Negative impacts of monoculture tree plantations on women
The case studies and a related short video, available online at www.wrm.org.uy are jointly published by the World Rainforest Movement (WRM) and Friends of the Earth International (FoEI).
International Women’s Day is an important day for celebrating the crucial role played by women in our societies and reminding ourselves that we still have a long way to go to achieve gender justice, equality and equity in our societies.
The three new case studies carried out on three continents demonstrate that women who live near monoculture tree plantations are very negatively affected by them.
The case study from Nigeria is focused on the Iguóbazuwa Forest Reserve, a highly biologically diverse region in the southwest whose crops long supplied food for around 20,000 people. The area has undergone drastic changes since the arrival of the French transnational company Michelin in December 2007. All of the area’s natural wealth was destroyed to plant rubber trees.
A local woman described the situation like this: “Michelin came with its evil bulldozers and destroyed everything I had planted. I was crying…I was trying to stop them; they threatened to bulldoze me with their caterpillar if I didn’t allow them.”
The case study from Brazil states that tree plantations established to produce pulp for paper-making are continuously expanding, causing severe impacts on communities and the environment. Three big corporations have moved into southern Brazil to satisfy the enormous demand for paper, mostly in Western countries: Swedish-Finnish forestry giant Stora Ensa, and Brazilian-owned Aracruz and Votorantim.
In Southern Brazil women from the grassroots organization Via Campesina have been leading protests against the “green desert” development model since 2006 in order to protect food sovereignty and the rights of local communities. According to a woman interviewed in Southern Brazil, “the companies only give work to men. The few jobs they give to women are the ones that pay the least.” Even in the case of men, the companies tend to hire workers from outside the region, and this influx of strangers invariably leads to a rise in sexual harassment cases.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
In Papua New Guinea, monoculture oil palm plantations are destroying the forests, biodiversity, and local communities livelihoods. Palm oil produced in Papua New Guinea is primarily exported, especially to the European Union where it is used to produce soap, cosmetics, processed foods and agrofuels.
In some Papua New Guinea communities women are no longer able to grow food crops, and they are exposed to dangerous pesticides.
“Health is a very big concern in our place right now we breathe in the chemicals... I’m pretty sure we are inhaling dangerous substances and definitely are dying every minute. Some women had babies who developed asthma when they were just one or two months old. Chemicals are killing us; we will all die sooner,” said a woman from the community of Saga.
Monoculture tree plantations are primarily geared towards meeting the high levels of consumption in Western countries. The European Union plays a key role in this, due to policies that promote plantations and that benefit, above all, the transnational corporations that export, process and market the products harvested from the plantations.
By publishing these new case studies, WRM and FoEI want to expose the unsustainability of policies promoting tree plantations that do not benefit local communities, and to highlight the crucial role of food sovereignty, collective rights and gender equality as the foundations of sustainable societies.
FOR MORE INFORMATION contact:
World Rainforest Movement
International Secretariat in Montevideo, Uruguay
Ph: + 598 2 413 29 89 / + 598 99 36 7966 (Uruguayan numbers)
Friends of the Earth international Forest and Biodiversity Programme
Tel: +506 8338-3204 (Costa Rican mobile number)