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12 Replies to 12 Lies about Industrial Tree Plantations: New edition of a WRM briefing paper



On the occasion of September 21st, 2022, the International Day of Struggle Against Monoculture Tree Plantations, WRM launched the briefing “12 Replies to 12 Lies about Industrial Tree Plantations”.

On the occasion of September 21st, 2022, the International Day of Struggle Against Monoculture Tree Plantations, WRM launched the briefing “12 Replies to 12 Lies about Industrial Tree Plantations”.

This briefing was originally published in 1999, under the title “Ten Replies to Ten Lies”. At the time, monoculture tree plantations of eucalyptus, acacia, pine and rubber were expanding in many countries. In this context, WRM identified the need for a simple tool to provide community activists and grassroots organisations with information that could counter the most misleading statements that companies were using to promote these industrial tree plantations.

Since then, the plantation companies have continued to refine their response to critiques of plantations and the plantation model expressed by communities, activists and organisations. Perhaps predictably, instead of addressing the critiques, companies have come up with more lies. This, together with the current renewed push for industrial tree plantations in many countries, motivated WRM to publish a new edition of the 1999 briefing.

WRM’s Campaign Against Monoculture Tree Plantations

The briefing published in 1999 was made in the context of a WRM campaign, launched in 1998, against monoculture tree plantation. As part of this campaign, several tools were produced and activities carried out to support communities in their struggles against monoculture tree plantations. The campaign continues until today.

Why does the tree plantations issue play such a key role in WRM´s work for so long?

One reason is that promoting monoculture tree plantations has been a key ingredient of the main international policies elaborated in the past 30-40 years to address deforestation – in spite of the fact that such plantations are a cause of deforestation. Promoting industrial tree plantations was, for example, one of the pillars of the Tropical Forestry Action Plan, launched in 1985 by the United Nation´s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in partnership with the World Bank and other institutions. The REDD+ mechanism, in its turn, when it was launched in 2007, stated that, among other things, it was about “increasing forest carbon stocks”, opening the door for promoting large-scale tree plantations as REDD+ projects.

Deliberately confusing plantations with “forests” – while the only similarity between both is the presence of trees – is one more reason for WRM to give a central role to the tree plantations issue in its work. Until today, industrial tree plantations of often exotic species, even genetically engineered trees, are considered “forest” by FAO, the main UN agency dealing with forest issues. It is probably also the main lie that plantation companies have spread around and benefited from.

One more reason for WRM´s focus on tree plantations is the fact that the global South has become the main area targeted for expansion of industrial tree monoculture plantations over the past 30-40 years. The main reason is that in the global South companies find the most favourable conditions to make profits. Among these are cheap and fertile lands, cheap labor and a climate that favors trees, in particular eucalyptus, growing very fast.

Besides, in the global South in particular, the “plantation model” has a long history that goes back to the colonial era. During that era, European powers stole lands of communities to set up profitable export-oriented plantations, based on slave labor, of different monoculture crops. Although liberation struggles formally ended the colonial era, the “plantation model” survived. Corporations claim that nowadays plantations have ´modernized´ their working conditions, that they are “socially responsible” and “sustainable” and have their practices “certified”. However, the main characteristics of the “plantation model” remain unchanged, for example, labor exploitation, the grabbing of huge expanses of community lands and forests and the destruction and contamination of community livelihoods. The neo-colonial plantations of today continue to reflect and strengthen mainly Northern capitalist interests. They also continue oppressing indigenous and black communities and in particular women in the global South, maintaining and strengthening racism and patriarchy.

New Lies Spread by Plantation Companies

Plantation companies continue to use most of the lies they used in 1999, including calling tree plantations ‘planted forests’; claiming that industrial tree plantations are set up on degraded lands; that plantations improve the environment and counteract climate change; that they protect native forests and contribute to job creation and local economies.

