Tag Archives: palm oil

When our land is free, we’re all free

By Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor and Jacinta Fay, May 7, 2014. Source: Sustainable Development Institute/Friends of the Earth

On 6-8 May 2014 agribusiness corporations are courting African governments at the Grow Africa Investment Forum in Abuja, Nigeria to ‘further accelerate sustainable agricultural growth in Africa’.
Corporations’ interest in agriculture in Africa has certainly accelerated corporate control of land and seeds but done little to support agriculture that will feed the continent. Rather than support family farming and smallholder agriculture private sector investment in agriculture has resulted in grabbing land from communities; the land which they farm sustainably and rely on for their survival.

Communities are resisting this corporate takeover of their land and they are winning. All over Africa people are sending a clear message to their governments; stop selling Africa to corporations. The Jogbahn Clan in Liberia is one such community and here is their story.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Africa, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Green Economy, Land Grabs, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

US ambassador to Honduras offers tacit support of brutal crackdown

By Lauren Carasik, January 7, 2014. Source: Al Jazeera America

Police officers detain a protester outside the Supreme Court in Tegucigalpa in 2012. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Police officers detain a protester outside the Supreme Court in Tegucigalpa in 2012. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

In remarks last month, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske decried pervasive impunity in Honduras as the single biggest threat to human rights during an International Human Rights Daycommemoration. In a country already plagued by grinding poverty and unrelenting violence, entrenched impunity does present a terrifying threat to justice. However, despite her own admission that the Honduran legal system is dysfunctional, Kubiske blamed those being oppressed by that impunity for taking the law into their own hands to defend their rights.

Kubiske specifically reproached peasant farmers in the fertile lands of the Lower Aguan Valley, who are engaged in a desperate struggle with local wealthy landowners and the government for control over their lands, which has left 113 members of their campesino community dead since the 2009 coup that overthrew democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. Over the last two decades, campesinos lost the lands granted to them in the 1970s under agrarian reform initiatives through a combination of corruption, intimidation, intentional division, force and fraud. Efforts to seek legal redress were largely unsuccessful. Zelaya was ousted shortly after he vowed to institute measures that would reverse illegitimate land grabs by oligarchs, including Miguel Facusse Barjum, a palm-oil magnate.

When land grabs continued under President Porfirio Lobo, a landowner, the campesinos, with no other options, resisted the encroachment by peacefully occupying their lands. State security and paramilitary forces responded with escalating repression and bloodshed. Last month, after a complaint lodged by Rights Action, an international human-rights organization, the World Bank’s independent auditor issued a report on its private lending arm’s funding for Dinant Corp., which is headed by Facusse Barjum. World Bank President Jim Kim has indicated that he is preparing an action plan in response to the findings. As the investigative process drags on, repression continues unabated in the Lower Aguan.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Food Sovereignty, Forests, Hydroelectric dams, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, World Bank

Stolen land: Nigerian villagers want their land back from Wilmar

Note: Yet again, so-called “developing” country communities are left holding the bag for the attempts of the so-called “industrialized” countries to have “clean” “renewable” energy that is neither.  It may not be fossil fuel, but it is devastating none the less.

–The GJEP Team

By  • Dec 26, 2013

Linus Orok (left) and Patrick Chi of Ekong Anaku village, Nigeria

This is the second of a series of interviews about resistance to the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations in West and Central Africa.

Members of communities affected by these monoculture plantations and civil society organizations from Africa, Europe, the Americas and Asia met in Calabar, Nigeria from 2–5 November 2013. They shared testimonies and analysis of the consequences of the rapid and brutal expansion of monoculture oil palm plantations by multinational companies in different communities and countries.

Also read about community organizer Nasako Besingi’s experience of being beaten, arrested and sued for supporting villagers in Cameroon defending their lands from US hedge fund Herakles Capital.

The people of Ekong Anaku Village had a difficult decision to make. Their village in southeastern Nigeria lies in one of the countries’ few remaining tropical rainforests. Conservation groups and the federal government wanted it conserved as a reserve. The villagers were keen for the extra protection against illegal logging, but they were worried about losing access to the hunting, foods and medicines the forest provides them and to lands that future generations would need for farming.

So in 1992 they made a deal with the government. They agreed to allow the conversion of a 10,000 ha section of their traditional forest into a reserve. In exchange, the government promised to provide programmes for agroforestry and rural development and credit for small farms and businesses.

“The government’s promises were only ever on the drawing board,” says Linus Orok, a village leader from Ekong Anaku village. “And this was only a small piece of the betrayal we encountered.”

