palm oil threatening Human Rights

Elaeis guineensis palm trees

By Manon Godot, 16th of July 2010

The increased need of clear land to cultivate oil palm in order to respond to the huge worldwide demand in also the cause of a large number a Human Rights violations.

In Borneo, the Penan minority has been fighting over decades to stop the massive chopping down of the forests, their natural habitat. Unlike other indigenous communities who grow most of their food, the Penans are hunters-gatherers. Their alimentation is mosty composed of wild pigs, dears, fishes and other smaller animals, but also ferns and fruits from the forest. In areas where the forests have been cleared by oil palm companies, it became almost impossible for the Penans to sustain themselves.

“We’re not like the people in the towns, who have money and can buy things. If we lose all the things the forest gives us, we will die.” (Penan man, Ba Lai)

According to the Malaysian government, the Penans have NO RIGHT to their land, as long as they aren’t settling down or farming. The palm oil logging companies have then all rights to cut the forests, polluting the rivers and killing fishes, and flood Penans villages.

Many Penans villages manifested against the conversion of the homeland into oil palm plantations, and hundreds of them were arrested.

To take action in order to support the Penan community, you can follow these links to:

– Write a letter to the government of Sarawak

– Donate to survival’s campaign

(Survival is an NGO which supports tribal people worldwide).

In Central America as well, many communities and small farmers are victim of violations of Human Rights: expropriations, murders, destructions of natural habitats, etc.

In January 2010, the Chiappas State Congress in Mexico approved the funding of an oil palm plantation in the Lacandona forest (Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve). The consecuence of this autorisation was the arrival of dozens of heavily armed police in helicopters, who with an aggressive violence evicted the local communities and indigeous people after burning their homes.

In Colombia, the multiplication of oil palm plantations leads to hundreds of murders and forced disapearance, ransacking and destruction of small farmers properties, persecutions of communities members and expropriations, comited by the army and the paramilitary forces. NGOs working in Colombia have recorded 113 death a result of land-based conflicts over palm oil plantations in Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó River Basin in the Chocó region, the Afro-Colombian communities being the first victims of these practices.

These are only a few examples of the many violations of Human Rights due to the development of palm oil industry all over the world.

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