In addition, there are a number of new lies. For example, that by substituting fossil fuels, plantations can contribute to a so-called “bio-economy”. They promote planting trees for electricity generation and alternative fuel through “biomass” or “biofuel” plantations”, or producing products for mass consumption such as plastics, textiles or medicines. It is an attempt to counter the critique that tree plantations contribute to the destruction of forests and other biomes, and thus further worsen climate change.

How can industrial plantations and all of their negative impacts be the basis for a “bio-economy” that claims to respect life and nature? Putting the plantation companies’ plan into practice would involve planting entire countries in the global South with eucalyptus trees. Probably the main motivation of the plantation company owners is another: a tremendous new business opportunity.

Another lie that companies spread is that conflicts with communities around land, pollution of water, working conditions, etc., can be solved by “certification” of plantations. The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), for example, awards a label to a company if it demonstrates that it is engaged in “sustainable management” of its plantations. The FSC label has been a success for companies. Many of them have received the label, even when documents showed that their land titles were illegal or that the company was embroiled in conflicts with local communities.  That FSC does not fulfil its promises has to do with the fact it does not question the main characteristics of the ´plantation model´: its large-scale, the planting of trees in monoculture, the grabbing of fertile community lands, as well as of the water in the area.

Following a United Nations Initiative, several companies now also claim that they are committed to the empowerment of women in the workplace, marketplace and community. Corporate gender policies have come up in response to the critiques and struggles of women against the plantation model. The fact that plantation companies have set up such policies is also a response to the committed struggles of women against industrial tree plantations in particular.

But the supposed ´equal´ employment opportunities that companies offer to women hide the common practice that companies take advantage of hiring women particularly for dangerous and poorly paid tasks, if they believe that women carry them out more efficiently. Examples include the very precise work performed in tree nurseries and the application of agrotoxins. Besides, companies destroy the lands women depend on to maintain their traditional knowledge and practices. Companies tend to further reinforce patriarchal structures when they seek and rely on the mainly male-dominated processes of the community approval to use community lands for plantations.

Wherever women stand up, companies have used strategies to break their resistance by intimidating and criminalizing them. Companies usually ignore the fact that their plantations are connected with an increase in sexual violence and harassment of women, one of the most silenced yet perverse impacts of the “plantation model”.

On the African continent where investors hope to make most money in future with plantations, consultants spread the lie that African countries should follow the success story of tree plantations in Brazil and Uruguay.  If the measure of success is the wealth of company owners in these countries, those plantations have certainly been a success. The main owner of the biggest Brazilian plantation company is among the richest families in the country. But plantation companies in Brazil have stolen lands from indigenous peoples, black and other communities, and provoked more impoverishment and racism against these communities. In Uruguay, due to a major exodus of rural dwellers, plantations can expand relatively easily. Currently, just 5 per cent of the population lives in rural areas.

Another lie plantation companies spread around is that plantations are financially a very healthy business and thus deserve support. But the main reason tree plantations are profitable for company owners and shareholders is that public and private banks and institutions award generous financial subsidies and incentives to the plantation companies. In reality, most of them are heavily indebted.
The approach companies use to still gain access to fresh funding involves converting part of their debt into so-called ‘bonds’. This approach is usually available only to companies, not to ordinary people. A bond is nothing more than a document worth a certain amount of debt. The company can sell it to receive additional funding. This is an attractive deal for buyers, because the company will pay back the money invested after an agreed upon number of years, plus an additional amount—the interest rate.

“Green bonds” is a new name used by plantation companies to refer to the same bonds as before. Plantation companies call them “green” because they claim their business is “green” and that they significantly contribute to reducing climate change and conserving the environment.

A last, but very important lie is that peasant farmers can benefit from tree plantations. The strategy to involve peasant farmers in the plantations business is a reaction to the widespread resistance of communities around the world to large-scale tree plantations. To avoid evicting peasant farmers to get access to the plan, companies have increasingly been promoting “smallholder” or “outgrower” schemes. Under such schemes, farmers sign a contract with a company to plant trees on their land. Companies promise a good income to those planting trees, and that peasant farmers can continue planting their food crops.

