Palm oil has become a hot product in Europe and North America as both a biofuel and in cosmetics. Uribe's administration plans to make Colombia the world's largest palm oil producer by the year 2020, with over 6 million hectares (roughly 14.8 million acres) planted with oil palm trees. As a direct result of these policies, the devastation of land, ecosystems, and communities is already evident and will only increase. Christian Peacemaker Teams Colombia accompanies two communities facing a struggle for their land in the southern Bolivar region, where palm production is already rampant.
On July 14, 2009, the community of Las Pavas discovered riot police on their land, forcing them to leave immediately for the nearby town of Buenos Aires. The 123 families (approx. 500 people) lost their homes, their food crops, and their land in one day. Daabon Organics bought the land in a shady deal with famed drug lord Pablo Escobar's uncle. Uncle Escobar had owned the land in the 80's but abandoned it in 1993 after Colombian military forces killed Pablo. Landless peasants occupied the land soon after and have been living on it and farming it ever since (save a temporary displacement because of paramilitary violence in the region). According to Colombian law, anyone can legally gain ownership to abandoned land if they can prove that they have lived and improved it for more than 5 years. The Las Pavas community had already begun the process of gaining legal title to the land, and must be allowed to finish that process to determine who the land legally belongs to.
Displaced Las Pavas resident describes destruction to CPT delegates
(see more photos)
(see more photos)
Daabon Organics, a massive palm oil corporation, has destroyed acres and acres of forest, drained ponds and marshes, and burned down the houses that stood on the land, and have already begun planting palm oil. The Body Shop gets involved in that it buys 90% of its palm oil from Daabon Organics. Many of you will recognize The Body Shop as a corporation that touts its commitment to sustainable environmental and ethical practices. However, the case of Las Pavas shows their claims to be hollow.
Keep posted for an opportunity to get involved by sending letters to The Body Shop and Daabon executives, requesting that the land be returned to its rightful owners, the campesinos of Las Pavas.
For a good article that appeared in the British newspaper The Guardian click here.
For a good article (in Spanish) click here. (You can also view some great photos with this article.)
To read more from CPT writers, check out our website. (action opportunity also available here.)