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The Body Shop drops Colombian palm oil supplier for alleged land grabbing

Source:  Copyright 2011, Rainforest News
Date:  April 14, 2011
Original URL: Status DEAD


The expansion of palm oil plantations seems to be the new plague of the decade. Ancient forests are logged down endangering species like the orangutan and the tiger, huge carbon sinks such as peatlans are being drained, rural communities are excluded from the customary lands of which they live. From Indonesia to the Congo, Malaysia and Colombia, the bulldozers advance of monoculture. Behind them, the food industry, the cosmetics business and the new so-called biodiesel. No wonder that unscrupulous companies have started a new land grab race, to take control on a strategic resource for coming decades. The nasty surprise is to find among them also brands of organic products.

The case of the peasant community of Las Pavas is emblematic. "At the end of the nineties, a hundred families returned to their customary land in Las Pavas, where their ancestors had lived for several generations. This land was occupied by a drug dealer, allegedly relative of the drug lord Pablo Escobar. As soon the drug traffickers abandoned the land, farmers came back and started to plant cocoa, corn and other crops, while starting the procedure to get their property rights formally acknowledged - said Stephan Suhner, lf the coordination of the Swiss NGO, to a Swissinfo.ch.. - A few months later arrived the paramilitaries, using violence and threats, forcing the peasets to leave, and they sold the land to the consortium El Labrador, related to Daabon Organic. "

The consortium El Labrador combines two companies among others, the San Isidro and Aportes Ci Tequendama, owned by Daabon Organic, a multinational company exporting certified organic products in Europe. The land taken from the peasant communities, are now planted with oil palm for the production of agrofuels.

In vain the farmers have tried to defend their rights to their ancestral lands. During the process of recognition of property rights, a document was left unsigned, and the entire procedure was then later declared invalid. According to the independent report, moreover, the authorities (INCODER) managed poorly the case heard, playing with the hopes of the farmers, while at the same time protexting the interests of the corporation.

Despite the authorities themselves have acknowledged the illegality of the eviction, since July 2009, Las Pavas families living in a state of humanitarian emergency, made more difficult by the recent floods that have destroyed the fields and flooded their homes. Farmers of Las Pavas announced their intention to return to their village, despite having received threats.

The German subsidy of the Daabon Organic said to Swissinfo.ch that the company has broken any ties with Las Pavas. ASOCAB and Swiss NGOs thinks they haven't: "the Organic Daabon probably continue to be part of the consortium, in disguise - said Stephan Suhner - not only his name still appears on official documents, but the corporation is also accused of pressuring the members of the community with threats and attempts of corruption."

All this began to change last July, when a Daabon subsidiary called in riot police to evict 123 peasant farmers and their families from the land they claimed to have bought for palm oil production. However, the farmers had a claim – they had already returned after being ejected by paramilitaries in 2006 and met legal criteria for acquisitive prescription – and in this globalized world, the local NGO that backed them up was tied to an international NGO – Christian Aid – with the savvy to figure out who was buying from Daabon and the luck to have that turn out to be the Body Shop.

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