Oil palm plantations are expanding in South America: Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and now Peru have joined the commercial thrust. The companies find profitable opportunities at the expense of the invaluable Amazon forest and of the lives of peasants who are displaced from their lands where they obtain their means of livelihood.
In the year 2000 the Ministry of Agriculture prepared the National Oil Palm Promotion Plan 2000-2010. With a market approach, the plan seeks to promote “clusters” in the departments of San Martin and Loreto until the consolidation of 50,000 hectares is achieved in the Amazon region which – according to draft Law 9271-- “has vast and rich lands where the palm oil industry can be developed.”
In this context, complaints have been made that 30,000 hectares of tropical forests located in the valleys of the Caynarachi and Shanusi subsidiary basins, located right in the Amazon plains and part of the cloud forest, in the district of Yurimaguas, Loreto region, will be allocated to the plantation and industrialization of oil palms by the Romero group, a powerful joint conglomerate involving Industrias del Espino S.A. (INDESA) and Palmas del Espino y Subsidiarias (PALMESA). Before the results of the project’s environmental impact assessment have been made public, it is reported that deforestation of 2,000 hectares in the Shanusi area has already started.
The State authorities (the National Environmental Council-Peru - CONAM and the National Natural Resource Institute - INRENA), have made no objections to this project not only degrading the habitat of thousands of forest species, but also carried out at the expense of the territorial rights of numerous peasant communities. In many cases the communities inhabiting the project’s area of influence since 1941 or 1961, have been unable to obtain ownership deeds for their communal lands because of the high costs involved in the process. Furthermore, obtaining deeds which takes from one to three years for a peasant or native community, has only take three months for the Romero Group and today the company has managed to obtain ownership of the peasant families’ lands.
Over 40 families living in lands that they have occupied for six years now feel that the bodies responsible for issuing the deeds have deceived them as at the beginning they promised to grant the deeds for their plots, but now tell them that as the lands are within the area requested by the Romero group company, it is no longer possible to continue with the formalities. The Upper Shanusi Agrarian Farmers Association “Centro San Isidro” reported that their members started legal formalities in 2005 and that the PETT (Proyecto Especial de Titulación de Tierras – Special Project for Land Title Deeds) measured up the plots, and therefore they are very surprised and upset by this decision.
The peasants of the area know that similar monoculture oil palm plantation projects in Colombia and Ecuador have led to the destruction of the environment, mainly as a consequence of the use of agrochemicals and of their impacts on water, soil, flora and fauna and have also displaced thousands of peasants. They say that social aspects do not look good either as the project will affect activities such as firewood gathering, hunting and fishing, among others.
For its part, the Board of Directors of the Agrarian Farmers Association “Centro San Isidro” – APACSI from the lower Shanusi – Yurimaguas, facing the invasion of oil palm plantations, has issued a declaration in which it makes a denunciation against the authorities for having keep silent over PETT’s refusal to grant land ownership deeds for the lands they have occupied and worked for more than six years at the same time caring for the primary forest in the San Isidro Lower Shanusi sector.
They also regret that a wide sector of the press “is not giving coverage to this problem which grows bigger every day and which will surely end in serious and nefarious consequences for our ecology, with deforestation of a vast territory… and with it the destruction of thousands of species of flora and fauna. All this for the miserable objective of planting oil palms for the profitable business of vegetable oil for the new ‘ecological engines’ that the Romero group is certainly considering selling in our country. It should be noted that this palm only grows where there is sun and water, that is to say that all the vegetation that does not serve their purpose will be destroyed and with it the beings that inhabit it. Furthermore, it is not true that this investment will bring development to the population in this area that has been obliged to sell their lands in order to implement this eco-suicidal project that is merely a temporary palliative to the hunger and misery of our long-suffering peoples.” (see the complete declaration in Spanish at: http://www.wrm.org.uy/paises/Peru/Declaracion_Yurimaguas.html).
Article based on information from: “Arbitrario posesionamiento del grupo económico Romero en tierras protegidas de selva virgen de Yurimaguas”, (The Romero economic group arbitrarily takes possession by of protected lands in the virgin forest of Yurimaguas) declaration made on 9 July 2006 by the Board of Directors - APACSI from the lower Shanusi; “Paralizan titulación de tierras de más de cuarenta comuneros del Alto Shanusi” (the granting of land ownership deeds of over forty community members from the Upper Shanusi has been paralized) Giovanni Acate, Radio Oriente, http://www.ideeleradio.org.pe/look/Ideeleradio/article.tpl?IdLanguage=13&IdPublication=7&