In reality, most of the benefits go to the company, while most of the risks and costs are the farmers’ problem. While companies and governments claim it will improve farmers’ livelihoods and income, it actually does the opposite.

In summary, what all the 12 lies presented in the new WRM briefing paper have in common is that they all seek to hide the damaging nature of the “plantation model” that is at the root of the conflicts, impacts and oppressions that come along with the promotion of industrial tree plantations. Struggling against plantations therefore is in essence the struggle against patriarchy, neo-colonialism, racism and capitalism and all their different forms of oppression.

The full version of the new briefing paper “12 Replies to 12 Lies about Industrial Tree Plantations” is available here. It’s also available in SpanishFrench and Portuguese.

Original Source: World Rainforest Movement 

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La Via Campesina Call to Action for the 27th UN Climate COP



Year after year, one UN Climate Conference of the Parties (COP) after another, the global climate crisis only worsens. Caused in great part by agribusiness and the destructive capitalist system it fuels, today’s crisis is a direct result of an economic system that exploits every form of life without recognizing any limits to nature. Mother Earth’s intricate systems and life-sustaining cycles are broken, with the devastating Covid19 pandemic, and the inaccessibility of health care for many, demonstrating just how cruel capitalism can be when it comes to inflicting the pain, suffering and loss, caused by the destruction of nature. Be it in Pakistan, Palestine or Puerto Rico – to name just a few – the once distant threat of “climate change” now comes in wave after wave of “catastrophic weather events” making climate-fueled tragedies an all-too-frequent part of people’s daily lives.  From droughts to floods, through wildfires and hurricanes, these extreme manifestations have threatened and even destroyed people’s lives and food sovereignty, who are calling for real solutions to limit global warming to 1.5°C. As if that weren’t enough, wars, occupations and sanctions are dished out by the power-hungry with little regard for the UN-recognized rights to Food, Health, Peace and Self-Determination, much less the now universal human right to a “clean, healthy and sustainable environment” (UN General Assembly, 2022). In addition, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI, 2022) reported that the climate vulnerable and extremes underline rising numbers of hungry people, poverty and inequality.

At the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its annual Climate COPs, transnational corporations (TNCs) use their control over most national governments and multilateral institutions to commodify the crisis, deny fossil fuel capitalism has anything to do with it, and limit any real possibility of transformative change. Though the corporate food system is responsible for more than 50% of all greenhouse gasses (GHGs), the Bayer-Monsanto’s of the world offer nothing more than profit-hungry proposals packaged into shameful “net zero” schemes. Instead of a very real, urgent and necessary reduction in emissions – whose main responsibility lies with the elites of historic emitters such as the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia – corporate false solutions provide a free pass to the dominant colonial core while leading a global assault on rural communities, livelihoods and territories. So-called “nature-based solutions” (NBS) such as REDD and REDD+, “soil carbon for offsetting” and other market-based trading schemes, and the corporate takeover of agriculture through patenting, “digitalization”, “sustainable intensification” and “climate-smart(ation)” are all big wins for agribusiness but terrible losses for peasants, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, forest dwellers and others on the frontlines of the global climate crisis. And when the great hoax of “net zero” fails to calm the climate, transnational corporations promise extremely high-risk geoengineering will somehow save the day (or at least their profit margins). This has been the norm at Climate COP after Climate COP, and the 27th Annual Conference of the Parties (COP27) is unlikely to be any different.