Ten years after convincing Ekong Anaku village to hand over its forest for conservation, the governor of Cross River State gifted the same lands to a company owned by Nigeria’s president at the time, Olusegun Obasanjo.

“They never consulted us, not even the local chiefs,” says Orok.

Obasanjo’s company, Obasanjo Farms, planned to convert the 10,000 ha of forest into a large scale oil palm plantation. It lacked the capacity, however, and soon turned to outside investors.

In 2011, having acquired the lands for free and invested very little of his own money, Obasanjo turned around and sold the lands to Wilmar International, which controls 45 percent of global production of palm oil. The locals say that Obasanjo’s company was paid millions of dollars under the deal.

With the support of the Rainforest Resource Development Centre (RRDC), the Ekong Anaku villagers have been fighting to get their lands back ever since.

“The land was never Obasanjo’s to sell,” says Orok. “If you buy something stolen, then you cannot say it is yours.”

Wilmar, however, has already established a large oil palm nursery and has cleared some lands for planting.

Patrick Chi, another resident of Ekong Anaku, says the villagers are open to developing some form of partnership with Wilmar on the existing plantation lands, but it has to be based on an understanding that the lands belong to the community.

“We want it to be our plantation,” says Chi.

Wilmar oil palm nursery, Cross River State, Nigeria

Orok explains that the villagers have three basic demands: the existing plantation must be operated as a partnership; there can be no expansion beyond the areas that have already been cleared for planting; and, the government must identify and provide the village with an alternative area of land of equal size where they can farm.

“We need land now,” says Chi. “Our village is starving.”

So far, Wilmar’s kept quiet about the controversy. TheRRDC brought a complaint forward to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, of which Wilmar is a member, but neither the company nor the RSPO have acted to address thespecific complaints made about the illegal acquisition of the Ekong Anaku community’s traditional lands.

Even if the communities do succeed in getting some form of partnership with Wilmar, there’s no guarantee that they will benefit from it. A newly released documentary film looks into Wilmar’s operations in Uganda, where it runs a plantation and outgrower scheme in partnership with the local communities of Kalangala Island. In the film, community members describe how the little they have gained from the arrangement in no way compensates for the loss of food crops and forests and the environmental destruction caused by Wilmar’s operations.

In early December, Wilmar announced a new company policy, pledging – among other things – to “respect and recognize the long-term customary and individual rights of indigenous and local communities, and commit to ensuring legal compliance as well as international best practices in free, prior and informed consent are implemented”. The “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation Policy” also states that no new land development will occur until research and consultation over the conversion of “high carbon stock forests” is finalized.

The company has committed itself to “resolve all complaints and conflicts through an open, transparent and consultative process.” This corner of southeastern Nigeria would be an ideal place to see if Wilmar’s statement is anything more than a public relations exercise.

Regardless, the Ekong Anaku villagers know that their claims to the lands are on solid legal ground, and if they are unable to advance their demands through dialogue with Wilmar, they say they won’t hesitate to go to court.

This past year another company, owned by Nigeria’s Dangote Group, showed up looking for lands in a separate part of their territory for a pineapple plantation.

“Workers came to do a survey in October 2013 and our chief sent them away,” says Chi. “We told Dangote we don’t need them.”


The Ekong Anaku village welcomes international support for its land struggle with Wilmar. Patrick Chi can be contacted atmukotso@yahoo.com and Linus Orok can be contacted by phone at +234 703 448 9776

For more information about the case, please contact

Odey Oyama, Executive Director, Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC)

email: odeyoyama@hotmail.com

Information about the documentary film, No Food No Land No Life is available here: http://nolandnofoodnolife.com/

This article originally appeared at

http://www.grain.org

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Filed under Africa, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Oil, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Why your money may be driving the palm oil industry’s human rights abuses and environmental destruction

Note: Jeff Conant is former communications director for Global Justice Ecology Project, as well as a dear friend and colleague.  He is now the international forests campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

-The GJEP Team

By Jeff Conant, December 13, 2013. Source: AlterNet

Photo: Jeff Conant

Photo: Jeff Conant

If you’re an American looking to do your part to protect tropical rainforests, you need look no further than your kitchen pantry. As you’ve likely heard by now, the world’s leading killer of tropical forests is palm oil—and palm oil derivatives are in your cookies, your ice cream, your shampoo, and—I’m sorry to tell you this—in your chocolate.

