NOTE: When GJEP traveled to Chiapas, Mexico in March, 2011 to investigate the impacts of the recently announced REDD+ agreement with California and Brazil, we discovered that the project was tightly linked to two other Chiapas state policies: the Productive Reconversion of Agriculture, which mandates that farmers stop growing subsistence crops like maize in favor of industrial products like rubber and oil palm, and the Sustainable Rural Cities Program, which moves peasant farming communities into prefab housing settlements as a way to ‘improve their economic conditions.’ We have documented these findings in numerous reports and in our film A Darker Shade of Green. The following article from today’s La Jornada, gives further credence to our findings.
The report referred to in this article can be downloaded, in Spanish, here.
– Jeff Conant, for GJEP
Programs for environmental conservation require an end to planting corn.
By Hermann Bellinghausen, Cross-posted from La Jornada
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas., May 20. Among the main economic motives for displacing communities from their forest homes is the sale of carbon credits, say civil society groups belonging to the Network for Peace Chiapas (SIPAZ, Desmi, Frayba and others). At COP 16 (Conference of the Parties) in Cancún in December 2010, Mexico entered the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD Plus) program, whose basic idea is that countries that are willing and able to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation should be financially compensated.
In a 122-page report, critical of the Sustainable Rural Cities project and the environmental policy of the state of Chiapas, released this week, civil society groups recall that the state governor signed an agreement with his then-counterparts in California (Arnold Schwarzenegger), and in Acre, Brazil, (Arnobius Marques de Almeida), which initiated a market for buying and selling carbon credits as part of REDD Plus.
In 2009 the Action Program on Climate Change in Chiapas (PACCCH) was established with support from the British Embassy, Conservation International, conservation NGOs (“acting as intermediaries with the communities”) and academic institutions such as El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, which have worked with the National Forestry Commission to implement REDD Plus. There have been recent attempts by some of these groups to publicly distance themselves from the project, but these efforts have not been undertaken with sufficiently clarity.
The governor of Chiapas, the report notes, “is convinced that taking part in ‘payment for environmental services’ is a project of life,” and he quotes the president: “Your children and grandchildren will thank you because they will live, they will receive money for taking care of the environment, we are placing this bet for them, for the little ones, so you can be certain that your children will live in the future, will live from conserving the reserves, from tourism and from the production rubber or oil palm.”
The “ecological” interests of these development plans involve the commodification of forests, for which the authorities deem it necessary that “the communities within the reserves be relocated, or not use the land for farming, as they have agreed to do in El Triunfo, the reserve with which the Chiapas state government entered the market for carbon credits.” But the crown jewel in this market would be the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in the Lacandon jungle.
The report of the Network for Peace says: “As is well known to Indigenous Peoples, corn, grown in Chiapas for thousands of years, has great nutritional and cultural importance.” Nevertheless, one of the government’s proposals for conserving biodiversity is for communities to stop planting corn. The president has said that corn “does great harm to the planet, while the Reserve, which is the great wealth of its inhabitants, is being destroyed.”
REDD Plus promotes “productive reconversion” to urge peasant farmers to stop producing their own food, like corn, and to cultivate products for fuel or building materials (such as rubber, and oil palm). The transnational sale of carbon being established in the forests of Chiapas also involves the displacement of communities to carry out another government project: the sustainable rural cities.
Translation from Spanish by Jeff Conant, for GJEP