Supposedly “Africa’s COP”, this year’s Climate COP is set to take place at the elitist and artificial enclave that is Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh. Far removed from the African and Arab People’s steadfast struggles for self-determination, COP27 is leaving very little room for organized communities to speak truth to corporate power. For this reason, among others, many of our sister organizations of the Africa Climate Justice Collective (ACJC) organized the African People’s Counter COP demanding real solutions rooted in climate justice, a prioritization of people and the planet, and an end to corporate control of the UNFCCC. These demands are in line with our hard-fought UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP):“States shall take all necessary measures to ensure that non-State actors that they are in a position to regulate, such as private individuals and organizations, and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, respect and strengthen the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas..(and)…take appropriate measures to ensure that peasants and other people working in rural areas enjoy, without discrimination, a safe, clean and healthy environment”.

It is precisely because of this context that La Vía Campesina will be at COP27. Delegates from member organizations will make their voices, traditions, experiences and solutions heard. We will continue to promote, practice and uplift Food Sovereignty as the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods and the right to define our food and agricultural systems. We will explain once again that peasants through agroecological practices and territories cultivate more than 70% of the food produced worldwide on less than 30% of the arable lands available. We will emphasize that Agroecology is a sustainable path forward based on centuries of experience and accumulated real evidence – it is a  science, a social movement and a lifestyle practised by millions around the world through meaningful work, cooperation, strategy and organization. We will amplify and share UNDROP, an international legal instrument that we helped to create and that defends people’s rights over their territories, seeds, waters, forests and that promotes a more sustainable way of being and living. We will stand in Solidarity with all who struggle for collective rights and reiterate the need for “common but differentiated responsibilities” among States – including a vibrant Green Climate Fund free of any International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Bank (WB) influence, void of all neo-liberal impositions that serve only to further exploit people and the planet, and fully financed through climate reparations for the colonial legacies of the past and present. We stand in solidarity with and support those in the Climate Justice Movement demanding climate just reparations, not simple “climate finance”. Finally, we will be in COP27 continuing to expand our arms and shoulders building solidarity, action and common strategy with grassroots organizations, alliances and social movements from around the world fighting for climate and social justice.

While most national governments and multilateral institutions offer capitalist solutions that systematically fail to address the climate crisis,  we, the organized voice of over 200 million peasants, landless workers, indigenous people, pastoralists, fishers, migrant, farmworkers, small and medium-size farmers, rural women, peasant youth and gender-diverse persons of La Via Campesina, in convergence with a diversity of movements for Climate Justice, reiterate here and now our real solutions: FOOD SOVEREIGNTY COOLS THE PLANET ! We will build it with agroecology and peasants’ rights to ensure a Just Transition rooted in people’s power, ecological and social well being, and solidarity at the local, regional and international context. Together, in struggle, we will win!

Original Source: La Via Campesina

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Environmental and land defenders play a critical role in mitigating the effects of climate change, yet they’re often subjected to violence, harassment, intimidation, and criminalization for speaking out against land dispossession and climate abuses. Today, the climate justice and human rights organizations EarthRights International, Global Witness, Natural Justice, Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA), CIVICUS, and the International Land Coalition released a set of recommendations for policymakers attending the upcoming COP27 climate conference in Egypt, calling on them to take meaningful steps to protect those on the frontlines of the climate crisis and to enable diverse, safe, and effective participation of civil society observers during COPs.

Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warn that the world has an ever-narrowing window to avoid climate catastrophe. Meanwhile, Indigenous and frontline communities bear the brunt of the world’s climate change impacts and are increasingly threatened for speaking out against environmental abuses. Most of these threats relate to land conflicts involving climate-damaging industries – from deforestation by agribusinesses to mining, yet corporate accountability for such harms is lacking. Civil society and Indigenous peoples have also been raising concerns for years about access, participation, and freedom of assembly at UNFCCC meetings. COP27 in Egypt raises additional challenges because of the context of closed civic space in Egypt.