While industry analysts attribute the ubiquity of palm oil to consumer demand, palm oil isn’t in all these products because you demanded it, because it’s healthy, or because it tastes good (it doesn’t). It’s there because it’s cheap. Palm oil is cheap because it’s produced by a global industry built on land grabbing, human rights abuses and environmental devastation. Along with low production costs and a growing market comes the other reason why palm oil has become ubiquitous: it gives high returns on investment.

Palm oil’s environmental footprint

Palm oil is a vegetable oil derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree, native to West Africa, and used, as of very recently, in thousands of consumer products, from baked goods and ice cream to cleaning products and biofuels. Because of its high melting point, its high yield, and its lack of unhealthy trans fats, palm oil has rapidly come to dominate the global vegetable oil market, with production projected to double again in the next decade. (About 76 percent of palm oil is used for foods, with the remainder used for industrial purposes including biodiesel.)

Nearly 90 percent of global palm oil production comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, where industry boosters argue it’s been a huge boon for the economy. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the environmental juggernaut that initiated the industry-friendly Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to certify palm oil according to environmental and social criteria, argues that palm oil has lifted millions of poor Indonesians out of poverty. But at what price?
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From Main Street to Wall Street, U.S. banks and brands support illegal forest destruction for palm oil

21 November, 2013. Source: Friends of the Earth

WASHINGTON, D.C./JAKARTA – Illegal and destructive production of palm oil in Indonesia is continuing, with a chain of culpability that spreads worldwide, from Southeast Asian rain forests to supermarket shelves and Wall Street board rooms, reveals a new report released today by Friends of the Earth1Forest Heroes and SumOfUs.

In recent years, consumers have been shocked to learn that many household food brands use palm oil from sources engaged in widespread destruction of tropical forests. The new report, Commodity Crimes: Illicit Land Grabs, Illegal Palm Oil and Endangered Orangutans shows how this forest destruction not only harms forest peoples, endangered species and the Earth’s climate, but is often illegal. The report names the major U.S. and European banks that are financing these unlawful land grabs and the investors who are profiting.

Commodity Crimes: Illicit Land Grabs, Illegal Palm Oil and Endangered Orangutans documents how one Indonesian company, Bumitama Agri Ltd, engaged in systematic forest destruction in and around forest reserves and in 2012 sold itself in a public offering that admitted to including illegally cleared tracts of forest. The financial maneuvers of Bumitama Agri – a leading supplier to the global market, including to Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader – also raise questions about compliance with Indonesia’s tax laws and law against money laundering. Continue reading

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Indonesia’s forest communities victims of ‘legal land grabs’

By Silvia Giannelli, 15 November, 2013. Source: Inter Press Service

Indonesia’s Sesaot where a village committee has ably managed a forest reserve extending 3,600 hectares for over 50 years. Photo: Amantha Perera/IPS

Indonesia’s Sesaot where a village committee has ably managed a forest reserve extending 3,600 hectares for over 50 years. Photo: Amantha Perera/IPS

JAKARTA – Indonesia’s rainforests are facing “legal land grabs”, allege NGOs. Its ancient communities are finding that their ancestral lands are slipping into the hands of foreign companies for oil palm cultivation, as demand for the product grows in Europe, India and China.

“There are 33,000 villages in Indonesia’s forest zone, and many thousand more in areas marked for agriculture,” said Marcus Colchester, senior policy advisor at Forest Peoples Programme, an international NGO.

“The government allocates these areas to companies without even consulting the communities. So concessions have been handed out over lands where these communities have lived for hundreds or even thousands of years,” he told IPS.

Last Friday, Colchester flew to Medan to present the findings of his research, carried out in conjunction with two local organisations, on the impact oil palm cultivation has on the lives of Indonesian communities. Continue reading

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KPFK Sojourner Truth Earth Minute: Honduras hosts ‘sustainable’ palm oil convention, despite related human rights abuses

August 7, 2013. 

kpfk_logoGlobal Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Pacifica Los Angeles for a weekly Earth Minute each Tuesday and a weekly Earth Watch interview each Thursday.

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Expanding palm oil empires in the name of ‘green energy’ and “sustainable development’

August 6, 2013. Source: Biofuelwatch

International environmental and human rights campaigners condemn the 4th Latin American Palm Oil Conference to be held by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in Honduras on 6th-8th August

From 6th-8th August, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is holding its 4th Latin American Conference on so-called sustainable palm oil in Honduras. (Conference website:http://rspo2013.com/). Environmental and social campaigners have been shocked to learn that one event sponsor is the palm oil company Dinant Corporation, owned and controlled by Miguel Facusse, the largest landowner in Honduras. They are calling on World Wildlife Fund WWF and three other organisations to withdraw from and denounce the conference being held in Honduras due to the Dinant’s sponsorship of the event and the serious human rights implications.

