO); the World Bank; the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Citizens Action for Foreign Affairs; and more…

Beatrice Katsigazi from ESAFF Uganda explained clearly when she said “we do not want nor need hybrid seeds.’ Women farmers have few resources and do not want seed that we can plant for one season only or seed that is owned by companies. We believe in our own seeds that we can access from our own collections or from our farmer networks, free of charge.”

Seeds are the very basis of human society and have been for all of human history. African seed systems have existed outside global capitalist markets apart from some enclaves or niches developed during the colonial era. The focus of these enclaves was on commercially viable crops, especially for export as part of the colonial system of extraction. Farmer-controlled seed systems in Africa are integrated and locally organized. They are based on local seed production – to feed local communities –involving on-farm breeding, seed-saving and exchange with farm neighbours. This is connected to food supply and distribution systems, for example through the use of a maize harvest for a combination of food, feed and planting.

African communities have developed their own systems of agriculture based on local knowledge and seed diversity that is helping them cope with extreme environmental conditions and political disasters. In Africa, farmers produce 80 – 90 per cent of our seed supply, which is recognized and valued for its rich diversity and the crucial role of women in maintaining this system. Traditional crop varieties are accessible and affordable. In today’s economic climate, this is a critical advantage. With farmer-based and controlled seed systems, farmers can avoid becoming dependent on expensive agricultural inputs. In addition, surviving climate change will not be possible without seed diversity controlled by farmers.

Corporations that are pressuring governments to adopt seed harmonisation processes are trying to undermine and destroy the contributions that farmer-breeders have made, and continue to make, to seed breeding, genetic diversity and food security.

What is clear is that seed harmonization laws are designed to replace Africa’s farmer-controlled seeds with industrial agriculture and a corporate controlled seed system.


According to Davine Witbooi, a farmer from the Food Sovereignty Campaign in South Africa, “the time for talk is over. It is time for action. We are not just sitting back and will do what is necessary to take back our rights and keep chemical agriculture out of our communities. We will re-double our efforts to conserve our traditional seed varieties and share knowledge between farmers in the region to improve agro-ecological techniques and train our young people.

“Juliana Mundwa a peasant farmer from Zimbabwe, and a member of ZIMSOFF feels the same way. She says that this meeting has highlighted the need for peasant farmers to stand up for themselves. “We will continue to collect, save and exchange our ancestral seeds.”

The meeting included about 60 farmers from different African countries, members of Via Campesina, together with international allies and seeds experts.

Source: http://viacampesina.org/en/index.php/main-issues-mainmenu-27/biodiversity-and-genetic-resources-mainmenu-37/1518-african-peasants-reject-corporate-seed-laws-and-assault-on-peasant-seeds-and-food-sovereignty