“States have been unable to offer environmental and land defenders the adequate level of protection and guarantees they need to safely exercise their role. Either it is apathy or incapacity, or the intervention of large power schemes, corruption, or organized crime, but States do not advance as needed in the defense of defenders’ rights. A higher recognition and incorporation by UNFCCC and COP27 of the role of defenders in facing the climate crisis is crucial to move States towards stronger protection schemes,” said Silvana Baldovino, SPDA’s Biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples Program Director.

According to Global Witness, on average, one land and environmental defender has been killed every two days since 2012. Civil society experts have also reported an uptick in efforts to criminalize defenders, enact legislation to prevent freedom of assembly, and deter activists with punitive lawsuits such as strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPPs). In September, EarthRights identified 134 cases in the past ten years in the U.S. in which the fossil fuel industry has used SLAPPs and related tactics against its critics.

“All over the world, Indigenous peoples, environmental activists, and other land and environmental defenders are working to address climate change and biodiversity loss,” said Shruti Suresh, Strategy Lead – Land and Environmental Defenders Campaign for Global Witness. “Yet they are under attack themselves facing violence, criminalization, and harassment, perpetuated by repressive governments and companies prioritizing profit over human and environmental rights. We urgently need to promote corporate and government accountability in defending the defenders and enable their participation in climate decision-making.”

These trends contradict recent international multilateral environmental agreements such as the Escazu Agreement in Latin America and the Caribbean, which came into force in 2021, and the Aarhus Convention in Europe, which recognize the role of environmental defenders in building a just transition and the need to protect them from further harm.

“The Escazu Agreement was the first treaty in the world to include specific obligations for the recognition and protection of environmental defenders,” said Natalia Gomez, EarthRights Climate Change Policy Advisor. “However, at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change climate negotiations, there is very little recognition of the central role that environmental and human rights defenders play in the global response to the climate crisis. The upcoming COP27 is a historic opportunity for parties to enhance climate action by advancing the recognition and protection of environmental defenders. We cannot achieve climate justice without protecting those at the frontlines of the crisis.”

While reprisals against activists occur worldwide, experts who helped author the analysis agree that parts of Africa are particularly dangerous for environmental and human rights defenders.

“Environmental defenders in Africa have increasingly become the subject of reprisals linked to the increasing appetite for fossil fuels, unsustainable development projects, and conservation initiatives across the region,” said Eva Maria Okoth, Senior Program Officer for Natural Justice. According to Natural Justice’s 2021 report on the African Environmental Defenders Emergency Fund, the majority of environmental defenders who were supported by the Fund received multiple threats, including death threats, threats of being arrested, and/or threats of being attacked. The report further established that eviction is the second most prominent threat faced by applicants. Other common risks documented around the world include physical attacks, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP suits), judicial harassment, and emotional and sexual violence.”

Environmental and Land defenders in Africa face a myriad of challenges in their efforts to demand climate action, characterized by violence, repression, harassment, and criminalization,” added Audace Kubwimana, Africa Regional Coordinator of the International Land Coalition. “As the climate crisis deteriorates, so does the violence against those protecting our land and environment. Silencing dissenting movements endangers the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable populations and dampens the significant role played by defenders in the context of the climate crisis.”

“Environmental, land, and Indigenous rights defenders in Africa are among the communities that are most vulnerable to violence and harassment at the hands of their States. Such impunity continues unabated in many countries, including Cameroon, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Africa. States must ensure that environmental, land, and Indigenous defenders suffer no reprisals for legitimate activities to defend the rights of their communities,” said Dr. Paul Mulindwa, Civicus’ Advocacy and Campaigns Lead for Africa.

“The reprisals faced by land and environmental defenders in the global south, coupled with the increasing threats of climate-induced loss and damage, is an egregious violation of their fundamental human rights and untimely their right to self-determination. It is paramount that defenders, Indigenous peoples, and frontline communities are protected, and their rights expanded and safeguarded from the preparators of reprisals and climate criminals who persistently put profit before people and the environment,” concluded Katherine Robinson, Head of Campaigns, Natural Justice.