Mr. Facusse was a key supporter and beneficiary of the June 2009 military coup in Honduras, has been associated with narco-trafficking, and, along with other large oil palm growers, has been linked to the targeted killing of more than 88 members and supporters of peasant organisations since June 2009 in the Aguan Valley, one of the main palm oil producing regions in Honduras.

Annie Bird from Rights Action states: “By holding its conference in Honduras and by allowing Dinant Corporation to sponsor the event and hold a stall, the RSPO is turning a blind eye to systemic and severe human rights abuses, including forced evictions of entire communities and over 88 killings for which palm oil companies, especially Dinant, are responsible. The RSPO Conference serves to reinforce the impunity with which the large-scale palm producers operate.”

RSPO is overwhelmingly dominated by the interests of large corporations like Nestlé, Rabobank and Unilever—all linked to cases of “land grabbing” in Asia, Latin America and Africa.”
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Looking at oil palm’s genome for keys to productivity

Note: The environmental disaster of oil palm plantations will not be solved by genetic engineering or toying with the DNA of trees so they produce more oil.  In fact, the environmental disaster of oil palm plantations will likely be increased.  More efficient oil production will result in finding more uses for oil palm, because more oil means more opportunities to make money.  And more money means more land grabs, more deforestation, and more disastrous plantations across the globe.

And this trend will only get worse as demand for biofuels increases.  The only way to stop the environmental disaster of oil palm plantations is to stop the world-wide, industrial production palm oil.

To sign the petition calling for a ban on genetically engineered trees, click here.

-The GJEP Team

By Carl Zimmer, July 24, 2013. Source: NY Times

An aerial view of oil palm plantations in Malaysia. The cultivation of the crop has lead to significant deforestation in Southeast Asia. Photo: MPOB

An aerial view of oil palm plantations in Malaysia. The cultivation of the crop has lead to significant deforestation in Southeast Asia. Photo: MPOB

You may have never set eyes on an oil palm tree, but it’s probably an intimate part of your everyday life. Whether you start your day with a shave or an application of lipstick, you are probably putting the oil from the tree’s fruits on your face. You buy a donut on the way to work, and with each bite, you swallow some of the palm oil in which it was cooked. After work, you stop at the supermarket, and about half the products on the shelves contain palm oil. Before bed, you scrub your face with soap and brush your teeth with toothpaste. They’re both palm oil’s way of wishing you good night.

In just the past few decades, the oil palm tree Elaeis guineensis has become a huge global industry. In 1961, the world’s palm oil plantations produced 1.7 million tons of oil; today that figure is up to 64 million tons a year. A single acre of oil palm trees can generate up to $4,500 annually. Those prices will probably stay high in decades to come, as demand for the oil increases. China and India are now shifting to using palm oil for cooking food, for example, and some countries are exploring palm oil as a biofuel.

But the oil palm tree industry is also an environmental disaster, according to many conservation biologists. The tree “grows best in those parts of the world that support tropical rainforests,” said Ben Phalan of the University of Cambridge. “Oil palm expansion in recent decades has been one of the main drivers of deforestation in Southeast Asia.”

That expansion has helped push many species, including pygmy elephants and orangutans, closer to extinction. The palm oil industry is also leaving its mark on the atmosphere. Some farmers use fire to clear land for plantations, and swampy forests converted to stands of oil palm trees become more prone to burning. The forests, which store huge amounts of carbon, release it into the atmosphere after they are replaced by plantations.

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Filed under Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Land Grabs

Sinar Mas firm to invest $1.6 billion in Liberian palm oil

By Mariel Grazella, March 26 2013. Source: The Jakarta Post

SInar Mas plantations in Indonesia. Photo: Reuters

SInar Mas plantations in Indonesia. Photo: Reuters

Sinar Mas Group says it will invest US$1.6 billion in the Liberian palm oil business to expand operations overseas.

Franky Oesman Widjaja, the CEO of Golden-Agri Resources Ltd. (GAR), a key Sinar Mas Group business unit, said that the company would disburse the funds over eight to 10 years.

“So far, we have put in about $100 million,” he said during a meeting with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday in Jakarta.

Franky said that the investment was appealing and would boost the company’s image.

Golden-Agri Resources has been seeking to become a virtual king in the market as it attempts to acquire to 40,000 hectares of new concessions, mostly in Kalimantan. Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests