Palm Oil

The oil palm tree is native to West Africa. It is an important tree for forest-dependent communities, their cultures and their economies. However, large-scale oil palm monocultures for industrial production (oil and agrofuels) have been driving deforestation and land grabbing in Southeast Asia. More recently, oil palm monocultures are also driving destruction in Africa and Latin America.

Fossil fuels are at the root of the climate chaos – but the conditions for this crisis have been created by the interconnections and dependencies between colonialism, racism, patriarchy and class exploitation. To address climate chaos, therefore, it is necessary to address the unequal relationships of power upon which a fossil-fuel dependent capitalism is based.
In Brazil, oil palm plantations are expanding rapidly, mainly in the Amazonian state of Pará. BBF (Brasil BioFuels), the largest oil palm company in Brazil, stands accused of environmental crimes and violence against indigenous, quilombola and peasant communities such as Virgílio Serrão Sacramento, a community linked to the Small Farmers’ Movement (MPA).
There are currently 270,000 hectares of oil palm plantations in Ecuador. The resistance processes of the communities of La Chiquita, Guadualito and Barranquilla de San Javier in the region of Esmeraldas continue to generate outrage and solidarity among other communities, and internationally.
The control of land was vital to colonisers. It meant wealth, territorial influence, access to ‘resources’ and cheap (and often enslaved) labour. The separation of indigenous inhabitants from their territories was a crucial component that persists until today. The effect of this history continues to influence the management of and conflicts over land.
British firms not only controlled 80 per cent of the established ‘logging lands’ in Thailand, but they also influenced the establishment of the Royal Forest Department, which came to have total power over the nation’s forests. Massive land grabs and various colonial laws made half the country’s territory into a colony of the central state.
What a certain historiography terms civilizational expansion or capital’s expansion has in fact been the invasion and de-territorialization of peoples and communities using much epistemic and territorial violence. Concessions have been granted in areas that are not demographic voids, a colonial concept that ignores the fact that they have been populated for millennia.
Many oil palm plantations’ concessions in West and Central Africa were built on lands stolen from communities during colonial occupations. This is the case in the DRC, where food company Unilever began its palm oil empire. Today, these plantations are still sites of on-going poverty and violence. It is time to end the colonial model of concessions and return the land to its original owners.
Colonial and anti-colonial movements’ have deeply shaped the patterns and impacts of concessions in SE Asia. In some cases, communities have experienced dispossession through land grabs dressed as concessions. In others, concessions are part of a re-concentration of land holding. Either way, the concession model fits well with ideologies of modernisation.

(Only available in French) Polices et militaires tirent à balles réelles sur des ouvriers de la Société FERONIA/PHC en grève à la plantation de Boteka.

One of the main causes of deforestation in Mesoamerica is the expansion of oil palm monoculture. An exchange of experiences brought together representatives from indigenous and peasant communities to coordinate their resistance.