Recommendations for Parties at COP27: 

  • Parties must recognize the link between the climate crisis and the growing violence and repression against land and environmental defenders and take meaningful steps to protect the role of defenders in promoting ambition and enhancing climate action.
  • Ensure a strong and effective Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) action plan by including the following activities:
    • Hold an ACE Dialogue on Environmental Human rights defenders, including Indigenous peoples and frontline communities, to identify the obstacles that defenders face when trying to exercise their rights to access information, public participation, and education.
    • Identify gaps preventing environmental defenders to exercise access to information and participation in climate action through consultation with Indigenous peoples and frontline communities, relevant UN offices, relevant civil society groups, and other key stakeholders.
    • Provide targeted recommendations for parties, inter-government bodies, and other relevant key stakeholders to take action to increase protection for defenders and enable them to exercise their rights to participate and contribute to decision-making related to climate and environmental matters.
  • Ensure that human rights experts, Indigenous peoples, environmental and human rights defenders, and representatives of frontline communities can participate in the technical dialogue and roundtables of the Global Stocktake and facilitate and lead some of the discussions.
  • Address the situation of environmental and land defenders during the Global Stocktake Technical Dialogue and roundtables. The outcomes of the Global Stocktake should offer specific guidance on how parties should increase their ambition to fulfill their human rights obligations. This should include guidelines to protect the rights of land and environmental defenders and guarantee their access to information, public participation, and consultation.
  • Governments wishing to host COPs should enable the exercise of rights of freedom of association and peaceful assembly and guarantee safe participation by civil society and Indigenous representatives during COPs.

Read more here.

Source: Earth Rights

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Family farming organisations and research networks that gathered in Derio (Spain) on 4-5 October designed a series of activities to promote that family farming is placed at the centre of research.

For two days, representative family farming organizations from 5 continents such as AFACOPROFAM, PDRR, PIFONPROPAC and ESAFF met in the city of Derio, Basque Country, Spain, to design a series of activities to foster greater collaboration between research centres and family farming organisations, promoting what is known as participatory research and co-innovation. The agreed actions will be developed in 2023 in the framework of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation (GFAR), a space that brings together 900 actors related to agricultural research.

The actions identified are framed within the framework of the United Nations Decade of Family Farming (UNDFF) and aim to ensure that research and innovation systems are at the service of inclusive and resilient development of family farmers towards the achievement of the SDGs.

During the two days of discussions, a first analysis was presented that identifies some collaborations between various farming organisations and research centres and academia, based on interviews with actors at regional and national level. An analysis of the participation of research centres, innovation and universities in the processes that are being promoted within the framework of the UNDFF was also presented, especially through their participation in the 45 existing National Committees on Family Farming.

The benefit of involving family farming organisations in the governance of research, in establishing long-term partnerships and in co-constructing traditional or innovative solutions, but always adapted to local contexts and needs, was recalled. It was underlined that all agricultural research should focus on generating positive political, technical, social, economic and environmental impact on the livelihoods of family farmers, now and in the future, for the benefit of society as a whole.

The need to advocate for this type of public research by increasing the budgets dedicated to it was underlined. The organisations present emphasised that participatory research needs mutual knowledge and recognition, as well as the collaboration of all stakeholders throughout the research cycle, with special emphasis on ensuring the active and effective participation of family farmers. It is also vital to value the knowledge of all stakeholders, to build capacity and strengthen all participants, and to maximise the impact generated.

This meeting was able to identify good experiences of collaboration between public research centres and farmers’ organisations, and even research led by farmers themselves, which will be extensively documented in the coming year. In addition, actions of advocacy and promotion of these approaches will be developed in some regional spaces, ensuring effective collaboration between the research community, donors and family farming organisations throughout the research cycle (analysis/diagnosis of the initial situation, agenda setting and programming, identification of solutions, development, implementation and extension, monitoring and evaluation).

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